Saint Dorothy Day

Day 100/365 : Choices

(Photo credit: ~jjjohn~)

“It’s a terrific idea: a home-town saint for the Occupy Wall Street era.”   — The New Yorker

Liberals, progressives, radicals: Take heart!

Dorothy Day half-length portrait, seated at de...

DOROTHY DAY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We knew it all along, but now Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan agrees. Dorothy Day is a candidate for sainthood!

NYC radical journalist Dorothy Day (1897-1980), co-founder of The Catholic Worker newspaper and a nationwide movement of “hospitality houses” serving the homeless, the hungry, and the poor, has been a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church since 2000. Now she even has the support, appropriately enough, of the archbishop of New York.

The New Yorker opines:

“Dorothy Day, a heroine of the American left and perhaps the most famous radical in the history of the American Catholic Church, led one of those remarkable lives that encompassed all the major upheavals of the twentieth century.” The full text of the excellent New Yorker essay is here.

Dorothy Day 1973 (Bob Fitch photo)

Dorothy Day 1973 (Bob Fitch photo) (Photo credit: jimforest)

Dorothy Day’s life story is well-known among advocates of Catholic social-justice teaching, as well as among American leftists and pacifists. I’ve read her autobiography, “The Long Loneliness,” first published by Harper & Rowe in 1952, and it’s a fascinating story. I’m downsizing my humble book collection, and was about to give the book away. But I’ll keep it for now. I want to reread it, and then pass it along for someone else to read.

Regarding sainthood, Dorothy Day herself said:

“Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”

Daniel Berrigan, S.J., writing from his prison cell not long after her death, characterized Dorothy Day as:

“This woman pounding at the locked door behind which the powerful mock the powerless . . .”

Like Howard Zinn‘s “A People’s History of the

English: Historian Howard Zinn speaking in 2009

Historian Howard Zinn in 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

United States,” Day’s autobiography opens a window on parts of the American story that are often overlooked in mainstream history books. Zinn’s book covers the long story of American history from the beginning. Day’s book covers her own life in detail. In so doing, it also illuminates a specific time and place — America, and especially New York City, in the first half of the 20th century.

Either book would make an excellent Christmas gift for the history or biography reader on your gift list.

Peter Maurin(Side note: Peter Maurin (1877-1949), a Catholic intellectual and activist, was Dorothy Day’s spiritual mentor and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. An essay on Peter Maurin’s life and influence is here. Maurin would also make an interesting candidate for sainthood.)

— John Hayden

3 thoughts on “Saint Dorothy Day

  1. Yeah, you have to wonder if the hard-right Catholic Republicans are able to even comprehend Catholic social teaching. In my opinion, the primary focus of both the Christian gospels and the Hebrew scriptures, going all the way back to Genesis, is on the central importance of helping the poor. I’d better stop right there, before I get into a rant.


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