How Long Do You Let People Stay?

…is one of the questions asked.  Sometimes the poor are called cases or clients.  One social worker wanted to know what our caseload was.  And our answer is, We let them stay forever.  They live with us, they die with us, and we give them a Christian burial.  We pray for them after they are dead. Once they are taken in, they become members of the family.  Or rather they were always members of the family.  They are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

To make such a statement to public authority is to run the risk of being committed to a psychiatric ward.

On one occasion I was visiting that ward at Bellevue Hospital in order to get one of our women out.  She had been attacked on the street, on her way home one evening, and when she complained hysterically to a policeman, she was committed to the psychiatric ward.  The police admitted evidence of such an attack; nevertheless she found herself in this mental ward for examination and was accused of having a persecution complex.

What interest is it of yours?, the doctor asked me.  She is not a relative.  You have no responsibility in the matter.  I should think you’d be glad the state is taking care of her.

But we had known her for some years.  We felt capable of taking care of her until she was capable of taking care of herself.  We assured him of this and told him moreover that she was our sister according to Christian teaching.

The doctor looked at me sadly, Do you know that religious mania is the most dangerous kind?

Peter Maurin: Apostle To The World, Dorothy Day

dorothy day catholic worker