100 Quotes by Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day was a remarkable social activist and devout Catholic who dedicated her life to championing the cause of social justice and advocating for the rights of the poor and marginalized. Co-founding the Catholic Worker Movement, Day established houses of hospitality and communal farms to provide food, shelter, and support to those in need during the Great Depression and beyond.

Her commitment to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, and radical hospitality reflected her deep convictions and Christian faith. Day's activism extended beyond immediate aid; she tirelessly worked to address systemic issues contributing to poverty and injustice. Her writing, particularly through the Catholic Worker newspaper, inspired others to engage in acts of compassion and advocate for social change. Dorothy Day's legacy continues to influence modern movements for social justice, demonstrating the power of faith-inspired action in the pursuit of a more just and compassionate world.

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Dorothy Day Quotes


As we come to know the seriousness of the situation, the war, the racism, the poverty in our world, we come to realize that things will not be changed simply by words or demonstrations. Rather, it's a question of living one's life in a drastically different way.

People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.

What we would like to do is change the world - make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended for them to do....We can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world.

The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.

If you feed the poor, you're a saint. If you ask why they're poor, you're a Communist.

I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us. When we begin to take the lowest places, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers with that burning love, that passion which led to the cross, then we can truly say, 'Now I have begun'.

We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.

Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other's faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.

Don't worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.

We must talk about poverty, because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it.

What we would like to do is change the world...by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world.

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Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.

Do not give to the poor expecting to get their gratitude so that you can feel good about yourself. If you do, your giving will be thin and short-lived, and that is not what the poor need; it will only improvish them further. Give only if you have something you must give; give only if you are someone for whom giving is its own reward.

We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives, so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy and doubt, that peace and abundance may manifest for all.

No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There's too much work to do.

We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.

The older I get, the more I meet people, the more convinced I am that we must only work on ourselves, to grow in grace. The only thing we can do about people is to love them.

We must always aim for the impossible; if we lower our goal, we also diminish our effort.

How necessary it is to cultivate a spirit of joy. It is a psychological truth that the physical acts of reverence and devotion make one feel devout. The courteous gesture increases one's respect for others. To act lovingly is to begin to feel loving, and certainly to act joyfully brings joy to others which in turn makes one feel joyful. I believe we are called to the duty of delight.

I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.

There is plenty to do, for each one of us, working on our own hearts, changing our own attitudes, in our own neighborhoods.

I do not know how to love God except by loving the poor. I do not know how to serve God except by serving the poor.... Here, within this great city of nine million people, we must, in this neighborhood, on this street, in this parish, regain a sense of community which is the basis for peace in the world.

Think what the world could look like if we took care of the poor even half as well as we do our Bibles!

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An individual can march for peace or vote for peace and can have, perhaps, some small influence on global concerns. But the same individual is a giant in the eyes of a child at home. If peace is to be built, it must start with the individual. It is built brick by brick.

My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms.

You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. You will know. You will know when it's right.

An act of love, a voluntary taking on oneself of some of the pain of the world, increases the courage and love and hope of all.

Turn off your radio. Put away your daily paper. Read one review of events a week and spend some time reading good books. They tell too of days of striving and of strife. They are of other centuries and also of our own. They make us realize that all times are perilous, that men live in a dangerous world, in peril constantly of losing or maiming soul and body. We get some sense of perspective reading such books. Renewed courage and faith and even joy to live.

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?

When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them. God sees Christ, His Son, in us and loves us. And so we should see Christ in others, and nothing else, and love them. There can never be enough of it. There can never be enough thinking about it.

If I have achieved anything in my life, it is because I have not been embarrassed to talk about God.

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.

Poverty is a strange and elusive thing. ... I condemn poverty and I advocate it; poverty is simple and complex at once; it is a social phenomenon and a personal matter. Poverty is an elusive thing, and a paradoxical one.

The biggest mistake sometimes is to play things very safe in this life and end up being moral failures.

Women think with their whole bodies and they see things as a whole more than men do.

Dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.

You can spend your time agonizing or organizing.

Those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.

We need to change the system. We need to overthrow, not the government, as the authorities are always accusing the Communists 'of conspiring to teach [us] to do,' but this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system which breeds such suffering in the whited sepulcher of New York.

We are all called to be saints, St. Paul says, and we might as well get over our bourgeois fear of the name. We might also get used to recognizing the fact that there is some of the saint in all of us.

What I want to bring out is how a pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. And each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that.

Maybe I was praying for him then, in my own way. Does God have a set way of prayer, a way that He expects each of us to follow? I doubt it. I believe some people-- lots of people-- pray through the witness of their lives, through the work they do, the friendships they have, the love they offer people and receive from people. Since when are words the only acceptable form of prayer?

