Sunday, July 28, 2013
Voices of the People: Dorothy Day (d. 1980)
[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Day], retrieved 2013-07:
Dorothy Day, Obl.O.S.B. (November 8, 1897 – November 29, 1980) was an American journalist, social activist, and devout Catholic convert; she advocated the Catholic economic theory of distributism. Day "believed all states were inherently totalitarian," and was considered to be an anarchist and did not hesitate to use the term. In the 1930s, Day worked closely with fellow activist Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker movement, a nonviolent, pacifist movement that continues to combine direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf.
The cause for Day's canonization is open in the Catholic Church, and she is thus formally referred to as a Servant of God.
Early life -
Dorothy Day was born in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, and raised in San Francisco and Chicago. She was born into a family described by one biographer as "solid, patriotic, and middle class". Her father, John Day, was a Tennessee native of Scots-Irish heritage, while her mother, Grace Satterlee, a native of upstate New York, was of English ancestry. Her parents were married in an Episcopalian church located in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood where Day would spend much of her young adulthood.
In 1904, her father, who was a sports writer, took a position with a newspaper in San Francisco. They lived in Oakland, California, until the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 destroyed the newspaper's facilities and her father lost his job. The earthquake's devastation and how people helped homeless victims became strongly ingrained in the young Dorothy's memory. The family then relocated to Chicago.
Day was an avid reader as a child. She was particularly fond of Upton Sinclair, Jack London, and hagiographies of Catholic saints. She had also read Peter Kropotkin, an advocate of anarchist communism, which, along with these others, influenced her ideas in how society could be organized. In 1914, Day attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a scholarship, but dropped out after two years and moved to New York City. Day was a reluctant scholar. Her reading was chiefly in a radical social direction. She avoided campus social life and insisted on supporting herself rather than live on money from her father, a characteristic she was to maintain for the rest of her life, to the point of buying all her clothing and shoes from discount stores to save money.
Settling on the Lower East Side, she worked on the staffs of Socialist publications (The Liberator, The Masses, The Call), though she "smilingly explained to impatient socialists that she was ‘a pacifist even in the class war.’" She also engaged in anti-war and women's suffrage protests, spent several months in Greenwich Village, where she became close to Eugene O'Neill, and later joined the Industrial Workers of the World ('Wobblies'). She rejoiced at the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, as she relates in "From Union Square to Rome". She maintained friendships with such prominent American Communists as Mike Gold, Anna Louise Strong, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (who became the head of the Communist Party USA), all of whom she praised and eulogized in the Catholic Worker. In the November 1949 issue, she described herself as an "ex-Communist," and in the January 1970 issue she declared that the Catholic Worker is "a revolutionary headquarters rather than a Bowery mission, as most newspapers like to picture us."
Spiritual awakening -
Dorothy's parents were nominal Christians, rarely attending church. As a young child, she showed a marked religious streak, though, reading the Bible frequently. When she was ten she started to attend an Episcopalian church, after its rector had convinced their mother to let the Day brothers join the church choir; she became taken with the liturgy and its music. She studied the catechism and was baptized and confirmed in the church. Despite this she saw herself as agnostic.
Initially Day lived a bohemian life; her short marriage to Berkeley Tobey occurred "on the rebound" after an "unhappy love affair with a tough ex-newspaperman named Lionel Moise" and an abortion, which she later described in her semi-autobiographical novel, The Eleventh Virgin ISBN 978-0983760511 (1924)—a book she later regretted writing. The sale of the movie rights to the novel enabled her to settle down, using the proceeds to buy a beach cottage on Staten Island, New York. She lived there with Forster Batterham, a biologist with whom she shared a deep interest in social activism. It was a time of idyllic peace for her, as she shared the company of good friends and enjoyed the beauty of nature, which Batterham helped her to appreciate.
During this period, however, Day began a time of spiritual awakening which would lead her to embrace Catholicism. She had picked up a rosary in New Orleans during the course of her many moves around the country and started to recite the canticles she had learned at her childhood church in Chicago. She began to attend Mass on Sundays at the nearby Catholic church.
This growing interest in religion became a continuing source of conflict and division between Day and Batterham, who had a deep aversion to religion. Unexpectedly, Day found that she was pregnant. As her partner opposed having children, this became another source of conflict. Despite his opposition, she resolved to have her child and to have it baptized, to give the child a spiritual foundation she had lost herself. In all her travels, Day had identified with the people of the working class, and everywhere she went the majority had been Catholics. Thus, she chose to give her allegiance to that faith.
