Many Roots, One Tree: Dorothy Day on the Mystical Body of Christ, Judaism, and War

Myles Werntz
Palm Beach Atlantic University


Dorothy Day’s legacy is one which has been manifold in its reception. For some, Day remains an emblematic pacifist, standing against American militarism for the better part of five decades. For others, Day is the paragon lay Catholic, exhibiting a life of radical devotion to the Church. I will not be neglecting these legacies in this essay, but rather, I will show the interconnection of Day’s legacy as a lay Catholic and pacifist to one of her lesser-known legacies: friend of the Jews.

This essay will proceed in four parts. First, I will briefly lay out Day’s doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, a doctrine that emphasizes the union among all humanity that exists because of and in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. I will argue that this doctrine has explicitly social contours for Day, and that it was central to understanding her advocacy both on behalf of the Jews and against war. Secondly, I will explore Day’s often neglected advocacy for the Jews in light of her doctrine of the Mystical Body. Third, I will briefly explore the centrality of the doctrine for her pacifism. Finally, I will explore the significance of tying together an affirmation of the Jews with Christian resistance to war. I will propose that, for Day and for Christian theology, these issues should be linked together. For Day, confessing Jesus as the paradigmatic human meant both advocacy for the Jews and resistance to war.

Dorothy Day and the Mystical Body of Christ

Day’s earliest writings in the Catholic Worker contain no overt reference to the Mystical Body as such.1  Rather, she chooses to emphasize Jesus’ identification with human suffering and the ways in which Jesus’ life provides an image of proper human behavior.2 In Day’s later work, however, to describe the Church as the ‘body of Christ’ is to say that the visible Church is the culmination of the work of Christ, such that Christ’s humanity leads one to the fullness of human communion in the life of the Church. For Day, the Church is to be known as Christ’s body in reference to this touchpoint, and none other: if the Church exists as the extension of Christ’s own person, then to know Christ is to know the visible Church.

By 1935, Day speaks more specifically about the Catholic doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ (the union of the presence of Christ with the present body of the Church), but her descriptions of the Mystical Body are governed by reference to the particular human person of Jesus:

It is because we forget the Humanity of Christ (present with us today in the Blessed Sacrament just as truly as when He walked with His apostles through the cornfields that Sunday long ago, breakfasting on the ears of corn)—that we have ignored the material claims of our fellow man during this capitalistic, industrialist era. We have allowed our brothers and sisters, our fellow members in the Mystical Body to be degraded, to endure slavery to a machine, to live in rat-infested holes. This ignoring of the material body of our humanity which Christ ennobled when He took flesh, gives rise to the aversion for religion evidenced by many workers. As a result of this worshipping of the Divinity alone of Christ and ignoring His Sacred Humanity, religious people looked to Heaven for justice and Karl Marx could say—“Religion is the opium of the people.”3

In other words, whatever other claims are made about how to identify Christ’s presence in our world, these claims stand upon the human nature of Jesus of Nazareth, a human nature which is manifested in the corporate life of the Church. But beyond this, because the institutional life of the Church rests upon the singular human existence of Jesus, the telos of all human existence is narrated by and implicated in Jesus’ own life.

In this early quote, three points concerning Day’s view of the Mystical Body are seen, which are foundational for Day’s understanding of the doctrine.  First, in the Eucharist celebrated by the institutional Church, the “humanity of Christ” is made present in our day and time. Second, the humanity of Christ spoken of in the Eucharist “ennobles” all persons, prior to their participation in the church.4 Third, those whom Christ has “ennobled” are seen as either actual or potential members in the Mystical Body, a body which is visible and exists prior to its fracturing through people being named by industry as “worker” or by nations as “citizen”. In sum, what is present in the worship of the Catholic Church is the fulfillment of the ennoblement present in all persons, a claim possible only on the basis of the lived life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Day’s use of the term “Mystical Body” was often fluid, at times designating all persons, regardless of church affiliation, as involved in the Mystical Body:

All the nation, I mean, that is made up of the poor, the worker, the trade unionist—those who felt most keenly the sense of solidarity—that very sense of solidarity which made me gradually understand the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ whereby we are the members of one another.5

At other times, however, she describes the Mystical Body as that body to which only the baptized belong, as in her description of her daughter Teresa’s baptism:

