The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: A review of a much anticipated biography of Dorothy Day

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Just like Kate Hennessy at the beginning of this book, I don’t even know where to start. In life, Dorothy Day hated to be written about. I hope she’s looking down happy with this book. I bet she is.

I bought this book on pre-order the moment I learned about it. I’m a huge Dorothy Day fan only becoming more and more so with each passing year. When I became a Lay Dominican, I chose her name as my religious name. As I write this review, I have an icon of her looking down on me from on top of my printer.

I was not disappointed. As the subtitle says, it is a truly intimate portrait of Kate Hennessy’s grandmother. It tells the story of her life in great detail from the roaring ’20s until her death and it’s aftermath. It speaks lovingly of the good, the bad, and everything in-between and I guarantee any follower of Dorothy Day will learn something new. It certainly gave me more to ponder.

In some ways, the book was as much about Tamar, Ms. Hennessy’s mom and Dorothy’s daughter, as Dorothy. It was not a detriment, however. I’m sure plenty of Dorothy Day’s fans, like me, are just as curious about Tamar as Dorothy. I’m not alone in wondering what it was like growing up with the Catholic Worker in the shadow of a famous mom.

The book itself is simply beautiful. The image above doesn’t do the cover justice. Inside the cover, the writing is poetic and memorable. Kate Hennessy does bounce around a bit in the timeline so sometimes it’s hard to follow. The beginning was so hard to follow, I got a little worried, but it became easier to follow with time. Her writing did remind me a lot of her grandmother’s. It is clear that she comes from a long line of writers and thinkers on both sides.

It touches upon some important social justice issues, as you’d expect. It reveals some family secrets. It paints everyone as the human beings they were, gifts, flaws and all.

The World Will Be Saved by Beauty is available now from your favorite bookseller. It is a must-read for any and all Dorothy Day devotees. It is also such beautiful writing, I’d recommend it also to anyone who is curious about Dorothy Day who loves poetic writing.

PS: I’m now an Amazon affiliate, so if you click on that link and buy anything from Amazon (it doesn’t even have to be the book, although I’d recommend it), I get a cut at no extra cost to you. Please support my family and the blog!

Thérèse by Dorothy Day: One Saint Writes about Another

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I adore Dorothy Day. That’s the reason why I picked up this book. Like Dorothy Day, when I first met Thérèse of Lisieux, I wasn’t very impressed. Day describes Thérèse of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul as “pious pap” the first time she read it. But as life goes on and wisdom is gained, opinions change. Dorothy Day, as one reviewer states, may not be a Thérèse of Lisieux scholar, but she may be the Little Flower’s most “adept and significant student.” Before this book, the only book I had read by or about Thérèse was Story of a Soul. Now, with Day’s influence, I’m interested in learning more, particularly about her and her sisters.

This short biography breathes life into this saint and applies her life and teachings to the modern world. It is well-addressed to other people who like Day had trouble relating to Thérèse at first. It breathes life into the saint. The reader gets to see Day really in a kind of dialogue with Thérèse’s life and teachings.

So, what does this saint have to say about the world today? As Dorothy Day says in the book:

With governments becoming stronger and more centralized, the common man feels his ineffectiveness. When the whole world seems given over to preparedness for war and the show of force, the message of Thérèse is quite a different one.

Day was writing this book in 1960, but her insights in this book are just as true, if not more so, 56 years later. With the advent of the internet and social media, we’re now bombarded with rage porn and we’re all screaming into the void. Everyone wants to be internet famous. From the richest billionaire in the board room to the poorest homeless teenager on the streets, everyone is looking for attention, everyone wants the biggest, loudest, fanciest thing.

In this world, Thérèse says the same thing she’s said for over a hundred years, “be little, be small, be like a child, be like putty in God’s hands.” This isn’t to say you can’t stand up against injustice. Dorothy Day, one of her spiritual children, is a good example of that. But imitating Christ isn’t just for big, flashy things. It’s the small acts of everyday life that we will all ultimately have to answer for. And, at the end of the day, God is the only Person you have to please. Forget all the anger, all the fame, all the noise. Forget all the stuff, all the media, all the busyness. Be who God wants you to be right now. Do what God wants you to do right now. Act with God’s love right now. Thérèse’s message is truly counter-cultural. That’s what makes her relevant and needed even now.

Dorothy Day’s book Thérèse is going to be back in print on December 16th. It can be pre-ordered through the publisher here or through Amazon here. I got the opportunity to read it through my membership in NetGalley. Thank you Ave Maria Press for the privilege.