After the birth of her daughter, Tamar Teresa (1926–2008), Day chanced to meet Sister Aloysius, S.C., a Catholic Religious Sister, walking down her street. She asked the Sister how she could have the child baptized. Sister Aloysius helped her, requiring Day to memorize the Baltimore Catechism for this. Tamar's baptism was opposed by Batterham, who continued to live with Day and the child in Staten Island when he was not working in Manhattan. Day loved him deeply and respected him for his stand on social causes, putting off any move to join the Church because she did not want to lose him. This tension, she reported, led to illness and resulted in a nervous condition.
Exasperated, Day broke up with Batterham; she refused to take him back when he returned after an emotional "explosion" had occurred. She then went immediately to Sister Aloysius to arrange for admission to the Catholic Church. This took place in December 1927, with her conditional baptism (due to her prior baptism in the Episcopalian Church) at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish on Staten Island. In her 1952 autobiography, The Long Loneliness, Day recalled that immediately after her baptism she made her first Confession and the following day she made her First Communion.
In the summer of 1929, Day decided to leave New York temporarily, partly to put the situation with Batterham behind her, and also to accept work as a screen writer in Hollywood. She moved with Tamar to Los Angeles. She returned to New York just as the effects of the Great Depression were beginning to be felt. Later, Day began writing for Catholic publications, such as Commonweal and America on the events of that situation around the country. She began to feel separated from the protesters in the streets, feeling a lack of leadership from her new faith.
In the early 1940s she became a Benedictine oblate, which gave her a spiritual practice and connection that sustained her throughout the rest of her life. As described in her letters in "All the Way to Heaven," she left the Benedictines for a time to consider joining the Fraternity of Jesu Caritas, which was inspired by the example of Charles de Foucauld. Day felt unwelcome there and disagreed with how meetings were run. When she decided to return to the Benedictines and withdraw herself as a candidate in the Fraternity, she wrote to a friend, "I just wanted to let you know that I feel even closer to it all, tho it is not possible for me to be a recognized 'Little Sister,' or formally a part of it".
The Catholic Worker Movement -
Peter Maurin -
In 1932, Day met Peter Maurin, the man she would always credit as the founder of the movement with which she is identified. Maurin, a French immigrant and something of a vagabond, claimed to be from a family which had occupied the same farm which their distant ancestor had received as a bonus for service in the Roman army. He had entered the Brothers of the Christian Schools in his native France, before emigrating, first to Canada, then to the United States.
Despite his lack of formal credentials, Maurin was a man of deep intellect and decidedly strong views. He had a vision of social justice and its connection with the poor which was partly inspired by St. Francis of Assisi. He had a vision of action based on a sharing of ideas and subsequent action by the poor themselves. Maurin was deeply versed in the writings of the Church Fathers and the papal documents on social matters which had been issued by Pope Leo XIII and his successors. Through this knowledge, Maurin provided Day with the grounding in Catholic theology of the need for social action both felt. Years later Day described how Maurin also broadened her knowledge by bringing "a digest of the writings of Kropotkin one day, calling my attention especially to Fields, Factories, and Workshops; Day observed: "I was familiar with Kropotkin only through his Memoirs of a Revolutionist, which had originally run serially in the Atlantic Monthly. (Oh, far-[past] day of American freedom, when Karl Marx could write for the morning Tribune in New York, and Kropotkin could not only be published in the Atlantic, but be received as a guest into the homes of New England Unitarians, and in Jane Addams' Hull House in Chicago!)"
The Catholic Worker -
The Catholic Worker movement started with the publication of the Catholic Worker, first issued on May 1, 1933. It was established to promote Catholic social teaching in the depths of the Great Depression and to stake out a neutral, pacifist position in the war-torn 1930s. (See the Catholic Worker: The Aims and Means of the Catholic Worker.) This grew into a "house of hospitality" in the slums of New York City and then a series of farms for people to live together communally. The movement quickly spread to other cities in the United States and to Canada and the United Kingdom; more than 30 independent but affiliated CW communities had been founded by 1941. Well over 100 communities exist today, including several in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Sweden.
By the 1960s, Day was embraced by a significant number of Catholics, while at the same time, she earned the praise of counterculture leaders such as Abbie Hoffman, who characterized her as the first hippie, a description of which Day approved, though there is some evidence which indicates Day might not always have taken a positive view of the hippie movement.
Although Day had written passionately about women’s rights, free love, and birth control in the 1910s, she opposed the sexual revolution of the 1960s and beyond, saying she had seen the ill effects of a similar sexual revolution in the 1920s. Day had a progressive attitude toward social and economic rights, alloyed with a very orthodox and traditional sense of Catholic morality and piety. A daily communicant, Day was unable to prevent the irregularities that occurred at the Tivoli Catholic Worker Farm. In her diary she relates the criticisms of Stanley Vishnewski, then declares, "But I have no power to control smoking of pot, for instance, or sexual promiscuity, or solitary sins." She supported church teaching on abortion.
