Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement


I’ve been meaning to learn more about Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement but never got around to it until now. I was reading something today, and it said that St. Therese and Dorothy Day were like complete opposites. I learned that St. Therese of Lisieux was Day’s favorite saint and that she even wrote a biography of her, which I just purchased a copy of online and am now waiting for it to ship. Does anyone know of any good resources about Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker. I’ve checked out the website but there isn’t much there. I know that there is a cause for her canonization underway and that she is titled a Servant of God at this time. Also, I know that one of the Ask the Apologist questions was answered with a suggestion that people trying to quite smoking pray for Day’s intercession because she was a heavy smoker for much of her life. I told my mom to ask Dorothy to pray for her, because she desparately wants to quit smoking.

Thanks for any of your knowledge here.

God bless you all,

You may want to check out “The Long Lonliness” which is her autobiography, in her own words.
I too wanted to more about her movement as I tried to understand more about the Catholic ‘Social Justice’ tenet.

My conclusion about Dorothy Day is that she did good, face-to-face work for the poor and sufferred for their benefit. There is much I could learn from her sacrifical nature. But I objected to her entrenched collectivist and marxist political viewpoints. I tried to answer the nagging question, “Is she a communist?”

I mean, she hung around marixist, active communists and revolutionaries. She protested with them, be-friended them and was just as collectivist and anti-capitalist are the ardent Communists - but she just stopped short of calling herself one. What separated herself from them was her stopping short of being violent for her political ends. She had the typical agrarian and utopian viewpoint that all Commie countries dreamt of but - not only never come to fruition - but ends up with poor sufferring and dying by the millions.

Still, she had a great capacity for the love of the poor and down-trodden. For that alone, she has my respect.


Her writings used to be online; I was riveted.

And her autobio explains very clearly her progress away from communism on her conversion and reception into the Church. She was a devoted Catholic simply who turned her back on her past which included an abortion.

All she did and gave was for Jesus.

She was a great example of a total and dramatic conversion. In a Catholic tradition that began with Saint Paul…

See if you can find those texts online? They will answer all your queries.

PS all there is now is this

I attended a wedding in a Catholic Church in which i had never been before. In the back were these newspaper, so I picked one up to read later. It was apublication of an organization that held itself out as an outgrowth of the Catholic Worker Movement. In fact, I think the title of the paper was “The Catholic Worker”. Reading it, I was appalled at the thin layer of Catholicism lightly spread over a very heavy layer of Marxism. It appeared there was not a murderous dictator on earth they did not defend, nor a single thing about the U.S. they did not condemn. After starting to read an article in it about being more supportive of the 'transgendered", I trashed the paper.

Might be typical of that movement. Might not be. But if it is, I have no use for it at all.

It has all changed since Dorothy Day died. And not for the better, sadly.

BUT there is a narrow line between Catholicism and communism is there not? She knew how to tread; these ones do not and they have distorted her faith. I had some dealings with them re writing to prisoners, women who had been arrested for demos etc. it is not thesame now as is often the case with strong founders and foundresses.

Personally, I do not see that there is a narrow line between Catholicism and communism. Yes, there are communities of religious and, from time to time, there have been communal type organizations of other kinds. But otherwise, it seems to me there is a very wide gulf between Catholicism and communism.

Yes I have quite a lot of the communist worker and the so called catholic worker…she waa as red as Stalin! In her own words she glorified Castro and what he was doing to the Cuban people.Sure she was kind hearted (sob) as we used to see Pres.Clinton leave church services holding a black book.(sob again) Her cartoons of Jesus were vulgar and pictured him in many illustrations as an ugly drawf type of person and her ads publicized many red meetings.They are in many movements like the green, so called peace etc etc.yet never once in her stories and her cronies in the very paper she pushed,did she ever hit the atrocities of the reds…for her to make sainthood would be disaster for the RCC…one cant fool God so lets see if she ever makes it!!!

I couldn’t agree with you more! I came across the “Catholic Worker” and was absolutely horrified to think any such work could have anything to do with the Catholic Church. At one point there was a lawsuit brought in an attempt to get the “Catholic Worker” to stop using the word Catholic in their title. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, who is proud to be a marxist, claims that Dorthy Day had told him that she was a marxist. She supposedly helped the poor but my research reveals that most of her life and work created the conditions and supported others who would create the conditions that would keep people perpetually poor.

