Dorothy Day – Servant of God

Dorothy Day was born on 8 November 1897 in Brooklyn, New York City, the third in a family of five children (three boys and two girls) born to John Day, originally from Tennessee, and Grace Day (nee Satterlee) from New York. Though not wealthy, the family could be described as comfortable and middle-class. William D. Miller (1973:37) writes that when Dorothy was six years of age John moved his wife and family to California. He was a sportswriter and had obtained a position on a newspaper in San Francisco. 

Dorothy Day loved the Church and according to Mark and Louise Zwick (1999a:16), “she was not a cafeteria Catholic … [that is, she was] not a pick-and-choose believer. If it was Church teaching, it was her credo. This commitment and active participation in Catholicism brought Dorothy into the mainstream of a large organization together with the masses, which she called the Mystical Body of Christ.” She had a great respect for the Benedictines. The spirituality of the Benedictine Order influenced Dorothy to such an extent that “In 1955 … [she] became a Benedictine Oblate of St. Procopius Abbey, Lisle, Illinois, and she often returned … [to the abbey] for retreats” (St Procopius Abbey, n.d.). Benedictine priests were also invited to speak at the Worker headquarters and also to give the workers retreats at Maryfarm – one of the farming communes established by Dorothy. 

Mark and Louise Zwick (1999a:19) emphasise that Dorothy, “integrated into her life the charisms of the Benedictines (e.g., hospitality, liturgy, divine office), and the Franciscans (works of mercy, voluntary poverty, pacifism), which brought her not only into the lives of the saints, but also into the lives of the many men and women of her day who were attempting to live out the Gospel.” Cardinal O’Connor (2000) said that Dorothy Day was “a model for all in the third millennium”