She is not a philosopher, mystic or teacher. Dottie is simply the best-known and perhaps most beloved waitress in Vieques, where she has lived for 40 years.
“You have a certain amount of love in here,” Dottie told me recently, patting her bosom. “As long as you have somebody or something to give your love to, you will be happy.”
Dottie was referring to the homeless dogs and cats of this small Puerto Rican island. She spends $100 a week of her waitress earnings—and uncounted hours of her time—feeding and caring for them.
Her life of service to her vagrant brood captures the peaceful joy depicted in the ancient carving, above, of Lazarus reposing in the bosom of Abraham.
Simone Weil, on the other hand, was a philosopher, mystic and teacher.
She draws an identical image of a peace-filled life of love, but in different words:
Christ does not save everyone who says to him, ‘Lord, Lord.’ But he saves everyone with a pure heart who gives a piece of bread to a starving person, without thinking of him in the least. When thanked, they respond, ‘When, Lord, have we fed you?’
Weil’s life displayed a mysticism that reflected her interest in Christian spirituality as well as her Jewish heritage. She made a study of spiritual traditions from Hinduism and Buddhism to Greek and Egyptian mystery religions. She suspected that each of these traditions held part of the key to true spiritual revelation, and she sought a universal thread to spirituality.
Born in 1909, Weil was a teacher and active supporter of workers’ rights. She taught free classes to French laborers, and she donated large portions of her small salary to aid them in their struggles for economic justice.
In 1942, when she lived in the United States, Weil took up residence in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City so she could live alongside the destitute. It was during this time that she made the acquaintance of Thomas Merton, who would later become a Trappist monk, and she became a Catholic.
Back in Europe, she aligned herself with the exiled members of the French Resistance. In 1943, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She refused treatment because of her political ideals. Her health rapidly declined, and she died at the age of thirty-four.
We’re told to give love without expectation of any return. But it seems that love does bear fruit—peace—for the giver.
Dottie said it this way: “As long as you have somebody or something to give your love to, you will be happy.”
Mother Teresa put it like this: “The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace.”
Weil predated Pope Francis in his recent assurance that, yes, even atheists can attain heaven. She wrote: “All those who possess a state of pure love of neighbor . . . all of them are surely saved . . . even if they live and die as atheists.”
In my next blog, “To Correct the Past”