Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: Dorothy Day

Refusing To Be Discouraged 

IMG_7606As I have lived at Guadalupe House for the past six years, I am learning not to be discouraged in our work. When I allow myself to embrace the spirit of criticism or discouragement, I lose my sense of humility, vulnerability, and compassion. And that is the worst hell I can possibly create for myself as I live out my life as a Catholic Worker. It is a betrayal of my true self because the deepest ground of my being is love.

  • Learning through mistakes 

“We should not be discouraged at our own lapses… but continue.” Dorothy Day writes, “If we are discouraged, it shows vanity and pride. Trusting too much to ourselves. It takes a lifetime of endurance of patience, of learning through mistakes. We are all on the way.”

  • Embrace my own vulnerability 

Learning through my mistakes is difficult, but it helps me to embrace my own vulnerability and learn what it means to love.

  • Love is a mystery 

The word love is a mystery to me. Do I understand what it means? Do I even care to ask the question of this profound mystery?

  • Why am I so afraid of love?

Am I truly afraid to embody it? Why am I so afraid of love? Honestly, I don’t know.

  • We are afraid of the word love 

“We are afraid of the word love and yet love is stronger than death, stronger than hatred. If we do not emphasize the law of love, we betray our trust, our vocation. We must stand opposed to the use of force,” states Dorothy Day.

  • Live into the mystery of the unknown 

3d-abstract_other_the-mystery_61883It is hard to live up to these words of Dorothy Day, but my longing is to try the best I can. Maybe the fear of love will be too much, but maybe I might be surprised what happens if I continue to live into the mystery of the unknown.

  • Workers, guests, friends, and strangers 

I am always seeing God’s love through the people I encounter at the Catholic Worker in everyday life. It is truly a mystery that is hard to explain. Workers, guests, friends, and strangers all have something to give.

  • So much hospitality 

It all is amazing and never ending. I am so grateful to be a part of a community with so much hospitality. It makes me happy when I think about it. This gives me hope and meaning in my life.

  • God at work in people who don’t have the slightest interest in religion 

“The longer I live,” says Dorothy Day, “the more I see God at work in people who don’t have the slightest interest in religion…”

  • The most authentic expressions of God

Sometimes, the people who have the least interest in religion are the most authentic expressions of God to us. I was never taught this, but my life experience at age forty two is showing me how true this is in life. How weird! How backwards!

  • Refusing to be discouraged 

So I am refusing to be discouraged in this season of my life. Even though others may think my life is strange or unconventional, I am really grateful for what my life has become as a Catholic Worker. I am learning to see the sacredness of all of life and am finding God in all my relationships and experiences. And I am learning that I do not have to shy away from love as I do my best to embody it in our community in everyday life together.

Why is it so hard to refuse to be discouraged?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

To Love And Be Loved – 6 quotes from Dorothy Day’s Writings – Dorothy Day: Selected Writings edited by Robert Ellsberg  

51DMVYF1ZQL1. To love and be loved

“Whenever I grown within myself and think how hard it is to keep writing about love in these times of tension and strife which may, at any moment, become for us all a time of terror, I think to myself: What else is the world interested in? What else do we all want, each one of us, except to love and be loved, in our families, in our work, in all our relationships? God is love. Love casts out fear. Even the most ardent revolutionist, seeking to change the world, to overturn the money changers, is trying to make a world where it is easier for people to love, to stand in that relationship to each other. We want with all our hearts to love, to be loved. And not just in the family, but to look upon all our mothers, sisters, brothers, children. It is when we love the most intensely and most humanely that we can recognize how tepid is our love for others. The keenness and intensity of love brings with it suffering of course, but joy too…”

2. Let us work together for solidarity

“We are all members, one of another, in the Mystical Body of Christ, so let us work together for… solidarity.”

3. Love is not killing

“Love is not the starving of whole populations. Love is not the bombardment of open cities. Love is not killing, it is the laying down of one’s life for one’s friends.”

4. Love and compassion

“The bridge – it seems to me – is love and the compassion (the suffering together) which goes with all love. Which means the folly of the Cross, since Christ loved men even to that folly of failure.”

5. An unjudging and forgiving community

“I still think that the only solution is the land, and community, a community in which is unjudging and which forgives ‘seventy times seven,’ as Jesus Christ said. We who think in terms of community at least have the assurance, the conviction that we are on the right path, going in the right direction, taking the right means to achieve the goal of increased love of God through an increased and proven love of our brothers. So many in these days have taken violent steps to gain the things of this world – war to achieve peace; coercion to achieve freedom; striving to gain what slips through the fingers. We might as well give up our great desires, at least our hopes of doing great things toward achieving them, right at the beginning. In a way it is like the paradox of the Gospel, of giving up one’s life in order to save it.”

6. The one action of the present momentContribution

“Young people say, ‘What can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we can only lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform these actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.”

Do we embody love in our lives together?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

Book Review – Loaves and Fishes: The Inspiring Story of the Catholic Worker Movement by Dorothy Day

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This is a great book by Dorothy Day!  One of the best books on the Catholic Worker Movement.  Dorothy Day advocates for developing a life of voluntary poverty where we learn to love the poor, oppressed and marginalized in our world.  She looks at critiquing the systems (such as war) that contribute to poverty in our time.

