Dorothy Day (November 8, 1897 – November 29, 1980) was an American journalist, social activist and anarchist who, after a bohemian youth, became a Catholic christian without in any way abandoning her social and anarchist activism. She was perhaps the best-known political radical in the American Catholic Church. Dorothy Day, co-founder with Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker movement, devoted her life to serving the homeless of New York City. She was a tireless advocate for peace and justice in both word and deed. She founded and edited the newspaper The Catholic Worker, which is still published today. In an address before the United States Congress, Pope Francis included her in a list of four exemplary Americans who "built a better future.” The Church has opened the cause for Day's possible canonization, which was accepted by the Holy See for investigation. For that reason, the Church refers to her with the title of Servant of God.
In the Liturgy we have the means to teach Catholics, thrown apart by Individualism into snobbery, apathy, prejudice, blind unreason, that they are members of one body, and that 'an injury to one is an injury to all.
-Dorothy Day, (from the December 1935 issue of The Catholic Worker)
If I did not believe, if I did not make what is called an act of faith (and each act of faith increases our capacity for faith), if I did not have faith that the works of mercy do lighten the sum total of suffering in the world, so that those who are suffering in this ghastly struggle somehow mysteriously find their pain lifted and some balm of consolation poured on their wounds — if I did not believe these things, the problem of evil would indeed be overwhelming.
The more we live with people in a community, the more we must look to ourselves and regard the beam in our own eyes. The more we live with a babbling crowd, the more we must practice silence. “For every idle word we speak we will be judged.”
“It is not love in the abstract that counts. Men have loved a cause as they have loved a woman. They have loved the brotherhood, the workers, the poor, the oppressed – but they have not loved man; they have not loved the least of these. They have not loved “personally.” It is hard to love. It is the hardest thing in the world, naturally speaking. Have you ever read Tolstoy’s Resurrection? He tells of political prisoners in a long prison train, enduring chains and persecution for the love of their brothers, ignoring those same brothers on the long trek to Siberia. It is never the brothers right next to us, but the brothers in the abstract that are easy to love.”
It is when we love the most intensely and most humanly that we can recognize how tepid is our love for others. The keenness and intensity of love brings with it suffering, of course, but joy too because it is a foretaste of heaven. When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them. God sees Christ, his son, in us. And so we should see Christ in others.
“The sense of futility is one of the greatest evils of the day.…People say, “What can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?” They cannot see that we can only lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment.”
“We are told to put on Christ, and we think of him in his private life, his life of work, his public life, his teaching, and his suffering life. But we do not think enough of his life as a little child, as a baby. His helplessness. His powerlessness. We have to be content to be in that state too. Not to be able to do anything, to accomplish anything.”
“If I did not believe, if I did not make what is called an act of faith (and each act of faith increases our faith, and our capacity for faith), if I did not have faith that the works of mercy do lighten the sum total of suffering in the world, so that those who are suffering…somehow mysteriously find their pain lifted and some balm of consolation poured on their wounds, if I did not believe these things, the problem of evil would indeed be overwhelming.”
-Dorothy Day Source: On Pilgrimage
“It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts. But now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks; with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives. It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter. And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving it to Christ.”
“We must love to the point of folly, and we are indeed fools, as our Lord himself was who died for such a one as this.”
“What we would like to do is change the world – make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended for them to do.… We can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.”
-Dorothy Day Source: “Love Is the Measure,” The Catholic Worker, June 1946