The thing to remember about The Catholic Worker Movement is that it is a horribly and notoriously disorganized movement, there are some absolutely wonderful very holy Worker Movement Houses around the US, some happen to be far more political than others, some far less religious than originally intended, most however still stick to the main point of the movement, disregard all politics and work solely for the kingdom of God converting souls, and most importantly to do so through corporal works of mercy:
To feed the hungry
To give drink to the thirsty
To clothe the naked
To shelter the homeless
To visit the sick
To visit the imprisoned
To bury the dead
In this regard the movement is a very holy one and one that should not be slandered purely due to political agendas or opinions, we are not called to live by the rules of man first and foremost but rather of the most High and ever Loving and Merciful God Almighty and then man, but only when man is just. In terms of social doctrine is there really anything wrong with a movement which seeks to do these things? If we were to judge the catholic church of america by what the majority does or does not do we would have a very horrid outlook of the church, we would see a largely irreverent and hypocritical church with little to no ties to sacred tradition or teaching. Fortunately however, we a quite a few incredibly holy men and women fighting for the Bride of Christ! Which includes some, not all, of the catholic worker movement.

As for Servant of God Dorothy Day, remember, she was deemed worthy to make a case for sainthood, which automatically makes her a holier soul than I for one shall ever be. If the Pope deems her cause a worthy one, who am I to question the holy father’s decision?

Visit to see almost everything Dorothy Day ever wrote and to learn about the Catholic Worker houses throughout the world. After you’ve read her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, you might want to read Jim Forest’s new biography, All is Grace, my oral memor Dorothy Day: Portraits by Those Who Knew Her, and her collected diaries and letters, edited by Robert Ellsberg.

She was certainly not a Communist, although the believed in communal living. She had a great mistrust of any state–communist or capitalist, a great love of God and a compassion for poor and suffering people that knew no bounds. She would often remind us to “forgive seventy times seven,” which was the Gospel for last Sunday, September 11, 2011.

Dorothy Day is one of my own heroes. I think that the best way to get to know her is to go one of the Catholic Worker websites. I’ve read a book entitled something like “A Retreat With Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero on Working with the Poor.” I think I got the book through Orbis Books with the Maryknoll Order. Dorothy Day was someone who worked directly with the hungry and homeless and helped start many Catholic Worker Houses in the country. “The Catholic Agitator” is a newsletter put out by the LA Catholic Worker and includes a lot of information on the work of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers. It was nice to hear that Dorothy has become a patron of those who smoke. I’ll pass that info on!

Dorothy Day (and her partner, Peter Maurin) were fascinating people. I used to have a poster in my ‘man-cave’ (before it became the family room!) of Dorothy Day, with the words, “The problem is this dirty, rotten system.” My brother–a conservative Republican–used to be really annoyed by this statement, and rightfully so: it’s simply inaccurate to describe ‘the system’–America, capitalism, freedom, etc.–as being completely rotten. However, when one tries to view our country from the point of view of Dorothy Day, it’s easy to see why she was so angry, and so disgusted, by business as usual in the USA. No matter what her politics were, she spent her life dedicated to, living with, and suffering along side of ‘the least of these.’ She shared her home with the homeless, the mentally ill, the drug and alcohol addicted, the ‘least, the last, and the lost,’ just as Jesus did. I don’t like what Dorothy Day thought so much as I am in awe of what she did.

When one views America, and the world, from the point of view of the poor and weak, one sees a very different picture than one would see from the vantage point of a person of means. It is an uncomfortable truth; one that Jesus told us was very, very important (Matthew 25:31-46).

I read The Long Loneliness as well as Loaves and Fishes. Both are quite good.

My introduction to Dorothy Day was through a book titled “The Life You Save Might Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage,” by Paul Elie.

It is important to remember several things: (1) these are different times, (2) the philosophy of Marx is not the same as what governments did with it, and (3) you may be disgusted by communism, yet probably are supporting communist China by buying goods that were manufactured there.

You won’t find a more rabid anti-communist/anti-socialist than I. But I question the accuracy of your statements on Day. Its been a while since I read about her much, but I do not think she could be described as collectivist.

Good discussion on Dorothy Day…


The LA Catholic Worker House newsletter…

Just as an FYI:

NOT ALL Catholic Workers are the same–Don’t lump us all together. Our house is loyal to Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin’s ideals, but we’re also wholly obedient to the Gospel and to the Magisterium of the Church. Our community members even attend the Tridentine Mass by preference, and we do not agree with many of our brothers and sisters in the Movement on issues pertaining to the doctrine and discipline of the Church (we’re opposed to supporting the whole women’s “ordination” crowd, for instance).

There are quite a few Catholic Worker Houses, like ours, that have not devolved from the originl Aims and Means.

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