Her devotion to her church was neither conventional nor unquestioning, however. She alienated many U.S. Catholics (including some clerical leaders) with her condemnation of the authoritarian Falangist Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War; and, possibly in response to her criticism of Cardinal Francis Spellman, she came under pressure by the Archdiocese of New York in 1951 to change the name of her newspaper, "because the word Catholic implies an official church connection when such was not the case." The newspaper's name was not changed. Day cast a critical look at the United Fruit Company as she praised communes in Communist China and Russia, as well as Fidel Castro's "promise of social justice"; she declared, " 'Thou art neither cold nor hot ... because thou art lukewarm ... I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth,' our Lord says. Far better to revolt violently than to do nothing about the poor destitute."She also praised Ho Chi Minh as "a man of vision, as a patriot, a rebel against foreign invaders."
In 1971, Day was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award of the Interracial Council of the Catholic Diocese of Davenport, Iowa. It was named after the 1963 encyclical by Pope John XXIII which calls upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. Pacem in Terris is Latin for "Peace on Earth." Day was accorded many other honors in her last decade of life, including the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame in 1972. Day had refused to participate in civil defense drills during the Cold War.
Later life and death -
Despite suffering from poor health, Day traveled around the world to preach the power of "God's love" and the way of pacifism. She went to India, where she met Mother Teresa and saw her work. In 1971, with the financial support of Corliss Lamont, who she described as a "'pinko' millionaire who lived modestly and helped the Communist Party USA," Day made a trip to the Soviet Union as part of a "peace pilgrimage."She met with three members of the Writers' Union to defend Alexander Solzhenitsyn against charges that he "sold out" the USSR; Day informed her readers that "Solzhenitsin lives in poverty and has been expelled from the Writers Union and cannot be published in his own country. He is harassed continually, and recently his small cottage in the country has been vandalized and papers destroyed, and a friend of his who went to bring some of his papers to him was seized and beaten. The letter Solzhenitsin wrote protesting this was widely printed in the west, and I was happy to see as a result a letter of apology by the authorities in Moscow, saying that it was the local police who had acted so violently." The travel restrictions on tourists did not prevent Day from going to the Kremlin, and she reported: "I was moved to see the names of the Americans, Ruthenberg and Bill Haywood, on the Kremlin Wall in Roman letters, and the name of Jack Reed (with whom I worked on the old Masses), in Cyrillac characters in a flower-covered grave.... I felt that my former roommate, at the University of Illinois, Rayna Prohme, should have had a flower-bedecked grave along the Kremlin wall also. She had edited a paper in Hankow, had accompanied Madame Sun Yat Sen to Moscow when Chiang Kai Shek had taken over the Communist dominated city, and was preparing to continue her work as a dedicated Communist when she died in Moscow." She joined Cesar Chavez in his efforts to provide justice for farm laborers in the fields of California. There, at the age of 75, she was arrested with other protesters and spent ten days in jail. From 1972 to 1978 she was a part-time resident of the now-demolished Spanish Camp community in the Annadale section of Staten Island.
Day gave her final public appearance at the Eucharistic Congress held on August 6, 1976, in the City of Philadelphia to honor the Bicentennial of the United States. She spoke on the love God has for humanity and the need to spread that love throughout creation. Day characteristically tied in her message to the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on that day.
Shortly after this, Day suffered a heart attack. She died on November 29, 1980, at Maryhouse in New York City.
Day was buried in the Cemetery of the Resurrection on Staten Island, just a few blocks from the location of the beachside cottage where she first became interested in Catholicism.
Cause for sainthood -
A proposal for Day's canonization was put forth publicly by the Claretian Missionaries in 1983. At the request of Cardinal John J. O'Connor, made as head of the diocese in which she lived, in March 2000 Pope John Paul II granted the Archdiocese of New York permission to open this cause, thereby officially allowing her to be called a "Servant of God" in the eyes of the Catholic Church.
In keeping with canon law, the Archdiocese of New York then submitted this cause for endorsement by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In November 2012, during the course of a semi-annual meeting, and at the urging of the current Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, President of the organization, the Conference formally endorsed this cause. In introducing this "consultative" item, Cardinal Dolan gave his fellow bishops the following "clarification": "you’re not being asked to indicate whether or not you consent to the cause--I hope you do--but if you have any objections, there’ll be chances for you to express those during the cause. What I’m seeking your opinion about is the opportuneness of advancing the cause on the local level."
The cause is attracting criticism from members of the Catholic Worker Movement she founded, with claims that this prominence would contradict Day's own values and concerns.
