Dorothy Day - a saint for our times

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Dorothy Day Prayer CardAt her death in 1980, historian David O'Brien called Dorothy Day "the most influential, interesting, and significant figure” in the history of American Catholicism. A couple of years later U.S. Catholic’s long-time columnist Father Henry Fehren first made the case for Day's official canonization.

Fehren’s article “Let’s canonize Dorothy Day” in the magazine’s sister publication Salt gave three reasons why the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement was “a saint for our time and place”:

  • she was an independent layperson “always loyal to the church but always responsible to Christ”;
  • her “thorough opposition to war and the means of war”;
  • and she modeled a contemporary, realistic way to be a saint by showing “how to love” today.

Although Day was loath to be dismissed as a plaster-of-paris saint on a pedestal, canonizations—like funerals—are more for the living than for the dead, Fehren pointed out. Canonization would mean that “more people would learn about her and be inspired and strengthened by her.

In 1998 Catholic Worker “alum” Robert Ellsberg, told U.S. Catholic that a St. Dorothy Day would bring three special gifts:

  • her life’s vocation of combining charity with justice,
  • her rediscovery and commitment to the ideal of gospel nonviolence,
  • and her example of lay leadership in the church.

Following Fehren’s 1983 article, the Claretians, publishers of U.S. Catholic, initiated a grassroots effort for Day’s canonization that has included the publication of prayer cards and posters (still available from our office ) as well as Dorothy Day Prayer Cardcollecting and publishing letters and testimonies in favor of Day’s canonization, including personal accounts of Dorothy Day's influence on people's lives and evidence of her special holiness.

In 1997 the Claretians renewed their call for Day’s canonization by presenting the testimonies they had collected to Cardinal John O’Connor, asking him to initiate the official canonization process. It was at O’Connor’s request that in 2000 the Vatican declared Day a Servant of God and officially opened her sainthood cause.

In his February 7, 2000 letter to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal O'Connor said his decision to promote the cause of Day's canonization was at least partly attributable to the "grassroots" support for canonization from individuals and from the Claretian Missionaries, publishers of U.S. Catholic magazine. (See also Claretian efforts on behalf of Dorothy Day's canonization.)

The sainthood cause is now promoted by the Archdiocese of New York through its Guild for Dorothy Day. Please contact the guild to obtain its brochure, become a member, join in prayers for Day's canonization, or to notify the guild of a prayer of yours that was answered through Dorothy Day’s intercession.

For more on Day's canonization:


For more on the life of Dorothy Day:

See also: