21 August 2023, The Tablet

Pope Francis on Dorothy Day – ‘the grace that flows from charity’

Pope Francis on Dorothy Day – ‘the grace that flows from charity’

Dorothy Day, 1934.
Historic Collection / Alamy

Pope Francis has penned the preface to the Italian version of Dorothy Day’s autobiography.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1897, Day championed the rights of the poor and the struggles of exploited workers through the pages of The Catholic Worker, the newspaper she founded with the French intellectual, Peter Maurin.

In 1927, Day, a campaigning journalist, converted to Catholicism, impressed by its vocation to be the “Church for the poor. Inspired by Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, the Catholic Worker movement opened ‘houses of hospitality’ for the poor and a string of farming communes in America and other nations. In 2000, Pope John Paul II opened the cause for Day’s canonisation. She is now a Servant of God.

Pope Francis writes in the preface to  From Union Square to Rome, an account of her conversion, first published in 1938, that Day found faith through “the grace that flows from charity, the beauty that flows from witness” and love expressed through tangible acts of service.

Alluding to the spiritual quest that led the restless Day to discover God was the path to happiness, joy and meaning, Pope Francis writes that “the Lord longs for restless hearts, not bourgeois souls who are satisfied with what exists.” He observes that God brings to fruition the things that are “beautiful, true and right” which dwell in the heart of every individual.

The Pope adds that Day’s spiritual path shows that responding to God and accepting his love is “an adventure that is good for the heart.” He also praises Day for recognising the weaknesses of individual Catholics with an “honest and enlightened attitude,” but remaining able to still perceive, “the vocation and identity of the Church: a divine, not human reality which leads us to God and through which God can reach us.”

Pope Francis observes that Day’s struggle for justice is one way of fulfilling God’s dreams of the human race being reconciled. Even today, believers and non-believers can be “allies in promoting the dignity of every person when they love and serve the most abandoned persons.”

In 1952, Day published her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, charting her journey from anarchism and a bohemian lifestyle to conversion to Catholicism. She died in 1980 at Catholic Worker House of Hospitality in Manhattan, New York.

Her grand-daughter, Kate Hennessey has written nine articles for The Tablet titled “Provocations” which explore her grandmother’s challenging but rewarding approach to topics including following conscience, laughter, beauty and failure,  vocation and prayer. Hennessey is the author of Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty – An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother (Scribner).


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