The Long Loneliness | Dorothy Day

We cannot love God 
unless we love each other,
and to love
we must know each other.

We know him in
the breaking of bread,
and we are not alone
any more.

Heaven is a banquet and
life is a banquet, too,
even with a crust,
where there is
companionship.

We have all known
the long loneliness and
we have learned that
the only solution is
love and that
love comes with
community.

It all happened
while we sat there
talking, and
it is still going on.

I first read Dorothy Day’s autobiography, “The Long Loneliness,” several decades ago, but this beautiful closing passage has never left me. These profoundly moving words (which are so poetic that I have chosen to share them in verse) return to me often. But her words seem more profound now than ever before, as we begin to come out of this pandemic.

We have all known a new loneliness – the loneliness of social distancing brought about by this pandemic. It is a painful loneliness that I have come to believe will require deep healing – healing that will not happen quickly or easily. But there is a much deeper loneliness that Day is referring to, in these words written many decades before this pandemic. (Her autobiography was first published in 1952.)

The loneliness that Dorothy Day describes is also the loneliness that Henri Nouwen writes about in many places, including his book, “The Wounded Healer” (first published in 1972). As he puts it there: “We live in a society in which loneliness has become one of the most painful human wounds.” (As an aside, I am re-reading “The Wounded Healer” now, and when I finish, I hope to share a blog post about it with a more extended reflection.)

And here’s what I am seeking to remind myself of, by writing and sharing this post: we can learn from those who have gone before us, and who have wrestled faithfully with this loneliness. We can learn from Dorothy Day and Henri Nouwen and others. We can learn how to face this loneliness with faith, and heal from it together.

Loneliness is one of our most painful wounds. It was true then, and it is still true now. I think that we all know it, at least intuitively. And what we have learned, and what we must re-learn now, is that the only solution to this loneliness is love, and that love comes through community. A community that gathers together to discover Jesus as we break bread together, and a community that then goes into the world to share his love with all.

My prayers are with my congregation, and with yours, too, as we heal from our long loneliness together. Let us devote ourselves to re-building our communities, so that we can share the love of God in Christ Jesus with one another and with our lonely world.

They told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Luke 24:35

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2:42

3 thoughts on “We Have All Known the Long Loneliness – Dorothy Day

  1. This is so right-on, appropriately for these times. I had not heard of Dorothy Day’s book, but Nouwen’s truly blessed me on my own journey. Thank you for “poem” made from Dorothy’s words!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pastor, thank you for such a moving piece. Please accept my good wishes for all the Mothers in your community. Mother’s love for me is the femininity of the Lord par excellence. Blessings upon you and your community.

    Liked by 1 person

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