With prayer, one can go on cheerfully and even happily. Without prayer, how grim a journey!

True love is delicate and kind, full of gentle perception and understanding, full of beauty and grace, full of joy unutterable. There should be some flavor of this in all our love for others. We are all one. We are one flesh in the Mystical Body as man and woman are said to be one flesh in marriage. With such a love one would see all things new; we would begin to see people as they really are, as God sees them.

We should live in such a way that our lives wouldn't make much sense if the gospel were not true.

Don't call me a saint; I don't want to be dismissed so easily.

"How can you see Christ in people?" And we only say: It is an act of faith, constantly repeated. It is an act of love, resulting from an act of faith. It is an act of hope, that we can awaken these same acts in their hearts, too, with the help of God.

Common sense in religion is rare, and we are too often trying to be heroic instead of just ordinarily good and kind.

What else do we all want, each one of us, except to love and be loved, in our families, in our work, in all our relationships?

Life itself is a haphazard, untidy, messy affair.

True obedience is a matter of love, which makes it voluntary, not compelled by fear or force.

If you are rushed for time, sow time and you will reap time. Go to church and spend a quiet hour in prayer. You will have more time than ever and your work will get done. Sow time with the poor. Sit and listen to them, give them your time lavishly. You will reap time a hundredfold.

People, wherever they are, can make a community.

The only solution is love.

Most of our life is unimportant, filled with trivial things from morning till night. But when it is transformed by love it is of interest even to the angels.

Men are beginning to realize that they are not individuals but persons in society, that man alone is weak and adrift, that he must seek strength in common action.

God meant for things to be much easier than we have made them

You see I'm such a fool that I'm never afraid of appearing foolish.

I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.

The final word is love.

Our rule is the works of mercy... It is the way of sacrifice, worship, a sense of reverence.

Love casts out fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love them.

They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.

Your love for God is only as great as the love you have for the person you love the least.

If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens.

What we would like to do is change the world - make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended for them to do.

My whole life so far, my whole experience has been that our failure has been not to love enough. This conviction brought me to a rejection of the radical movement after my early membership in the Socialist Party, the Industrial Workers of the World, and the Communist affiliates I worked with.

Thank God that He has permitted us to live among the present problems. It is no longer permitted to anyone to be mediocre.

Our faith is stronger than death, our philosophy is firmer than flesh, and the spread of the Kingdom of God upon the earth is more sublime and more compelling.

Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up.

To love with understanding and without understanding. To love blindly, and to folly. To see only what is loveable. To think only of these things. To see the best in everyone around, their virtues rather than their faults. To see Christ in them!

We believe in loving our brothers regardless of race, color or creed and we believe in showing this love by working for better conditions immediately and the ultimate owning by the workers of their means of production.

When we have spiritual reading at meals, when we have the rosary at night, when we have study groups, forums, when we go out to distribute literature at meetings, or sell it on the street corners, Christ is there with us.

Where are the heroes and the saints, who keep a clear vision of man's greatest gift, his freedom, to oppose not only the dictatorship of the proletariat, but also the dictatorship of the benevolent state, which takes possession of the family, and of the indigent, and claims our young for war?

When they call you a saint, it means basically that you are not to be taken seriously.

The works of mercy are the opposite of the works of war, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, nursing the sick, visiting the prisoner. But we are destroying crops, setting fire to entire villages and to the people in them. We are not performing the works of mercy but the works of war.

Whatever I had read as a child about the saints had thrilled me. I could see the nobility of giving one's life for the sick, the maimed, the leper. But there was another question in my mind. Why was so much done in remedying the evil instead of avoiding it in the first place? Where were the saints to try to change the social order, not just to minister to the slaves, but to do away with slavery?

If you are going to try and change things, you had better have your wits about you.

The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love.

The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them up.

The legal battle against segregation is won, but the community battle goes on.

The only way to live in any true security is to live so close to the bottom that when you fall you do not have far to drop, you do not have much to lose.

Writing is hard work. But if you want to become a writer you will become one. Nothing will stop you.

As for ourselves, yes, we must be meek, bear injustice, malice, rash judgment. We must turn the other cheek, give up our cloak, go a second mile.

Paperwork, cleaning the house, dealing with the innumerable visitors who come all through the day, answering the phone, keeping patience and acting intelligently, which is to find some meaning in all that happens-these things, too, are the works of peace, and often seem like a very little way.

The Sexual Revolution is a complete rebellion against authority, natural and supernatural, even against the body and its needs, its natural functions of child bearing. This is not reverence for life, it is a great denial and more resembles Nihilism than the revolution that they think they are furthering.

