We watched “Entertaining Angels” last night for the third or fourth time. It’s not current angel-fad fluff. It follows Dorothy Day through her early life – very energetic in radical causes in early 20th century New York, but also with real personal trauma – and well into her years as a Catholic convert and still very energetic activist. She published “The Catholic Worker” newspaper, and initiated dozens of soup-kitchens / homeless shelters across the US. The “angels” being “entertained” are Peter Maurin (the odd prophet), and the poor.
At one point the Archbishop has come to intimidate her. In her response are these awesome lines:
When you feed the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why they are poor, they call you a Communist. We are neither saints nor Communists.
Bingo! Neither saints nor Communists, but feeding the poor and asking why they are poor.
(Today the ultimate curse-word in the Christian right is “liberal”, which has replaced “Communist” over the last 10 years or so. As if nothing could be further from Christian morality than to be freedom-loving or generous. Someday I’ll try to write about why “liberal” is a much more Christian and Biblical word / concept than “conservative” is.)
The movie is not perfect, and neither was Dorothy Day as a Christian or as an activist (nobody is), but it is a pretty good movie, and we obviously think it’s worthwhile. There’s a view of Peter Maurin (Martin Sheen) washing the feet of a poor old man that always brings tears to my eyes, as do some other scenes.
At least as worthwhile, and even less time-consuming, is Robert Coles’ 30-page treatment, “Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in Tandem: The Moral Leader of a Moral Leader” in Coles’ Lives of Moral Leadership.