In the Episcopal Church, Dorothy Day is listed as a person "worthy of commemoration" in the liturgical calendar but for whom not enough time has elapsed since her death; the current guidelines of the Episcopal Church for an official commemoration in the calendar include waiting fifty years after the death of the one being commemorated. "Local and regional commemorations" are encouraged.
Her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, was published in 1952. Day's account of the Catholic Worker movement, Loaves and Fishes, was published in 1963. A popular movie called Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story was produced in 1996. Day was portrayed by Moira Kelly, and Peter Maurin was portrayed by Martin Sheen, actors later known for their roles on The West Wing television series in the United States. Fool for Christ: The Story of Dorothy Day was a one-woman play performed by Sarah Melici, which premiered in 1998 and performed until 2011. A DVD of the play has been produced. The Catholic Worker had a circulation of more than 100,000 for some years (Roberts, pp. 179–182) and now has a circulation of under 30,000 (Catholic Worker, "Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation," December 2012).
The first full-length documentary about Day, Dorothy Day: Don't Call Me a Saint, by filmmaker Claudia Larson, premiered on November 29, 2005, at Marquette University, where Day's papers are housed. The documentary was also shown at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival and is now available on DVD. Day's diaries, The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg, were published by the Marquette University Press in 2008. A companion volume, All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day, also edited by Ellsberg, was published by the Marquette University Press in 2010. Also published in 2010 was Carol Byrne's study of Day, The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-1980): A Critical Analysis. Bill Kauffman of The American Conservative has written of Day: “The Little Way. That is what we seek. That—contrary to the ethic of personal parking spaces, of the dollar-sign god—is the American way. Dorothy Day kept to that little way, and that is why we honor her. She understood that if small is not always beautiful, at least it is always human."
Day's belief in smallness also applied to the property of others, including the Catholic Church, as when she wrote: "Fortunately, the Papal States were wrested from the Church in the last century, but there is still the problem of investment of papal funds. It is always a cheering thought to me that if we have good will and are still unable to find remedies for the economic abuses of our time, in our family, our parish, and the mighty church as a whole, God will take matters in hand and do the job for us. When I saw the Garibaldi mountains in British Columbia . . . I said a prayer for his soul and blessed him for being the instrument of so mighty a work of God. May God use us!"
Day also spoke of "how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?"
Day also admired Ernesto "Che" Guevara and quoted his view of revolution: "'Let me say, at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.' Che Guevara wrote this."
Day has been the recipient of numerous posthumous honors and awards. Among them: in 1992, she received the Courage of Conscience Award from the Peace Abbey, and in 2001, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.
Day's life was marked by controversy. The Catholic Worker lost many subscribers when it took a pacifist stance in World War II.
Despite Pope John XXIII's excommunication of Fidel Castro on January 3, 1962, Day traveled to Cuba in late 1962 and praised Castro's "social reforms" in a four-part series in the September, October, November, and December 1962 issues of the Catholic Worker. In the September 1962 article, she declared, "I am most of all interested in the religious life of the people and so must not be on the side of a regime that favors the extirpation of religion. On the other hand, when that regime is bending all its efforts to make a good life for the people, a naturally good life (on which grace can build) one cannot help but be in favor of the measures taken." Day also ignored the requests of New York Chancery officials, representing Cardinal Spellman, that she stop using "Catholic" in the title of her paper, according to the published accounts of Ammon Hennacy and Michael Harrington (Troester, pp. 208–209; Isserman, p. 76) and others in the movement (Byrne, pp. 206–208). Byrne asserts that Day attempted to advance a "Christian Communism," presented Lenin and Marx as secular saints, and never gave up her belief in class warfare. As another example, Roberts notes that Father Daniel Lyons, S.J., "called Day 'an apostle of pious oversimplification.' He charged that the Catholic Worker 'often distorted beyond recognition' the position of the Popes".
Day's accomplishments have been memorialized in many ways. Dormitories at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, University of Scranton in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Loyola University Maryland are named in her honor. A named professorship at St. John's University School of Law is currently held by labor law scholar David L. Gregory. At Marquette University, a floor bearing Day's name has been reserved for those drawn to social justice issues. The Office of Service and Justice at Fordham University bears her name, at both of the university's campuses in the city: the one at Lincoln Center in Manhattan and its main campus in the Bronx. Saint Peter's College of Jersey City, New Jersey, named their Political Science Office the Dorothy Day House.
Broadway Housing Communities, a supportive housing project in New York City, opened the Dorothy Day Apartment Building at 583 Riverside Drive in 2003. Several Catholic Worker communities are named after Day.
Posted by Solano Peace & Justice Coalition at 8:34 PM