Dorothy Day

Today is the anniversary of the death of Dorothy Day, a woman regarded by many as a saint during her lifetime (to which her brusque response was: “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”). It was once remarked of her that “she did for her era what St. Francis of Assisi did for his: recall a complacent Christianity to its radical roots.” And that she did, founding the Catholic Worker movement and doing all she could to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

In an early reflection, she explained the motivation and the work of the Catholic Worker houses in very simple terms:

No one asked us to do this work. The mayor of the city did not come along and ask us to run a bread line or a hospice to supplement the municipal lodging house. Nor did the Bishop or Cardinal ask that we help out the Catholic Charities in their endeavor to help the poor. No one asked us to start an agency or an institution of any kind. On our responsibility, because we are our brother’s keeper, because of a sense of personal responsibility, we began to try to see Christ in each one that came to us. If a man came in hungry, there was always something in the ice box. If he needed a bed and were were crowded, there was always a quarter around to buy a bed on the Bowery. If he needed clothes, there were our friends to be appealed to, after we had taken the extra coat out of the closet first, of course. It might be someone else’s coat, but that was all right too.

We are our brother’s and our sister’s keeper. We have a personal responsibility. Like one of the saints I most admire, St. Vincent de Paul, Dorothy Day took that responsibility seriously, managing to see Christ in each person she encountered. Inspired by that model, let us try to see Christ in each person we encounter, today and every day.

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One thought on “Dorothy Day

  1. How wonderful. You inspire me to read more about her. The little I know comes from various references in Thomas Merton’s writing.

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

    The real deal.

    How sad that in our process of canonization we do tend to turn our Saints into unthreatening institutionally moulded acceptably Establishment-minded figures.

    I suspect many of them were anything but

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