Dorothy Day in Passing

DOROTHY DAY once remarked that if one could look into the face of a poor person and not see the Christ then one was an atheist. Dorothy Day lived a life serving Christ everyday. Today is the day she was conscripted into Heaven, November 29, 1980. She was born November 8, 1897. There is an active movement seeking her canonization and we wish them well. The following excerpt is from WIKIPEDIA —

The Catholic Worker Movement

Peter Maurin

In 1932, Day met Peter Maurin, the man she would always credit as the founder of the movement with which she is identified. Maurin, a French immigrant and something of a vagabond, claimed to be from a family which had occupied the same farm which their distant ancestor had received as a bonus for service in the Roman army. He had entered the Brothers of the Christian Schools in his native France, before emigrating, first to Canada, then to the United States.

Day in 1934

Despite his lack of formal credentials, Maurin was a man of deep intellect and decidedly strong views. He had a vision of social justice and its connection with the poor which was partly inspired by St. Francis of Assisi. He had a vision of action based on a sharing of ideas and subsequent action by the poor themselves. Maurin was deeply versed in the writings of the Church Fathers and the papal documents on social matters which had been issued by Pope Leo XIII and his successors. Through this knowledge, Maurin provided Day with the grounding in Catholic theology of the need for social action both felt.

The Catholic Worker

The Catholic Worker movement started with the publication of the Catholic Worker, first issued on May 1, 1933. It was established to promote Catholic social teaching in the depths of the Great Depression and to stake out a neutral, pacifist position in the war-torn 1930s. (See the Catholic Worker: The Aims and Means of the Catholic Worker.) This grew into a “house of hospitality” in the slums of New York City and then a series of farms for people to live together communally. She lived for a time at the now-demolished Spanish Camp community in the Annadale section of Staten Island. The movement quickly spread to other cities in the United States and to Canada and the United Kingdom; more than 30 independent but affiliated CW communities had been founded by 1941. Well over 100 communities exist today, including several in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Sweden.

Fame

By the 1960s, Day was embraced by a significant number of Catholics, while at the same time, she earned the praise of counterculture leaders such as Abbie Hoffman, who characterized her as the first hippie, a description of which Day approved,though there is some evidence which indicates Day might not always have taken a positive view of the hippie movement.

Although Day had written passionately about women’s rights, free love, and birth control in the 1910s, she opposed the sexual revolution of the 1960s and beyond, saying she had seen the ill effects of a similar sexual revolution in the 1920s. Day had a progressive attitude toward social and economic rights, alloyed with a very orthodox and traditional sense of Catholic morality and piety.

Her devotion to her church was neither conventional nor unquestioning, however. She alienated many U.S. Catholics (including some clerical leaders) with her condemnation of the authoritarian Falangist Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War; and, possibly in response to her criticism of Cardinal Francis Spellman, she came under pressure by the Archdiocese of New York in 1951 to change the name of her newspaper, “ostensibly because the word Catholic implies an official church connection when such was not the case.” The newspaper’s name was not changed.

Michael Harrington, the man who inspired President Johnson’s War on Poverty and facilitated the formation of the Democratic Socialists of America, started as a follower of Dorothy Day.

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