Terrence C. Wright
After finishing her article on the protest, Day went that evening to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of the Catholic University of America to attend Mass on this Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The upper church was still under construction, so she went to the crypt church. Day recalled: “There I offered up a special prayer, a prayer which came with tears and with anguish, that some way would open up for me to use what talents I possessed for my fellow workers, for the poor.” 15 She did not have to wait long for her prayer to be answered.
When Day returned to New York the next day, eager to see Tamar, she found a fifty-five-year-old Frenchman with calloused hands and a weather-beaten face waiting in her apartment. Wearing a shabby suit, the man was talking with her sister-in-law, Tessa. He introduced himself as Peter Maurin and explained that he had been given her address by the editor of Commonweal. He immediately began talking to Day about working with him to serve the poor and to put the message of the Gospels into action. Day was surprised; it was not until later that she realized that through this man’s spirit and ideas God would answer her prayer, would give direction to the rest of her life.
In later years Day was always quick to acknowledge the profound effect Peter Maurin had on her life. “Without him, I would never have been able to find a way of working that would have satisfied my conscience. Maurin’s arrival changed everything. I finally found a purpose in my life and the teacher I needed.”16 While Day had fully embraced the Church in her conversion, she had not been exposed to the Church’s rich history of philosophy and theology. Peter Maurin became her teacher in this area and provided Day with an understanding of the Church’s teachings, particularly on social issues, which allowed her to join together her faith and her strong desire to serve others.
When Maurin tracked Day down in December 1932, he was looking for someone to help him promote a social program grounded in the Gospels and the teachings of the Catholic Church. In particular, he was drawn to Day as a journalist who could help him found a newspaper for spreading his ideas. He had been impressed by her writings in Commonweal and America. Day feared that Maurin had an exaggerated sense of her abilities.
Day came to see that Maurin’s religious and social convictions ran as deeply as her own. Together they went on to create what came to be known as the Catholic Worker movement, which some have identified as the most influential Catholic lay movement in America in the twentieth century.
Hail, Joseph, image of the Eternal Father;
Hail, Joseph, guardian of the Eternal Son;
Hail, Joseph, temple of the Eternal Spirit;
Hail, Joseph, beloved of the Trinity.
Hail, Joseph, spouse and companion of the Mother of God.
Hail, Joseph, friend of angels.
Hail, Joseph, believer in miracles.
Hail, Joseph, follower of dreams.
Hail, Joseph, lover of simplicity.
Hail, Joseph, exemplar of righteousness;
Hail, Joseph, model of meekness and patience;
Hail, Joseph, model of humility and obedience.
Blessed are the eyes that have seen what you saw.
Blessed are the ears that have heard what you heard.
Blessed are the arms that have embraced what you embraced.
Blessed is the lap that has held what you held.
Blessed is the heart that has loved what you loved.
Blessed is the Father who chose you;
Blessed is the Son who loved you:
Blessed is the Spirit who sanctified you.
Blessed is Mary, your spouse, who honored and loved you.
Blessed is the angel who guarded and led you.
And blessed be forever all who remember and honor you.
- Father Jean-Jacques Olier
Excerpted from “Dorothy Day” by Terrence C. Wright