On May Day, 1933, a group of Catholics gathered at the Union Square May Day rally with a mission. They had come to sell The Catholic Worker, at “a penny a copy.”
Dorothy Day had connected with Peter Maurin a few months previously and this was one of their joint ventures. Dorothy Day wanted the workers to know that the Catholic Church had not abandoned them.
For those who are sitting on park benches in the warm spring sunlight.
For those who are huddling in shelters trying to escape the rain.
For those who are walking the streets in the all but futile search for work.
For those who think that there is no hope for the future, no recognition of their plight – this little paper is addressed.
It is printed to call their attention to the fact that the Catholic Church has a social program – to let them know that there are men of God who are working not only for their spiritual, but for their material welfare.
For eighty years the New York City Catholic Worker and the many Catholic Worker houses throughout the US and the world have been a thorn in the side of the powerful elites in the world.
Who knows how many have been fed at these houses?
Who knows how many hours Catholic Workers have been on picket lines, protesting war and nuclear weapons, supporting farm workers and conscientious objectors, being signs of contradiction to the world?
Dorothy Day – a radical who lived among the poor – may one day be canonized, but her radical critiques of war and capitalism as well as her deep love for Christ and the Catholic Church are a challenge for all of us.
May the example of Catholic Workers – from Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin to the Des Moines Catholic Worker and the Mustard Seed Farm outside of Ames, Iowa – continue to challenge us and the church to be true followers of the Prince of Peace who appears among us as the poor and outcast.
For more on the Catholic Worker, you can check the Catholic Worker webpage here or visit your local Catholic Worker. A great introduction to Dorothy Day is Jim Forest’s All Is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day. Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness is an inspiring read.