Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Fool for Christ

I sat down with pen and paper to review this DVD, but I was so immediately involved that my paper stayed blank. From the opening sentence, “Well, Dorothy, here you are, 75 years old and in the clink again,” Sarah Melici drew me into the world of Dorothy Day. With her gifts for storytelling and acting, Melici transforms herself into the passionate 20th century journalist, social critic and cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement.

Melici has been performing this one-woman play, which she wrote with Donald Yonker, for many years. I haven’t been fortunate enough to see it live yet, but the quality of the DVD is first rate and it will be one that I will watch often.

It opens as Day is jailed after one of her many arrests; this one for protesting for farm worker rights. She then reflects back on her “checkered” life, with its affairs, abortion, brief marriage, the birth of her child and the birth of her faith and activism.

From the distance of years she can see how God was calling her. When she walked, “prayers just filled my head,” and if she had been tired or sad at the start of the walk, she felt “intense joy” at the end. The birth of her daughter “made me want to worship and adore.”

“For a long time, it was a lonely love affair,” she tells us, noting that following God was a “hard, lonely life” for others who were called, from Jonah to St. Paul. Her call was to serve the poor and she did that through the Catholic Worker newspaper and hospitality house, and decades of human rights protests. For her efforts, she faced not only multiple arrests, but much criticism.

“When we feed the hungry, they call us saints,” she said. “When we ask why they are poor, they call us communists.”

Through all her struggles, Day, as Melici portrays her so beautifully, is driven by love -- for God and for others -- and that is the message she emphasizes as she leaves her cell at the end, reminiscence finished. She quotes St. John of the Cross that at the end of life we will be judged on love.

If that is our judgment, Day, and Melici, should do quite well.

For information about the DVD and Melici’s performances, visit www.foolforchrist.com.

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