In his speech before a joint session of Congress today, Pope Francis invoked the name of Servant of God Dorothy Day, saying: “A nation can be considered great…when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work…”
Dorothy Day appears on the November 29th entry of “The American Catholic Almanac,” a daily reader of Catholic Americans who changed the course of history. The following is an excerpt from The Almanac, a publication of CatholicVote.org, authored by CV President Brian Burch and Emily Stimpson. Click here to purchase a copy!
Dorothy Day defended the Faith, served the poor, campaigned for justice, and fasted for peace. For that, her admirers called her a saint.
“Don’t,” was her reply. “I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”
Soon, she may not have a say in the matter.
Born in New York in 1897, Day grew up in California and Illinois. After spending two years at the University of Illinois at Champaign- Urbana, she dropped out and moved to New York to work as a journalist. In the pages of radical left-wing papers, the equally radical Day advo- cated for socialism, free love, and anarchy. When the Bolsheviks took over Russia in 1917, she celebrated. And when she found herself pregnant and single, she had an abortion.
Gradually, however, Day found herself drawn as powerfully to God as she was to progressive ideologies. While living in New York in the early 1920s, she started sneaking into a Catholic church to pray. When her work took her to New Orleans, she went regularly to Benediction services at St. Louis Cathedral. And when she gave birth to a baby girl in 1926—after believing her abortion had left her barren—she had the baby baptized Catholic.
“I did not want my child to flounder as I had often floundered,” she explained. “I wanted to believe, and I wanted my child to believe, and if belonging to a Church would give her so inestimable a grace as faith in God, and the companionable love of the Saints, then the thing to do was to have her baptized a Catholic.”
Day followed her daughter into the Church in December 1927. In the years that followed, she allowed the Gospel to transform both her life and politics. She believed and practiced the Faith in all its fullness, embracing the Church’s teachings on faith and morals, and heeding the Gospel’s call to serve the poor. She did the latter, in large part, through the Catholic Worker movement she helped found.
Dorothy Day died on November 29, 1980. Today, her official cause for canonization is moving forward . . . whether she likes it or not.