Dorothy Day was a major player in the Catholic Worker Movement, which was founded by Peter Maurin. She advocated for social justice and equality for the poor and otherwise disenfranchised through nonviolent means.
One thing I find interesting is that she didn't convert to Catholicism until her daughter was born (despite the urging of her partner, Forster Batterham, to abort the pregnancy), and she decided to give her the spiritual upbringing she never experienced. Subsequently, she found in the Catholic Church a positive outlet for her longing to do good in the world.
She worked creating "houses of hospitality" to serve the poor and homeless. She organized farming communes to give people work to do and provide food to eat during the Great Depression. She practiced "voluntary poverty," as modeled by St. Francis of Assisi, in order to respond to the call of Jesus Christ on her life.
What you should read:
- Meditation on the Death of the Rosenbergs
- The Incompatibility of Love and Violence
- Loaves and Fishes--talks specifically of her involvement in the CWM.
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She believed all people had a role in caring for the poor, and served right alongside Peter Maurin in his work. (I do wish she used gender inclusive language in her writing... but I know that's just a symptom of the time period in which she lived.)
The local agricultural focus of her work illustrates the value she saw in caring for creation. I think her love for the environment also comes out in her disdain of violence and the atomic bomb.
Though many of her views were politically radical, I think for the most part her spiritual beliefs were on par with Catholic orthodoxy. She was catechized as an adult, was baptized (apparently conditionally because of her previous baptism in the Episcopal church), gave confession, and took communion. Her cause for canonization is currently open, and she is considered a "Servant of God."
The fact that she was an outspoken anarchist and a subscriber to a Christian form of communism during the Red Scare is pretty badass.
“What a confusion we have gotten into when Christian prelates sprinkle holy water on scrap metal to be used for obliteration bombing, and name bombers for the Holy Innocents, for Our Lady of Mercy; who bless a man about to press a button which releases death on fifty thousand human beings, including little babies, children, the sick, the aged, the innocent as well as the guilty.”