Some people say that Dorothy Day was the most influential Catholic in American history.  She was a legendary social activist throughout the twentieth century before she died in 1980.  The Catholic Worker Movement started back in the 1930’s in New York during the great depression in the United States.  The church wasn’t doing much to care for the poor, so Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin opened houses of hospitality where they practiced the works of mercy together.

Loaves and Fishes is about this amazing movement of hospitality, community, peace, social justice, love and compassion.  Dorothy Day sought to see Christ in the poor throughout her life.  This book shares how she went about doing that.  She liked the phrase “love is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”

As I live in a Catholic Worker community in Downtown Tacoma, Washington in the Northwest part of the United States – I have found this book to be extremely helpful in understanding the life of the movement.  This book draws attention to the idea of personalism, where we take personal responsibility for caring for the poor instead of depending on the government to do that for us.  Institutions are a bad substitute for genuine care and hospitality that we are all called to.  Through reading Loaves and Fishes, you will be led to more of a compassionate, human life.

  • Love and freedom grow in us through community

“Love and freedom – they are great and noble words.  But we learn about them, they grow in us in the little ways I am writing about, through community, through the heart-rending and soul-searing experiences, as well as the joyful ones, which we have in living together.”

  • Poverty is a strange and elusive thing

“Poverty is a strange and elusive thing.  I have tried to write about it, its joys and its 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.”

  • Holy Mother the State taking over more and more responsibility for the poor

“In our country, we have revolted against the poverty and hunger of the world.  Our response has been characteristically American: we have tried to clean up everything, build bigger and better shelters and hospitals.  Here, hopefully, misery was to be cared for in an efficient and orderly way.  Yes, we have tried to do much, with Holy Mother the State taking over more and more responsibility for the poor.  But charity is only as warm as those who administer it.  When bedspreads may not be ruffled by the crooked limbs of age and bedside tables will not hold the clutter of those who try to make a home around them with little possessions, we know that we are falling short in our care for others.”

  • The importance of voluntary poverty today

“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 our whole modern economy is based on preparation for war, and this surely is one of the great arguments for poverty in our time…”

  • We must give far more than bread, than shelter

“Easiest of all is to have so little, to have given away so much, that there is nothing left to give.  But is this ever true?  This point of view leads to endless discussions; but the principle remains the same.  We are our brother’s keeper.  Whatever we have beyond our own needs belongs to the poor.  If we sow sparingly we will reap sparingly.  And it is sad but true that we must give far more than bread, than shelter.”

  • The one action of the present moment

“Young people say, What good can one person do?  What is the sense of our small effort?  They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment.  But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.”

  • All we have to give is our time and patience, our love

“It is too easy to forget that all we give is given to us to give.  Nothing is ours.  All we have to give is our time and patience, our love…”

  • A revolution which has to start with each one of us

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?  When we begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers with that burning love, that passion, which led to the Cross, then we can truly say, ‘Now I have begun’”

What do you think of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement?

http://www.amazon.com/Loaves-Fishes-Inspiring-Catholic-Movement/dp/1570751560/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417113133&sr=8-1&keywords=Loaves+and+Fishes

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417112831&sr=8-1&keywords=mark+votava

What Keeps Us From Seeing the Beauty in Others?

CREATIVE-IMAGINATION-Sheridan-sp-summ-08-1st-class-5-1-2008-8-23-23-AM-2390x1563

As I have lived as a part of the Tacoma Catholic Worker now for four years I am beginning to have a different imagination for community, relationships, social justice, neighborliness, hospitality and compassion.  It is hard to see Christ in others in the midst of a pretty violent culture where individualism, competition, consumerism and independence is praised.  God is teaching me not to complain so much about the world I live in and learn to love it instead.  As Dorothy Day likes to say love is a harsh and dreadful thing.

I have spent many years complaining and being angry, but things are changing in me as I am learning to forgive and love.  The world is not bothering me so much as I have experienced God revealing to me beauty, mystery, goodness in all kinds of ordinary ways in everyday life.  The ordinary has become sacred to me.  The small things have been revelations of God’s love and compassion.

Learning to walk in the dark where confusion, pain, insecurity and even depression at times have guided me to a more abundant life of seeing Christ in others.  This imagination to see Christ in others is what I have been called to.  People are beautiful in spite of their brokenness.  The world is beautiful in spite of all the injustice that goes on around us.

So complaining about all the stuff I do not like will not be helpful.  Over time it will really hinder my flourishing as a human being in this world.  I want to be free to dance and live a life of peace.  I want to find joy in the dark seasons of life where it is hard to make sense of what I am experiencing.

Finding the love within myself to see Christ in others is such a powerful practice for me.  This is the journey of being the change I want to see in the world.  There is nothing more difficult and beautiful than this.

  •  Having the imagination to see Christ in others

Loving others by seeing the value and mystery in and through them is about having the imagination to see Christ in others.  This is a radical thought!  Does Christ really live in each and every one of us even if we have not “accepted Christ” into our lives?  I think he does in some mysterious way that we cannot always understand.

  •  We are created in Christ’s image

I believe there are dimensions of Christ that live in all of us.  How could they not?  We are created in his image.  Not some people but all people.

  • To see the best in everyone

Dorothy Day encourages us “To love with understanding and without understanding.  To love blindly, and to folly.  To see only what is lovable.  To think only on these things.  To see the best in everyone around, their virtues rather than their faults.  To see Christ in them …”  This is what the body of Christ is called to in the parish.

What keeps us from having the imagination to see Christ in others?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403709105&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination