In his address to Congress Thursday, the Pope reminded them of all the people and things they’re busily trying to forget about or have spent their careers legislating against (the poor, the oppressed, people in prison, the environment). He also gave several surprising and touching tributes to one of the heroes of the Catholic social justice movement, Dorothy Day.
“In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement,” Pope Francis told them. “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.”
Day founded the Catholic Worker movement with Peter Maurin; both were social justice advocates, although Day has been delightfully and more colorfully described as a “pacifist, anarchist, and holy person.” She’s said to have prayed and recited the rosary every morning, before going out to edit the Catholic Worker newspaper and advocate for spreading the means of production. (Although she was anti-abortion, she had one early in life, which she described as a terrible experience with a “dirty, furtive” illegal doctor.)
The Catholic Worker movement focused on both helping the poor and homeless and advocating against war, first by criticizing post Cold War hysteria and later organizing against the war in Vietnam. There are still soup kitchens and homeless shelters all over the country bearing Day’s name. The Catholic Church began considering whether to canonize her in 2000, although there’s been little progress there. She is currently referred to as a “Servant of God,” a sort of pre-saint position.
Pope Francis praised Day’s “tireless work, the fruit of her faith, which becomes dialogue.” Maybe he’ll jumpstart her sainthood too.
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Dorothy Day circa 1960. Image via AP Images