Roughly a year ago, those of us in the middle of the USA faced the prospect of an extended lockdown. The shelves of Costco were empty of toilet paper and canned goods, and new mask mandates and social distancing requirements were being enacted across the country.
And then it felt like everything was just, canceled.
Life went on, of course, as it always does. We continued to work and raise our babies, stress out and press on, and we even welcomed new life in the middle of it all.
I wrote quite a few pieces about the joys and struggles of life, work, spirituality, and parenting during the pandemic, a few of which I will list below.
But as I reflected on the past year a phrase from Dorothy Day, the Catholic activist and soon to be saint, kept coming to mind: “The Long Loneliness.”
Dorothy was referring to the reality of being a mother. You were expected to spend so much time alone with just your children that there was a hunger for community and social interaction outside of the immediate family. Eventually, she connected it with the existential condition of the modern person, how we all feel the long loneliness and we each hunger for true community, and true communion.
How we’ve felt that hunger in our bones this year. Though we’ve shared a common struggle, we each had to face it by ourselves.
But Dorothy’s comment doesn’t end with loneliness, it ends, like her life, with a witness to the importance of love and community. I pray the same will prove true for the current crisis.
The following text, which forms the postscript to her autobiography The Long Loneliness, is worth sharing in it’s entirety. It is rich food for the road we’re still travelling, and a promise of the goodness yet to come:
We were just sitting there talking when Peter Maurin came in.
We were just sitting there talking when lines of people began to form, saying, “We need bread.” We could not say, “Go, be thou filled.” If there were six small loaves and a few fishes, we had to divide them. There was always bread.
We were just sitting there talking and people moved in on us. Let those who can take it, take it. Some moved out and that made room for more. And somehow the walls expanded.
We were just sitting there talking and someone said, “Let’s all go live on a farm.”
It was as casual as all that, I often think. It just came about. It just happened.
I found myself, a barren woman, the joyful mother of children. It is not always easy to be joyful, to keep in mind the duty of delight.
The most significant thing about The Catholic Worker is poverty, some say.
The most significant thing is community, others say. We are not alone anymore.
But the final word is love. At times it has been, in the words of Father Zossima, a harsh and dreadful thing, and our very faith in love has been tried through fire.
We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know him in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone any more. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.
We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.
It all happened while we sat there talking, and it is still going on.
By Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker, May 1980, p. 4.
Thank you all for reading, following, supporting, sharing and commenting. My heart is full of gratitude for you. Here’s some of my writing from the past year: