When I heard Pope Francis share his thoughts on Dorothy Day during his trip to the United States back in 2015, my interest was piqued.
When I delved into her writings, her life, and her unwavering dedication to the poor, I was completely captivated.
Dorothy Day took hold of the Beatitudes, given to us by Jesus Himself, and made them the basis for her life. She responded to Jesus’ call to comfort and care for one’s neighbor with a zeal that is rarely seen in today’s throwaway culture where the acquisition of things has taken on more importance that a love for our fellow brothers and sisters.
Reading her writings tapped something deep inside of me, and led me to yearn to connect to the Catholic Worker Movement she co-founder with Peter Maurin. The ideas of voluntary poverty, seeing the face of Jesus in those suffering around us, and giving until it hurts out of love for Christ and neighbor resonated with me and felt like the answer to something that I had been missing from my faith life.
I was excited.
I was also perplexed about how to practically proceed.
As a husband and father, it seemed difficult if not impossible to give of myself or ask my family to give of themselves in such a radical way. While those working with the movement started by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin are typically members of the laity, they are also typically single folks who give so much more of their time than I felt like I would be able to give.
In her writings in the Catholic Worker newspaper, Dorothy Day spoke openly about this. She recognized the need to have families involved in this great work while at the same time holding that it just practically couldn’t be done in the same manner as those without family obligations.
This left my wife and I scratching our heads, trying to think of creative ways to help.
Sure, we can and should donate money, clothing, food, toiletries and all of the other things necessary to survive, but we wanted to find a way to be more intimately involved as well.
We wanted our children to be able to see the reality of the injustice that many suffer in this world and to directly work to help our brothers and sisters facing injustice, to get involved at the level of the person.
So, as a family, we decided to look at our strengths and see what we could offer.
[tweet "Inspired by Dorothy Day, @theghissilent and his wife found a unique way to help other families."]
When we found out that our local Catholic Worker House of Hospitality worked closely with and provided residence to young families, a lightbulb went off.
Of the many things my wife and I value in our marriage, one that we hold in high esteem are the infrequent but ever so important opportunities to be alone with each other on a “date night.” If we found ourselves in a financially-critical situation, after our basic needs were met, THIS would be the "extra" we would miss the most. Having time to be able to step away from the difficulties of day-to-day life, to step away from the challenges of having to be “always on” with young children, and just to be alone with your spouse is so important for being able to reconnect. Being connected to your spouse in turn makes it easier to face all the difficulties that life tosses our way.
With the families living at the Catholic Worker, working so hard to just make ends meet, getting away for a date night isn’t a luxury that they have.
Could we provide a night out and be a babysitter for them? Sure that the folks at Catholic Worker would laugh in our face at such an odd idea, we sent an email to see what they thought.
Proving God has a great sense of humor, they said yes, and an outside-of-the-box way of helping and giving back was off and running.
I’m sharing this not so much as an opportunity to shine a light on myself or my family, but rather as an example for everyone to show that families can make a difference, can give of themselves in a unique way, and can use their strengths to show the love of Christ to those who need that love to be shown to them so badly.
If you’re feeling called to help, feeling called to get your children involved in helping, take a moment to consider what your family is uniquely equipped to give, and let’s get started.
Copyright 2017 Tommy Tighe
About the Author
Tommy is a Catholic husband, father of four boys, and the author of The Catholic Hipster Handbook (available now!).