Dorothy Day: Our #1 Women’s History Month Nominee

Posted on March 11, 2019 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

Insider’s Peak from Person Guiding Her Canonization

Ever since John Cardinal O’Connor nominated Dorothy Day for sainthood nearly 20 years ago, George Horton has worked with Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, CEO of Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, to guide the cause for canonization through the Roman Catholic Church.  Many consider Ms. Day, an activist who served the poor while promoting social causes including pacifism and women’s suffrage, the most important woman in  American Catholic history.  Now, during Women’s History Month, we are honored to highlight Ms. Day by our resident Dorothy Day historian.

By George Horton

Catholic Charities NY Director of Social & Community Development


Dorothy Who?...and a Saint?

Upon her death in 1980, historian David O'Brien famously called Dorothy Day the "most significant, interesting, and influential person in the history of American Catholicism." Others simply called her a saint. Still, when the Dorothy Day Guild was established in 2005 to promote her cause, people would wrinkle their brows, asking puzzledly, "Do you mean Doris Day?"! Happily, recognition of her life and witness has grown dramatically, thanks immeasurably to Pope Francis who, in his historic talk before the U.S. Congress in 2015, placed her in the company of Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and fellow Catholic convert, Thomas Merton.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker movement.  Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints. (Pope Francis)

As a youthful journalist in pre WWI New York, Dorothy lived among leftists and artists in Greenwich Village. Her conversion to Catholicism confounded her radical friends who saw the Church as a bastion of the status quo. She on the other hand, much like Pope Francis, saw it as the Church of the poor. She prayed that some way would open up for her as a Catholic to help the plight of the worker and the unemployed.

In 1933, in the depths of the Depression, she met Peter Maurin, an itinerant worker and scholar, imbued in the Church's teachings on social justice. Together they launched the Catholic Worker newspaper to let people know "that the Church had a social program” -- that there are people of God “who are working not only for their spiritual but for their material welfare" as well. The newspaper led to the formation of "houses of hospitality" and what came to be known as the Catholic Worker movement. Its "manifesto" is the Sermon on the Mount; its practice, the works of mercy and non-violence. Today Catholic Worker houses exist throughout the United States and in many parts of the world. Often the paper quoted G.K. Chesterton's observation that Christianity hadn't really failed -- it had never really been tried. Day's life was spent trying. She was shot at while working for integration, arrested with striking workers, jailed for peace, prayed and fasted at the Second Vatican Council. Her pilgrimage ended at Maryhouse in New York City where she died among the poor.

Day's cause for canonization was officially opened by John Cardinal O'Connor in 2000, explaining that "official" sainthood is not for the sake of honoring her, but for the sake of the Church and future generations, that they be inspired by her model of holiness.

After working so long guiding Ms. Day's cause for sainthood through the judicial process required by the Roman Catholic Church I believe the compiling of evidence of her holiness, the archdiocesan phase of the process, including eyewitness testimony and all of her writings, published and unpublished, is nearing completion.

Fall 2020 is the date targeted for submitting her case to Rome -- confident that in the woman Dorothy Day, truly, we have a saint for our time. 

Find out more about Dorothy Day

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