This Lent, learn with us about Dorothy Day β€” β€˜A Saint for Our Time”

When is the last time that a book you read had a lasting effect on the course of your life?

Love is the Measure: A Biography of Dorothy Day When is the last time that a book you read had a lasting effect on the course of your life?

For Dorothy Day (1897-1980)—the focus of our 2019 Lenten Book Club—it was Upton Sinclair's book “The Jungle,” a scathing depiction of the Chicago meat-packing industry. What followed was a radical change in her life that ultimately led her to establish the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933 and to do so much more.

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2019 Lenten Book Club Series

In this series, we will review Dorothy Day's life and writings, which can challenge us to live more simply and lead us to deeper prayer with Christ, and guide us to a more just and loving world.

The series will be taught by Deacon Phil Rzewnicki at Holy Cross Catholic Church. It is open to anyone interested in learning more about a woman with a deep Christian faith who is considered a saint by many despite a controversial past.  

The series will be offered over the course of five weeks, in two cycles:

  • Cycle A, Thursday evenings, 7 pm to 8:30 PM, March 14-April 11
  • Cycle B, Saturday evenings 6 pm to 7:30 PM, March 16-April 13

Resource books for this series

  • "Love is the Measure (A Biography of Dorothy Day)" by Jim Forest and
  • "A Radical Love (Wisdom from Dorothy Day)", editor Patricia Mitchell.

The books are readily available online for less than $7 each for used copies in good condition. Participants are asked to purchase copies for themselves; Deacon Phil will only have a few available at the start of the series.

A few points about Dorothy Day (abstracted from the sources cited below).

  • Pope Paul VI invited her to receive communion from him in Rome in 1967, a sign of honor for her work. When she became too ill to travel, Dorothy was visited by people like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who gave a Dorothy a cross usually worn only by her order’s Sisters.
  • The Vatican opened the canonization process for Dorothy Day, naming her a “Servant of God,” in 2000.
  • In a 2012 meeting of U.S. bishops, Cardinal Dolan called Dorothy Day “a saint for our time,” describing her as “a living, breathing, colorful, lovable, embracing, warm woman who exemplifies what’s best in Catholic life” and shows the Church’s commitment to both the dignity of human life and social justice.
  • She also personally knew of life’s struggles. She was a single mother, and had a series of disastrous romances, one of which included an abortion that she later deeply regretted. 

Day had her own down-to-earth thoughts about sainthood. “She was quite aware of the dangers of sentimental hagiography—the “pious pap” that makes saints seem somehow less than fully human. She quoted a text about the eati'ng habits of the saints, which read, ‘Blessed de Montfort sometimes shed tears and sobbed bitterly when sitting at table to eat.’ To this, she commented, ‘No wonder no one wants to be a saint’.” — abstracted from an America Magazine article

That article also states that Dorothy “… felt it was important that we tell the stories of “saints as they really were, as they affected the lives of their times.”

A little more background about Dorothy Day.

Working as a reporter for Catholic magazines in New York, she prayed to the Blessed Mother to help her to use her talents to help the working poor. She soon met a man named Peter Maurin, who told her to use her journalism skills to start a newspaper that could educate people about the teaching of the Catholic Church and how they related to social justice for people. Her kitchen table in her Greenwich Village apartment became her office, and she sold the paper, The Catholic Worker, for a penny a copy so that almost anyone could buy and read it.

Catholic Worker site With Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933. Living the Catholic notion of holy poverty and practicing works of mercy, the two started soup kitchens, self-sustaining farm communities and The Catholic Worker newspaper. In the course of her 50 years working among the poor and marginalized, Day never took a salary.

Her legacy lives on today in some 185 Catholic Worker communities in the U.S. and around the globe.

Recent articles:


Tags: Social Justice, Spirituality, A Saint for our Time, Dorothy Day, Book Club, Holy Cross Book Club
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