My mother was fortunate to live the last year of her life at the 1st Street Catholic Worker in lower Manhattan, in Dorothy Day’s own quarters. I’d gotten to know Dorothy in the previous couple of years, through my friendship with Daniel Berrigan, and I had visited many times. I also had three friends (Bonnie, Barbara and Dale) from Oklahoma who had moved to New York and were now regular volunteers at the Worker.
Of course I was aware of Dorothy’s history and her importance to so many people. I knew how her Catholic Worker “House of Hospitality” had been replicated in more than a hundred communities around the world. I knew how simply she herself lived.
Still, when I think back on it, I must not have appreciated fully the gift I had been given – to spend time in her presence, to engage her in quiet conversation, to break bread with her at the 1st Street soup kitchen where my mother volunteered.
I was not surprised that this Pope honored Dorothy Day by acknowledging her words and her life in his address before Congress yesterday. Pope Francis is after all a Jesuit, and it always seemed that the Jesuits “got” Dorothy Day, more than other Catholics especially the various Popes in Rome during her lifetime, to whom Dorothy was often a thorn in their side.
So here’s to you, Dorothy Day, for some long-overdue ray of recognition for your service and your example.
And thank you, for being so good to my mom.