header icons

Dorothy Day Prayer Card Inspires Migrant

Dorothy Day

Caleb is a student at the University of Notre Dame. He spent several months living and working at Casa Juan Diego this summer.

Three months ago I was fully initiated into the Catholic Church through the sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation at my school, the University of Notre Dame. That day I was surrounded by inexplicable joy and love, making it one of the happiest moments of my life. Now, after reflecting upon my time here at Casa Juan Diego, it is apparent that my conversion was not merely a moment in the basilica, but rather a life style, a truth, constantly being accepted, rejected, questioned and reaffirmed. How does this conversion take place? Quite simply, through love.

One of my first weeks here I met a desperate man begging for a place to stay for a couple days outside the men’s house. He was in his thirties with an old, broken backpack slouched over one shoulder and a baseball cap in his hand. I told him I could not make those decisions, but directed him towards people who could help him. The next day I was happy to find out that he would be a guest in the house. At Mass later that week I saw the new guest looking at a prayer card featuring Dorothy Day that we say at the end of each mass. On the front of the card is a black and white picture of Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and underneath it a beautiful prayer asking for the intercession of Dorothy Day for all migrants. He read the card carefully, turning it over in his hands. He only stayed a few more days, but before he left he asked if he could keep one of the prayer cards. I said of course he could keep the card, he shook my hand and the next day, he was gone.

I do not know the man’s name, nor have any idea where he went. He probably has little or no idea who I am, but I owe him much more than I gave him. I came to Casa Juan Diego to work and help, but this small glimpse into the worries of immigrants made me realize that I am called to so much more.

Many immigrant men are separated from their children and families, and are struggling to find consistent work. Whether they have been in the United States for one day or for years, they all came with a dream to escape the violence and poverty that plagued them, despite the long dangerous journey across the border. Further-more, upon arrival, this dream almost always differs from the reality, ridden with problems and uncertainties. Where can I find work? How can I pay for food and lodging? Where can I get the medical care I need? These and many more questions surround the poor migrant each day.

I’ve come to learn that work and help is not enough. Service is the call for us all. And true service is made known through love. Living with the people you are serving helps reveal this even more. I see the fights, struggles, and pain along with the laughter, joy, and success. True service does not separate humanity from one another; service heals because our life subsists in the very dignity of our neighbor beside us.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and prolific writer and pacifist once wrote, “As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a body of broken bones.” This is our call to conversion, to realize that no one suffers alone, and that this brokenness can only be rebuilt by love. The cross, the literal picture of death, becomes the very source of our life. Christ proves to us that although we will suffer as He suffered, we are never alone.

Casa Juan Diego also deserves my deepest gratitude. From my experience I was given not only the opportunity to live out the faith I first confessed in the basilica at Notre Dame some three months ago, but more importantly the under-standing that this service is sacramental. When we truly serve, we proclaim with boldness the holiness of our neighbor. We affirm their undeniable dignity. We love with the eternal love of Christ.

Houston Catholic Worker, September-October 2012, Vol. XXXIII, No. 4