US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Day 13: Dorothy Day

“Do what you are doing.” All work can come under the heading of the Works of Mercy, which are the opposite of the works of war.

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Dorothy Day: Works of Mercy
We do what we can, and the whole field of all the Works of Mercy is open to us. There is a saying, “Do what you are doing.” If you are a student, study, prepare, in order to give to others, and keep alive in yourself the vision of a new social order. All work, whether building, increasing food production, running credit unions, working in factories which produce for true human needs, working the smallest of industries, the handicrafts—all these things can come under the heading of the Works of Mercy, which are the opposite of the works of war.

It is a penance to work, to give oneself to others, to endure the pinpricks of community living. One would certainly say on many occasions: Give me a good, thorough, frank, outgoing war, rather than the sneak attacks, stabs in the back, sparring, detracting, defaming, hand-to-hand jockeying for position that go on in offices and “good works” of all kinds, another and miserably petty kind of war. Saint Paul said that he “died daily.” This too is penance, to be taken cheerfully, joyfully... So let us rejoice in our own petty sufferings and thank God we have a little penance to offer, in this holy season. (Little and By Little: The Selected Writings of Dorothy Day, Knopf)

Reflection questions

1. Are you content where you are, “doing what you are doing”?

2. In this Year of Mercy, think about how the work that you do every day is working to bring about the Kingdom of God.

3. It’s hard to be grateful for the pains of our daily existance, yet Day talks about thanking God that “we have a little penance to offer.” What do you think she means by this? How do you live up (or fail to live up) to Day's words?

Day (18971980) co-founded the Catholic Worker movement.