Teresa had become a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. I didn’t know anything of the Mystical Body or I might have felt disturbed at being separated from her.6

In an early essay on Catholic liturgy, Day reconciles this seeming incompatibility of description in the following manner:

When we pray with Christ…we realize Christ as our Brother. We think of all men as our brothers then, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ. “We are all members, one of another,” and, remembering this, we can never be indifferent to the social miseries and evils of the day. The dogma of the Mystical Body has tremendous social implications.7

In short, all persons have been “ennobled” by Christ, as the first step in a process pointing toward the culminating work of participation in the life of the Church. The joining of Christ’s humanity to ours is not intended simply to accompany humanity in misery, but it is intended to direct humanity toward its true end: the renewed sociality of the Mystical Body, found in the worship of Christ in the Church:

But our unity, if it is not unity of thought, in regard to temporal matters, is a unity at the altar rail. We are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and so we are closer, to each other, by the tie of grace, than any blood brothers are…We are our brothers’ keeper, and all men are our brothers whether they are Catholic or not. But of course the tie that binds Catholics is closer, the tie of grace. We partake of the same food, Christ. We put off the old man and put on Christ. The same blood flows through our veins, Christ’s. We are the same flesh, Christ’s. But all men are members or potential members, as St. Augustine says, and there is no time with God, so who are we to know the degree of separation between us and the Communist, the unbaptized, the God-hater, who may tomorrow, like St. Paul, love Christ.8

As Day argues, those who are of the Church, who find their unity in the Eucharist and worship, are members of the Mystical Body, and while all humanity as “ennobled by Christ” must still “put off the old man”, the call of the Church is to be in solidarity with all those on behalf of whom Christ has acted, which is all of humanity.  In this, the tension between Day’s descriptions of the Mystical Body finds resolution in the belief that, while the Church’s neighbors are not presently of the Church, the fact that Christ has come for them refuses Catholics any other option than to love the world as if they were of Christ’s Mystical Body.

What should be highlighted in Day’s doctrine of the Mystical Body is twofold. First, the term “body of Christ” refers back to the historical Jesus, a first-century Jew who gave commands, teachings, and moral examples to his disciples. If one loses this historical person, then for Day the term becomes an empty container sans ethical and moral content; whatever objections can be raised to the Catholic faith, one cannot get past the historical Jesus whose humanity is the union between Jews and Gentiles (or, as Day transposes this, between labor and management or capitalists and communists). Day’s moral reasoning, working within the tradition of Catholic social teaching, looks to the irreducibility of Jesus’ life to critique Catholics whose practices and teachings operate counter to this concrete person whose life is the true narration of all human life.

Secondly, on the basis of this historical person’s life, a universal Mystical Body is posited and continued in the historic Catholic Church. The human career of Jesus, as the meaning of all human life, leads all humanity—past, present, and future—to receive the fullness of its existence in the life of the Church. The singularity of this body is called “mystical” not only because this union is one taken on faith, but because, as the divine human, the unity brought by Jesus’ humanity creates a supernatural unity which transforms and completes all other partial forms of social unity.

As we turn toward Day’s engagements with Judaism, it will be important to keep these senses of the Mystical Body of Christ in front of us. In making the claim that Jews are a part of the Mystical Body of Christ, Day is not arguing for a kind of supercessionism such that one must abandon one’s identity as Jewish or Marxist in order to be a member of Christ’s body. Rather, Day is arguing that the Jewish Jesus is the true human, and that to be fully creaturely (i.e., to fully actualize the aspirations of Marxist advocacy or Jewish ethics) is to follow this Jesus, the one proclaimed and extended by the Catholic Church. In the same way that Catholicism is dependent upon this Jesus, such that its practices and ethics are critiqued by the actual life of Jesus, so all other forms of human existence find their fullness in the life of Christ celebrated in the Catholic Church.9 The telos of human existence is manifested in the Church’s worship in the celebration of this Jewish man Jesus, the one whose life is the normative human life and whose humanity is the way by which all human life is mystically joined to God and transformed socially.

