I suspect Dorothy Day would have winced at the word “legendary” in the subtitle assigned to her memoir: the autobiography of the legendary Catholic social activist. Humility informs every page of The Long Loneliness. So does clear and inviting prose, a testament to Day’s experience as a journalist. She was a 20th-century treasure.
Up until now, Dorothy Day has been to me the subject of magazine articles and other people’s blog posts, some quite critical (not that criticism was likely to deter her). Picking up Day’s 1952 memoir was a revelation to me.
After a long search, the board of St. Gianna’s Place has made the announcement I’ve been waiting for. From Facebook:
With great joy and gratitude, we announce that St. Gianna’s Place has found a home! We signed a lease on February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. We will soon be opening our doors to welcome pregnant women in crisis and their babies. We are grateful to God for leading and inspiring us on this journey, and we are grateful to our supporters for making this possible.
We humbly ask for your continued prayers and support as we prepare to open our home to some of God’s most vulnerable. We are hosting a Go Fund Me event to raise money to purchase necessary items for our new home. If you would like to help, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/StGiannasPlace.
Again, thank you for your continued prayers and support.
“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His Goodness.” St. Gianna pray for us!
How fitting that the lease was signed on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, given the faith and persistence of the volunteers who have brought the project this far. Housing for pregnant and parenting women in crisis is at a premium in southern New Hampshire, and St. Gianna’s Place will be part of a solution. The home will be in Hudson, and the opening date will be announced later. Right now, the task at hand is to prepare the building for occupancy.
Please view and share the Go Fund Me page set up by St. Gianna’s Place volunteers. Their immediate goal is $1000 for basic things like linens and cleaning supplies. A modest donation can go a long way.
I recall listening to a St. Gianna’s board member a couple of years ago, describing the vision driving the project. “Our Calcutta is right here,” she told me, comparing Mother Teresa’s mission field to ours here in New Hampshire, where so many more shelter beds are needed.
The signed lease goes a long way toward bringing the vision to life.
In an informal style, Mr. Agnesi shares small stories exploring painful situations and ways of responding to them. He is writing for a Christian audience, assuming that his readers have some familiarity with both faith and disappointment. He knows that Martha’s words to Christ in time of bereavement – “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” – reflect a deeply human reaction to loss. Where to from there?
One step at a time, responds Mr. Agnesi. He has confidence that in small ways, a day at a time, anyone experiencing major or minor miseries can be equipped for ministry to others. His words might not reach someone in the grip of immediate and profound grief, when looking ahead seems like too much to bear. For anyone capable of reflection, though, Turning Your Misery Into Ministry can be thought-provoking and inspiring.
Small Steps: A Path to Service
The author’s own experience with serious illness makes this a book written for other people, not at them. His descriptions of the ministries in which he’s personally involved enrich the book. His message on every page is I can do this; so can you.
The actions he advises seem obvious, but it’s precisely when challenges are oppressive that solutions are obscured. Pray, even briefly; look a stranger in the eye and say hello; give the gift of listening; do simple things for one’s spouse: page after page is filled with reminders of the little things that draw one’s attention outward, discouraging self-absorption.
That’s not to say he advises forgetting about self-care. He knows that he and his readers need healing and grace and time for themselves.
Grace in the Virtues
Virtues in action are basically habits developed over time. Mr. Agnesi packs his small book with short suggestions for ways to develop those habits. His book concludes with a section called “Grace in the Virtues,” which may seem an odd subject to consider when dealing with miseries large and small. After all that precedes the closing section, though, his reflections on grace and virtue make sense.
Each little step he advises is underpinned with encouragement towards the simple virtues of gratitude and humility. Without them, no one can be equipped for ministry. No formal training or credential can replace them. With them, anyone can begin to offer authentic service to others. Wherever authentic service exists, there is ministry.
Turning Your Misery Into Ministry ends with an exhortation to be passionate, unafraid, and joyful. With the voice of a neighbor, Tony Agnesi invites his readers to join him.
(Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for a review.)