A HARSH AND DREADFUL LOVE: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement by William D. Miller

A HARSH AND DREADFUL LOVE: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Founded on May Day, 1932, The Catholic Worker is surely the most remarkable radical social movement in the history of the American Catholic Church. For some 40 years under the aegis of Dorothy Day The Worker has maintained a mission reminiscent of St. Francis Assisi -- feeding, clothing and sheltering the poor, and most especially the strung-out derelicts, drifters and panhandlers whom The State classifies as ""undeserving poor."" Yet the soup kitchens and breadlines and agrarian cooperatives and the penny newspaper with its charming woodcuts and feature articles by the likes of Jacques Maritain, the Berrigans and Michael Harrington are only part of the history of The Worker. Miller, a professor of history at Florida State University, has produced an empathic, familial biography of the men and women whose faith and labor have sustained and nourished the uncompromising activism which coexists very uneasily with the precepts of the Church hierarchy. Anti-bourgeois and anti-capitalist, The Worker has patiently suffered the attacks of those who see its pacifism, voluntary poverty and egalitarianism as subversive and unAmerican; those like Father Coughlin who have called it ""downright Communism, camouflaged with Catholic paint."" Miller, happily does not try to disguise the simplistic, naive aspects of The Catholic Worker creed; indeed its very unworldliness is what attracts him. That, and the bohemian anarchism of Dorothy Day whose spiritual odyssey had its beginnings in the novels of Dostoevski, the slums of Chicago, and the socialist brotherhood of The Wobblies. A unique chapter in the history of the Catholic left -- affectionately and perceptively chronicled.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1972
Publisher: Liveright