I first heard of Dorothy Day in the junior year of my bachelor’s. My then professor not only had us read Loaves and Fishes but also brought us down to the local Catholic Worker house. I cannot begin to explain how that experience has changed my life. I would go on to be a Worker for 2 years, spending my days before classes and my summers in the shelter with the men. I made many friends and got to see people in their rawness and vulnerability… it is my most important and treasured experience in my life. In fact – if you scroll back through this blog you will find many stories of my time at the Worker.
- She was a journalist in a time when it was solely a man’s game.
Not only did she work in a man’s world – she did it well. She wrote for The Liberator, The Masses and The Call – all socialist papers – when she was only 18. To say she wasn’t like other girls her age is an understatement; she smoked, drank openly, hung around in bars, and took lovers. She chronicled a lot of this in her semi-autobiographical novel The Eleventh Virgin – which Pathe bought the rights to. Dang.
2. The Worker
Grounded in her Socialism, Syndicalism (the I.W.W.’s) and Anarchism as well as Maurin’s Agrarianism – the Catholic Worker began as a newspaper, but when a homeless man showed up to her front door asking her to put her money where her mouth was – the Houses of Hospitality were born. Day and Maurin took in, fed and clothed everyone regardless of anything. Her radical form of love meant that there was no judgement in the way someone lived, that we were take care of them anyway – it was our duty as a Christian to do so. This no-questions-asked, humanistic approach is still practiced in Worker houses and it what distinguishes us from the rest.
3. Shared Poverty
Dorothy didn’t just speak out against the systemic causes of poverty and care for the poor – she lived with them, like them. She lived in the Houses with those she served, suffering the same maladies – fleas, bedbugs, heat, sickness – until the day she died.
4. Staunchly anti- war
Dorothy objected – publicly – to each war since WWII. She denounced nuclear weapons, engaged in civil disobedience against the air-raid drills and maintained a strict observance of pacifism throughout her life.
If you don’t know about Dorothy – make sure to check out her autobiography The Long Lonliness. I promise…you won’t forget her.