By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, April 1950
"But there is not much chance that this book [Poverty, An Essential Element in the Christian Life, Translated by Rosemary Sheed] will find its way into the hands of the kind of people we meet up with, who are the destitute and the poor. So let us hope that it will reach and convert a tremendous number of lay apostles who themselves will espouse poverty and live it gloriously and bring a sense of joy to those who are poor. That joy will bring them the energy and power to praise God and begin to take what they need of His creatures instead of allowing themselves to be poisoned and perverted and deadened by the non essentials of our industrial America.
This is really a call to a general strike, a revolution, an expropriation of land and tools. It could be dynamite, this book, but it won't be, because the argument will go on as to what is poverty and what destitution, and how can you stop making bombs and tanks and airplane parts and television sets and pepsi-cola and brassieres and chewing gum and ash trays, and wouldn't it throw people out of work, and how can you stop buying all these things too, since that too would throw people out of work? The interminable idiocy of the talk about poverty! As soon as you begin talking of stripping yourself of cigarettes, (and ash trays) chewing gum and pepsi-cola, and (if you can afford it) television sets--then you are called a Jansenist or a Manichaen, negative in your approach, a deviationist heretic of an opponent of the working class as well as of the Church. If you cry aloud for land and home and tools and the good natural life for the poor without which a good supernatural life is impossible, then you are either an escapist and an inhabitant of an ivory tower, or you are a Communist in disguise trying to do away with property.
And you are a communist also if you cry out for peace and against increased armaments-- against the making of the hydrogen and atom bombs and the paying of federal taxes for the making of those bombs. We know, who picketed March 15 before the tax offices up on 45th street, because we heard these jibes as we walked to and fro with our signs.
Yes, it is hard to talk of the glory of poverty and the joy of poverty without offending all. "You make things sound too easy, too pleasant," is the accusation leveled at us by our own friends and readers when we talk of the pleasant aspects of living in the slums of the city, or in poverty on the land. Or--"What do you want --that people should stay in this condition?"
We can only reply with Eric Gill, that the aim of the Church is to make the rich poor and the poor holy. "There is always enough for one more," as a Spanish friend said, "Everyone just takes a little less." "If everyone would try to be better, then everyone would be better off," Peter Maurin said. "No one would be poor if everyone tried to be the poorest.""