Dorothy Day and the Jews

It is surprising that contemporary appropriations of Day make little to no mention of Day’s relationship to Judaism.10 Beginning in 1938, the Day-edited Catholic Worker newspaper began taking a vocal stance on behalf of the increasingly marginalized Jews in Europe and America.11 In this section, I will not offer a comprehensive analysis of all of Day’s writings on Judaism, but focus on how Day’s advocacy for the Jews is linked to her belief in Christ’s humanity as normative for all persons. To do so, I will be looking primarily at her early writings against anti-Semitism, describing how for Day, the problem of anti-Semitism derives from a division of humanity in ways which are incompatible to the unity described by the “Mystical Body”.

In her descriptions of Judaism, Day does not describe Judaism as a “religion” as such, but rather, as an identity marker. In her first autobiography, Day introduces us to a frequent figure in her personal writings—Rayna Prohme. Rayne, a Jew from New York, met Day in Chicago during college, and was one of Day’s closest friends during her early life.12 At this time, Day had had been catechized in the Episcopalian church, but like Rayna, had little interest in religious practice, seeing it as having “no vitality” and having little to do with the suffering they witnessed on a regular basis.13 Rayna, like Day, was more enamored with socialist doctrine than religious doctrine, and thus, Day does not describe Prohme’s Judaism in terms of religious practice, but in terms of a “spiritual energy” which for Prohme exercised itself in terms of the struggle for social justice.14

Day’s depiction of Prohme within From Union Square to Rome is consistent with the aims of the work: to offer an apologia to her former Communist compatriots concerning her conversion to Catholicism. “Communism”, she wrote, “can be likened to a heresy, and a heresy is a distortion of the truth”, meaning that what has begun in Communism—its commitment to collectivism, social change, and the working classes—is not wrong, but rather insufficient.15 Because God identifies with humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the messianic claims of Communism displayed a natural human appetite for deliverance, an appetite which finds its telos in the person of Jesus; the suffering and death which occurs in Chicago and New York contains a “mystical element” which cannot be reduced to pure materialism, but which directs one toward God in Christ, the one who makes possible the strength to love one’s neighbor fully.16

The union of humanity which exists among the Communists is attributed to the strength given by God, on the basis of “the Mystical Body of Christ”.17 Again, the natural appetites for love and justice exercised in Communist acts are not to be condemned outright, but seen for what they are—acts made possible by God’s strength which bear witness to humanity’s true telos—the person of Jesus, in whom humanity meets a God who has come to humanity in their suffering and struggle.18 In light of this overall aim of the book, Day’s description of Rayna comes into light, emphasizing how Rayna’s love of the truth and justice was true virtue which ultimately found its fullness in God, the God by whom Rayna was made.19

As I have described in Day’s account of the Mystical Body of Christ, Day’s description of Rayna’s Judaism should be read as material activity longing for its supernatural fulfillment—that the desire for the good present in Rayna is one made possible by Christ’s humanity. This approach to Judaism as an identity in need of Christological completion is not unique to the case of Rayna Prohme; Day’s account of her friendship with Max Bodenheim, the Jewish Bohemian poet and novelist, bears out many of these features as well. Bodenheim’s life was a sensational life, marrying three times, the final to Ruth, thirty years his junior, and with whom he was murdered in 1954.20 Similar to Prohne, Day describes Bodenheim’s life as a persistent search for love and material change. In contrast to the newspaper accounts of his death, which emphasized his drunkenness, Day recalls his constant love for his unfaithful wife, his desire to transform the material by means of his aesthetic endeavors, and how Bodenheim used his poetry and novels in support of Communist ideals.21

As with Prohme, the Bodenheims’ Jewish identity is described by Day not in terms of religious activity, but in terms of the longing for love (exhibited by the Bodenheims) and the telos of human love (spoken of fully in Catholic teaching). In one particularly poignant scene, Day describes Max being in the parlor waiting for Ruth, when the rosary began. By Day’s recollection, Max “must have felt besieged, as if they are praying for him or at him”; it is then that Day learns that the Bodenheims, though raised Jewish, were actually both baptized Catholics as children.22 Significantly, Day’s description of the Bodenheims does not change after this point in the narrative, even with the introduction of this piece of religious data. Rather,  Day laments how little the Catholic Workers were able to do for the Bodenheims, that the love expressed in the prayers and Mass which Max was privy to on more than one occasion did not reach the Bodenheims.23

