Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 8 November 2015 – Stand Up For A Living Wage in NYS

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32 OTB – 8 November 2015 – Stand Up For A Living Wage in NYS

Photo by Mick Hales

Photo by Mick Hales

Click here for today’s scriptures

About 45 years ago a mentor of mine and I went on a tour of utopian communes. We wanted to learn why certain communities got started and who belonged to them. After a week of staying with a number of diverse groups we sought out more familiar places like New Skete in Cambridge and the Bruderhof in Rifton.

Our last stop was the Catholic Worker farm in in Tivoli, New York. As many of you know, the Catholic Worker Movement was founded in 1933 by Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day, whose birthday is today (1897-1980). The farm, once known as Rose Hill, was one of many places on the East coast where someone could find free food and shelter.

According to historian Audrey H. Cole, the Movement was a peculiar blend of anarchism, communism and Christianity. The idea was that people who had much should accept a degree of poverty and share their goods with those who had very little. [1] Being able to “see Christ in others” one could strive toward goodness.

Day was the editor of the Movement’s newspaper The Catholic Worker She used the medium to criticize corporations, call attention to racial inequality, encourage labor strikes and condemn war. Richard Rohr described Day as a woman who could not be silenced. During her life she did not want to be called a saint. Now many are promoting her cause.

This parish chose Dorothy Day to be one of the new icons in our church. You can almost hear her protest: “We must cry out against injustice or by our silence consent to it. If we keep silent, the very stones of the street will cry out.” [2]

There are many women who give of themselves unselfishly for the good of others. There are mothers, grandmothers and aunts, sisters and daughters, who nurture family members. There are activists in the public sphere, women who take risks to challenge institutions and cultures that cling to age old anachronisms. And, there are the two unnamed women in today’s biblical texts who gave to others not what was left over from their meager possessions but from all they had.

In the first reading the woman was worried that she would have nothing left to eat for herself and her son if she shared her goods with Elijah. He encouraged her to trust; God would not forsake her.

In the gospel the author tells the story where Jesus criticizes the scribes, chief priests and elders who roamed the Temple. These experts in Mosaic Law, who dressed in fancy cloaks of piety, had too much power and influence over the daily lives of the citizens of that society. [3]

Jesus, in a crafty way, draws attention to their acts of injustice through the story of the widowed woman. She too trusts that God will not abandon her in her poverty. Trust in God? I am not so sure we do that today even though our currency says we do. How many of us would take all of our savings and give it to others trusting that God will take care of us?

What we are being asked to do is to find some way to use some of our resources to help those who have little or nothing. There are many ways to do so. Here is one invitation.

Next Tuesday, November 10th, Faith for a Fair New York will join a nationwide day of action to strike down income inequality in the workplace. There will be local rallies in the Capitol at Noon and on the West Capitol Lawn at 5:30 PM. Join us in the fight for a living wage. Information about leaving from our parking lot is in this weekend’s parish Bulletin.

According to the 2015 Report on Inclusive Prosperity, “Firms in the US have been profit- able, but their success increasingly translates into income for shareholders and top management, not for employees. It is, therefore, entirely understandable that middle-class families feel that something is amiss when companies are profitable but wages are stagnant.”

If Dorothy Day were to join us she would say, “The stand we are taking is not on the grounds of wages and hours and conditions of labor, but on the fundamental truth that people should be treated not as chattels [property], but as human beings.” [4]

Her tireless cry for dignity and the witness of the two biblical women beckon us to take action. As we look at the icon of Dorothy Day we see that she is looking back at us … wondering what will we do.

______

  1. Cole Audrey. “The Catholic Worker Farm: Tivoli, New York 1964-1978” In the Hudson Valley Regional Review. Vol. VIII, No. 1, (March, 1991), 26
  2.  Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg, Dorothy Day, Selected Writings: By Little and by Little (Orbis Books: 1992), 273.
  3.  Byrne, Brendan. A Costly Freedom: A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel. (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 2008) 194
  4.  Day, Dorothy. House of Hospitality. (NY: Sheed & Ward, 1939) Chapter 8, 4
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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

4 thoughts on “Homily – 8 November 2015 – Stand Up For A Living Wage in NYS

  1. What a powerful homily. Yay for you, for women and the working poor everywhere who benefit from what you have to say. Thanks for the heads up about Tuesday. I will be there!
    Ruth

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  2. First, let me state that I am admirer of Dorothy Day. She did much for many — perhaps too much and perhaps setting a standard of giving that allowed her to be exploited — something that was pointed out to her. “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day; if you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” From what I have read about her, she didn’t seem to fully buy into that — her behavior didn’t indicate that she did, and she seemed to be a willing enabler. My twenty-five-cent psychological analysis of her was that her unrequited love affairs drew her into a life where she made herself feel needed. Did she do more good than not? Oh, undoubtedly! And even if her love affairs had gone as she would have desired, I believe she still would have devoted her life to helping people. Her non-violent protests during wars and in defense of the worker were admirable, to say the least, and in many ways, she was a wonderful role model. But she was, at the same time, a socialist whose thinking mimicked that of a child — that belief that everybody should share and we’ll all get along. That’s unrealistic, and it fails to address a means by which to address the real problems that have continued to grow since her death.

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  3. Thank you for every word of this homily, Richard. You took the day’s readings and made them very real – tying in Dorothy Day’s call to radical action. I will do my best to adjust my work day on Tuesday to be present at the rally at the Capitol.

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  4. I love the connections that you make here – the inclusion of Dorothy Day says it all. Thank you.

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