Today, November 8, 2018, we commemorate Catholic Worker movement co-founder Dorothy Day’s 121st birthday. We give thanks for the gift of Dorothy’s life, her witness, and the CW movement–founded in 1933. Dorothy joined the Heavenly Cloud Of Witnesses on November 29, 1980 (aged 83) in New York City
Dorothy was a woman who afflicted the comfortable, and comforted the afflicted. She liked to say, “Don’t worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.”
Another famous quote allegedly said by Dorothy: “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy rotten system.”
Some interesting facts:
- Born in 1897, she was raised in a nominally Protestant family and became a Roman Catholic in 1928.
- One of her early memories was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and how her mother offered help to quake victims.
- Her father was a sportswriter who covered racetrack news.
- She loved reading novels from early childhood on, and her favorite author was Fydor Dostoevsky.
- She was baptized and confirmed at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Chicago in March of 1911 when she was thirteen.
- She rejected organized religion in college because she didn’t see so-called “religious people” helping the poor.
- In the World War I period she was part of a circle of social radicals and literary types like Eugene O’Neill.
- She first went to jail with a group of suffragists in 1917 who were demonstrating at the White House in favor of giving women voting rights.
- She had an abortion in a failed relationship when she was 22 years old.
- The birth of her daughter Tamar in 1926, within a common-law marriage, brought her great joy and happiness, and led to her final embrace of the Catholic faith.
- She met Peter Maurin in 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression.
- The Catholic Worker newspaper appeared in May 1933 with 2,500 copies distributed by hand. Circulation grew to 190,000 by 1938, and dropped to 50,000 during World War II, largely because of the paper’s pacifist stand. (Today’s circulation is over 80,000.)
- The first House of Hospitality opened in 1933. Today over 220 Catholic Worker communities exist in thirty-nine states and ten foreign countries.
- She maintained throughout her life that Peter Maurin, not she, started the Catholic Worker Movement. She called him a modern St. Francis who was responsible for completing her Catholic education.
- Her written work includes 8 books, 350 plus articles for journals and magazines, and over 1,000 articles for The Catholic Worker newspaper.
- A heavy smoker for years, she finally gave up the habit “cold turkey” after praying for several years for help in quitting.
- She went to daily Mass and weekly confession, and regularly went on religious retreats.
- She read the Bible at a time most Catholics didn’t.
- She travelled long distances by bus. She carried a Bible, a missal, the Divine Office, and a jar of instant coffee on her hundreds of trips.
- She went to jail four times from 1955 to 1959 for acts of civil disobedience. She with others refused to take shelter during civil defense drills that simulated a nuclear attack on New York City.
- In 1955 she became a professed secular oblate of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Procopius.
- She and a group of women fasted for ten days in 1963 in Rome, at Vatican Council II, wanting the bishops to condemn all war. They did condemn nuclear war.
- She was instrumental in founding Pax Christi USA.
- She was a prolific letter writer, including many years of correspondence with the monk Thomas Merton.
- She was a grandmother nine times, with one grandson going to Vietnam with the U.S. military during the war.
- She was a friend to bishops and cardinals, while being critical of the Church’s wealth and support for war and war preparations.
- She went to India to speak to Mother Teresa’s novices and received a cross from Mother Teresa worn by the Missionaries of Charity.
- Her last jailing was in 1973 at the age of 75 while protesting with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers in California.
- She loved the beauty of the natural world and would seek out the quiet of a small beach cottage she owned on the shore of Staten Island.
- Her gravestone has engraved on it a design of loaves and fishes and the words “Deo Gratias” (“thanks be to God”).
NOTE: Above painting of Dorothy Day by Ruben Ferreira
To learn more about Dorothy and the CW movement visit this LINK