Dorothy Day was proposed for sainthood by the Claretian Missionaries in 1983. Pope John Paul II granted the Archdiocese of New York permission to open Day's "cause" for sainthood in March 2000, thereby officially making her a "Servant of God" in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I don't believe she is declared a saint just yet. Here are some things she is known for:
Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, was born in Brooklyn, New York, November 8, 1897. She worked for The Masses, a magazine that opposed American involvement in the European war. In September, the Post Office rescinded the magazine's mailing permit. Federal officers seized back issues, manuscripts, subscriber lists and correspondence. Five editors were charged with sedition.
In November 1917 Day went to prison for being one of forty women in front of the White House protesting women's exclusion from the electorate. Arriving at a rural workhouse, the women were roughly handled. The women responded with a hunger strike. Finally they were freed by presidential order.
In the winter of 1932 Day travelled to Washington, D.C., to report for Commonweal and America magazines on the Hunger March. Day watched the protesters parade down the streets of Washington carrying signs calling for jobs, unemployment insurance, old age pensions, relief for mothers and children, health care and housing. What kept Day in the sidelines was that she was a Catholic and the march had been organized by Communists, a party at war with not only with capitalism but religion.
Following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and America's declaration of war, Dorothy announced that the paper would maintain its pacifist stand. "We will print the words of Christ who is with us always," Day wrote. "Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount." Opposition to the war, she added, had nothing to do with sympathy for America's enemies. "We love our country.... We have been the only country in the world where men and women of all nations have taken refuge from oppression." But the means of action the Catholic Worker movement supported were the works of mercy rather than the works of war. She urged "our friends and associates to care for the sick and the wounded, to the growing of food for the hungry, to the continuance of all our works of mercy in our houses and on our farms."
One of the rituals of life for the New York Catholic Worker community beginning in the late 1950s was the refusal to participate in the state's annual civil defense drill. When the sirens sounded June 15, 1955, Day was among a small group of people sitting in front of City Hall. "In the name of Jesus, who is God, who is Love, we will not obey this order to pretend, to evacuate, to hide. We will not be drilled into fear. We do not have faith in God if we depend upon the Atom Bomb," a Catholic Worker leaflet explained. Day described her civil disobedience as an act of penance for America's use of nuclear weapons on Japanese cities.
In 1963 Day was one 50 "Mothers for Peace" who went to Rome to thank Pope John for his encyclical Pacem in Terris. Close to death, the pope couldn't meet them privately, but at one of his last public audiences blessed the pilgrims, asking them to continue their labors.
Acts of war causing "the indiscriminate destruction of ... vast areas with their inhabitants" were the order of the day in regions of Vietnam under intense U.S. bombardment in 1965 and the years following. Many young Catholic Workers went to prison for refusing to cooperate with conscription, while others did alternative service. Nearly everyone in Catholic Worker communities took part in protests. Many went to prison for acts of civil disobedience. Day herself was last jailed in 1973 for taking part in a banned picket line in support of farmworkers. She was 75.
Day lived long enough to see her achievements honored. In 1967, when she made her last visit to Rome to take part in the International Congress of the Laity, she found she was one of two Americans -- the other an astronaut -- invited to receive Communion from the hands of Pope Paul VI. On her 75th birthday the Jesuit magazine America devoted a special issue to her, finding in her the individual who best exemplified "the aspiration and action of the American Catholic community during the past forty years." Notre Dame University presented her with its Laetare Medal, thanking her for "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable." She died November 29, 1980.
· 10 years ago