The Bread of the Strong: Lacouturisme and the Folly of the Cross, 1910-1985

By Jack Lee Downey | Go to book overview

6 Dorothy Day, Anti-triumphalism,
and a Personalist Approach to
Voluntary Poverty

This is a story of a spiritual adventure which began with reading the
works of St. Teresa of Avila twenty years ago during an idle beautiful
summer, which led me on new paths, laid me open and receptive to
strange adventures of the spirit…. She was a journalist too in a way,
and reported an attempt to take up and use spiritual weapons during
the turbulent times.

This story is about an attempt to discover and use spiritual weapons,
in a day of atomic war and preparation for war.

—Dorothy Day, All Is Grace

Within the ranks of the Lacouturite disciples, Dorothy Day stands out as its most historically conspicuous—which is to say, the most famous. During her lifetime and following her death in 1980, the retreat gained publicity and credibility directly from her close affiliation. Day first learned of the Lacouture retreat in the late 1930s (through her friend, publisher Maisie Ward) and was subsequently introduced to its doctrinal substance by a Josephite priest named Pacifique Roy, who had himself become an avid student of Lacouture and great admirer of John Hugo.1 The effect on Day was as profound as it was instantaneous, unraveling her previous disenchantment with the stark, hollow veneer of Catholic contemplative life—based on a particularly unpleasant experience at the Convent of Mary Reparatrix in Manhattan’s Midtown (just north of Madison Square Park).2 Although based in Baltimore, Roy was Québécois in both origin and temperament—stereotypically rugged and passionate. While some of the Workers viewed him as overly severe, Day was drawn to his aura of sanctity:

What he talked to us about was not the social order, but love and holiness
without which man cannot see God. He spoke with such absorption

-169-

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