Highlights from Loaves and Fishes by Dorothy Day

Loaves and Fishes by Dorothy DayPublished: 1963

   “First of all,” Peter used to say, “one must give up one’s life to save it. Voluntary poverty is essential. To live poor, to start poor, to make beginnings even with meager means at hand, this is to get the ‘green revolution’ under way.
   “St. Francis of Assisi thought that to choose to be poor is just as good as marrying the most beautiful girl in the world. Most of us seem to think that Lady Poverty is an ugly girl and not the beautiful girl St. Francis says she is. And because we think so, we let the politicians feed the poor by going around like pickpockets, robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
(the Peter that Day is quoting here is Peter Maurin.)
— page 48

   It never ceased to grieve me how quickly men could lose their dignity when they were down-and-out in this way. As members of a group, as union men on strike, they could endure poverty and privation. But to be forced to go on a breadline or to go to a mission for the bare necessities made them feel completely degraded.
— page 63, 64

   Poverty is a strange and elusive thing. I have tried to write about it, its joys and sorrows, for thirty years now; and I could probably write about it for another thirty without conveying what I feel about it as well as I would like. I condemn poverty and I advocate it; poverty is simple and complex at once; it is a social phenomenon and a personal matter. Poverty is an elusive thing, and a paradoxical one.
— page 71

   Yes, the poor will always be with us – Our Lord told us that – and there will always be a need for our sharing, for stripping ourselves to help others. It is – and always will be – a lifetime job. But I am sure that God did not intend that there be so many poor. The class struggle is of our making and by our consent, not His, and we must do what we can to change it. This is why we at the Worker urge such measures as credit unions and cooperatives, leagues for mutual aid, voluntary land reforms and farming communes.
— page 74

   This and other facts seem to me to point more strongly than ever to the importance of voluntary poverty today. At least we can avoid being comfortable through the exploitation of others. And at least we can avoid physical wealth as the result of a war economy. There may be ever-improving standards of living in the United States, with every worker eventually owning his own home and driving his own car; but the whole modern economy is based on preparation for war, and this surely is one of the great arguments for poverty in our time. If the comfort one achieves results in the death of millions in the future, then that comfort shall be duly paid for. Indeed, to be literal, contributing to the war (misnamed “defense”) effort is very difficult to avoid.
— page 86

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