Rick Hampson, USA TODAY
NEW YORK – One night 35 years ago I was working on The Associated Press city desk. The phone rang. A woman said, “This is the Catholic Worker.Dorothy Day has died.’’
A pause. “Do you know who that is?’’
I did. To many Catholics growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement was as, the critic Dwight Macdonaldobserved, “one of those surprises that makes life life.’’
She was an oddball who took the Gospel at face value; a pacifist who opposed even war against Hitler; a rebel who might be a saint. She said things like, “the object ofChristianity is to make the rich poor and the poor holy.’’
As a kid I’d mysteriously received a subscription to her gritty newspaper, The Catholic Worker. It cost one cent, had no ads or photos, and no sports. I didn’t see the point.
Over the years Day has gone in and out of style, but last year she was one of four Americans Pope Francis praised in his speech to Congress, along with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Thomas Merton, the writer-monk (who said hewouldn’t have become a Catholic if not for Day).
I think of her as this city faces a political crisis over its 60,000 homeless people, most in shelters and several thousand on the street.