This morning was the beginning of another "one of those days," another day in which hope seems to be in amazingly short supply for the holiday season. Sometimes there is the appearance of too much to do, and the proverbial not enough time to do it in, and other times there is just too much nothing, the endless array of my brain doing its incredible whirling dance of striped myriads of thoughts. They whirl around with not so much reason and even less rhyme sometimes, unless taken into structure and organized beautifully.
Anyway, that was rather this morning's mindset. Pressure sometimes builds and builds until the only outlet for it is tears and screaming. There was that last night, along with the all-too-usual these days suicidal thoughts. Most of us spend at least some time wondering what our purpose in life and on earth is, exactly, and when one gets so much time on one's hands with not enough real and worthwhile work to do, one may wonder too much about it, toward the purpose of fruitless mental meandering.
Yes, that was the morning's mindset. There was little to keep me from the endless self-barrage of purposeless and negative critique, along with some exercise to stay bodily and mentally a little more healthy. The latte, too - a morning must, with its beautiful caffeinated effects upon the nervous system. There I was on the couch, watching TV too much and enjoying the espresso, when I ran across a movie on - guess what! - the Lifetime Movie Network. Normally I avoid this channel like the plague, because one of the funny things about Lifetime is that for it being a channel that is for women, (which would theoretically make it full of fluff, romance, and home-baked cookies) it is the murder and mayhem channel, really - aside from the Golden Girls, Will & Grace, and Frasier. The movies tend to resemble what one might think of as light summer reading, and rarely light summer reading of a happy sort. It perplexes me, this obsession with obsession, murder, and mayhem. I spend some moments of life that I can never get back wondering what kind of person watches Lifetime channels on a regular basis for anything but the sitcoms.
It was a surprise, then, to see that a movie of the title Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story
was playing on LMN. Like the good radical Christian that I am, anything involving Dorothy Day had to be watched, especially if it was on the LMN. Who knew what kind of movie they would run about her?Dorothy Day
, if the name is not familiar, is a very important person to those people who are interested in the intersection of Christianity and social justice. She was the person who in 1933 co-founded and headed the Catholic Worker Movement
, a group of people who practiced more than they preached. There is so much more to be said about Day herself, so much more than I know (and that I want to learn).
Anyhow, back to the movie. It was a balm in Gilead, so to speak. One first sees a young and rather wild Day - a bohemian figure, really, in the early 1900s. She drinks, smokes, has sex outside of marriage (and even outside of an exclusive relationship!). She is also a writer, an educated woman, one who observes and is fascinated by life and its many twists.
One watches with fascination her own twists and turns through life (an abortion and the subsequent ending of the relationship with her impregnator, amongst other things) as she comes to terms with a growing spirituality which she recognizes as an essential part of her life. She discovers a practical Catholicism that feeds the people that it preaches to, a religion that she finds is possible to claim as her own with integrity.
While the movie doesn't cover every bit of her life, and mostly concerns only her early life in the Catholic Worker Movement, it portrays in honest tones a woman whose faith transforms her life and reaches out to those around her. It shows a strong woman - an example for girls of all ages to look up to - who lives life on her terms and isn't satisfied to be in someone else's shadow, all the while living out the courage of her convictions. However, that isn't the end of the story, either. Her spirit continues on in those who intermingle faith and politics, who continue to live in that spirit. As she said (and is also said in the movie), "When you feed the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why they are poor, they call you a Communist. We are neither saints nor Communists."
These days I find it more helpful than ever to learn the complete stories of my heroes and sheras, to learn about their shadow sides as well as the light in which they lived. When we are able to see the people we deeply respect as really human, we can continue to work toward seeing the same beauty that we see in them in ourselves. Seeing some of Day's struggles enacted in this movie brought me to tears and got me up off the couch, pondering the idea that maybe this church thing has some relevance, still, after all.