Rediscovering the Common Good
The Goodness of Solidarity
Thursday, November 4, 2021
Few Christians in the twentieth century lived their lives as devoted to the common good as Dorothy Day. She served the poor, homeless, and hungry in New York City for decades. Her steadfast belief in the dignity of the poor as bearing the presence of Christ inspired her persistent action, manifest as both charity and justice. In 1964, she wrote:
On Holy Thursday, truly a joyful day, I was sitting at the supper table at St. Joseph’s House on Chrystie Street. . . . The general appearance of the place was, as usual, home-like, informal, noisy, and comfortably warm on a cold evening. And yet, looked at with the eyes of a visitor, our place must look dingy indeed, filled as it always is with men and women, some children, too, all of whom bear the unmistakable mark of misery and destitution. Aren’t we deceiving ourselves, I am sure many of them think, in the works we are doing? What are we accomplishing for them anyway, or for the world, or for the common good? “Are these people being rehabilitated?” is the question we get almost daily from visitors or from our readers (who seem to be great letter writers). One priest had his catechism class write us questions as to our work. . . . The majority of them asked the same question: “How can you see Christ in people?” And we only say: It is an act of faith, constantly repeated. It is an act of love, resulting from an act of faith. It is an act of hope, that we can awaken these same acts in their hearts, too, with the help of God, and the Works of Mercy, which you, our readers, help us to do, day in and day out over the years. . . .
The mystery of the poor is this: that they are Jesus, and what you do for them you do for Him. It is the only way we have of knowing and believing in our love. The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love. 
In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis emphasized solidarity with the poor and marginalized as part of our faith vocation to pursue the common good:
In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters. This option entails recognizing the implications of the universal destination of the world’s goods [RR—by paying attention to how much we consume and how and where it is made], but . . . it demands before all else an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor in the light of our deepest convictions as believers. 
 Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage: The Sixties, ed. Robert Ellsberg (Orbis Books: 2021), 111, 112, 113.
 Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, encyclical, May 24, 2015, paragraph 158.
Story from Our Community:
Dorothy Day visited my high school around 1963 and said, “If you have two coats in the closet, give one to the poor.” That was quite a discussion around our GOP-devoted parents’ dinner table. I never forgot the words of this modest woman, who became a guiding light with that simple challenge. —Barbara C.
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