Communities are made up of the unlovable as well as the lovable.

Everything a baptized person does each day should be directly or indirectly related to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

We want no revolution; we want the brotherhood of men. We want men to love one another. We want all men to have what is sufficient for their needs. And now - strange thought - the devil has so maneuvered that the people turn from Him because those who profess Him are clothed in soft raiment and sit at well-spread tables and deny the poor.

The work is more important than the talking and the writing about the work.

We cannot build up the idea of the apostolate of the laity without the foundation of the liturgy.

We have all probably noted those sudden moments of quiet - those strange and almost miraculous moments in the life of a big city when there is a cessation of traffic noise - just an instant when there is only the sound of footsteps which serves to emphasize a sudden peace. During those seconds it is possible to notice the sunlight, to notice our fellow humans, to take breath.

I believe that we must reach our brother, never toning down our fundamental oppositions, but meeting him when he asks to be met, with a reason for the faith that is in us, as well as with a loving sympathy for them as brothers.

Where were the saints to try to change the social order, not just to minister to the slaves, but to do away with slavery?

It is only through religion that communism can be achieved, and has been achieved over and over.

When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them.

One of the greatest evils of the day among those outside of prison is their sense of futility. Young people say, What is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment.

Advent is a time of waiting, of expectation, of silence. Waiting for our Lord to be born. A pregnant woman is so happy, so content. She lives in such a garment of silence, and it is as though she were listening to hear the stir of life within her. One always hears that stirring compared to the rustling of a bird in the hand. But the intentness which which one awaits such stirring is like nothing so much as a blanket of silence.

Knitting is very conducive to thought. It is nice to knit a while, put down the needles, write a while, then take up the sock again.

No matter how corrupt the Church may become, it carries within it the seeds of its own regeneration.

The only answer in this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community.

It is penance to work, to give oneself to others, to endure the pinpricks of community living.

It is people who are important, not the masses.

The holy man was the whole man, the man of integrity, who not only tried to change the world, but to live in it as it was.

It is not easy always to be joyful, to keep in mind the duty of delight.

It is we ourselves that we have to think about, no one else. That is the way the saints worked. They paid attention to what they were doing, and if others were attracted to them by their enterprise, why, well and good. But they looked to themselves first of all.

The anarchist philosophy is that the new social order is to be built up by groupings of men together in communities - whether in communities of work or communities of culture or communities of artists - but in communities.

Some have more capacity. Some proceed a few steps along the way. But Christ seemed to love all men. He desired all to be saved.

The idea that when the health of one member suffers, the health of the whole body is lowered is a teaching of St Paul which is timeless.

One of the disconcerting facts about the spiritual life is that God takes you at your word.

Recording happiness made it last longer, we felt, and recording sorrow dramatized it and took away its bitterness; and often we settled some problem which beset us even while we wrote about it.

There's enough hate in the world. I command you to love. And you have to make an effort.

We're under obligation to love - that's the commandment.

Voluntary poverty isn't going around with some burlap bag around you and imitating the poor. It means being indifferent to the material, doing as Christ said. He went and sat down with the rich and Zachaeus and publicans and sinners.

A 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' becomes again another dictator.

Certainly we disagree with the Communist Party, as we disagree with other political parties who are trying to maintain the American way of life.

If you have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor.

God forbid we should have great institutions. The thing is to have many small centres. The ideal is community.

I too complain ceaselessly in my heart and in my words too. My very life is a protest. Against government, for instance.

It's Godlike to love man - even in his sin - merely because he's man.

Women think with their whole bodies

For me Christ was not to be bought for thirty pieces of silver but with my heart's blood. We buy not cheap in this market.

The whole point of view of the anarchist is that everything must start from the bottom up, from man. It seems to me so human a philosophy.

So many sins against the poor cry out to high heaven! One of the most deadly sins is to deprive the laborer of his hire. There is another: to instill in him paltry desires so compulsive that he is willing to sell his liberty and his honor to satisfy them.

The saying of Vatican II is above all, 'Conscience is supreme.'

Charity is only as warm as those who administer it.

These powerless people at the bottom are the ones with whom we must begin. They must have the insight and the knowledge to work together and recognise that they are on the right track.

I think anarchy is natural to the Catholic. The Church is pretty anarchistic, you know. Who pays attention to the Pope or the Cardinals?

The sense is always that community is natural to people.

We are all one body, we are all one.

Be close enough to people so that you are indifferent to the material. And also have faith.

A conversion is a lonely experience.

― Dorothy Day Quotes

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Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

 
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