In sum, throughout her work, we find Day emphasizing not the particular religious rites which demark Jew from Christian, but rather the common virtues in which all people (including Jews) participate, virtues which should direct one toward the worship of Christ in the Church. In other words, the Jews—like all other groups within society—are affirmed on the basis of their being part of the “mystical body of Christ”, having been claimed already by Christ’s humanity.24 It is here that we begin to see how Day’s activism in other areas connects to her advocacy for the Jews. As William Miller explains, public anti-Semitism was perpetuated by Coughlin and others on the basis of a class warfare model: the Jews were representative of often conflicting groups which sought to be undermine American life.25 For Day, any division of human life—whether perpetuated against the Jews or by the Marxists, whether through religious enmity or by means of a class warfare argument—undermined a prior commitment to all humanity being one, on the basis of the “Mystical Body” of Christ.26

This approach which Day takes in her personal interactions bears out in her public advocacy for the Jews as well. From 1937 on, Day and the other writers of the Catholic Worker were involved in several public discussions against Catholic and secular anti-Semitism, beginning with Peter Maurin’s “Let’s Keep the Jews for Christ’s Sake”, which emphasizes that the Jews are indeed a chosen people, one which “dams the history of the human race as a dike damns a river—in order to raise its level.”27 Day would follow up on Maurin’s initial essay in a number of pieces, in reviews of Jacque Maritain’s work on Judaism and in other pieces highlighting the atrocities being committed against the Jews in World War II-era Europe, and by helping organize the Committee of Catholics to Fight Anti-Semitism.28

An unpublished manuscript intended for publication in America, recently discovered in Day’s archives, continues this approach.29 Describing the persecution of the Jews as “actually a persecution of the Jews as a race”, she links the persecution of Jews in America and Europe to the reasons that African Americans find themselves hated: “race differences”. Articulating a Catholic alternative to this persecution, Day states, “God made us all. We are all members or potential members of the mystical body of Christ.” Emphasizing cooperation in Catholic Worker initiatives by Jewish landlords and neighbors, Day reiterates, “we are all creatures of God and members or potential members of the Mystical Body. This is something which those Catholics who bait the Jews lose sight of.”

In contrast to accounts of Jewish-Christian solidarity which rest solely on a pragmatic cooperation in acts of goodwill, thus, Day’s vision of Jewish-Catholic solidarity is on the basis of their common humanity—that they are one in Christ’s mystical body. As I have described in the previous section, this Mystical Body is not a body detached from history, but one which is a thoroughly Jewish body.30 In this one person of Jesus, all humanity—prior to its confessions—find a unity which is fully narrated in the historical life of the Roman Catholic Church. This is to say that, while Catholicism makes visible the historical body of Jesus, the life of Catholicism is ultimately dependent upon—and challenged by—the Jewish Jesus whose life is the basis for Catholicism’s claims. In turning now to Day’s writings on war, we find that the Mystical Body of Christ is ultimately behind Day’s pacifism; for Day, the reasoning which led her to oppose anti-Semitism led her to oppose war: both describe a false separation of that humanity which has been drawn together and ennobled in the person of Jesus.

The Mystical Body and War

From her earliest reflections on the Mystical Body, Day named war as that act which is most visibly the antithesis of the unity present as the Mystical Body of Christ.31  The act of war was for Day a rending of a universal human community unified as Christ’s Mystical Body.32 Parodies of the Mystical Body’s unity, though most present in war, are also present in a variety of other social permutations, such as nationalism and class wars, which impose artificial barriers, create false understandings of human unity, and create unnecessary (and possibly sinful) divisions among humanity.33

Naming war as a tearing of the Mystical Body involves two interrelated points. First, the unity present in the Mystical Body exists in opposition to nationalism and war in all its forms; if the humanity of Christ is singular, then social identity located elsewhere exists as an idolatrous simulacrum of the Mystical Body. Consequently, and secondly, the various practices and teachings of the Church should emphasize this transnational, transpolitical unity, in contrast to the divisive sociality perpetuated by war and nationalism. In her famous “In Peace is My Bitterness most Bitter”, Day argues that national interests are opposed to the practices of the Church in precisely this manner:

We are the most powerful nation, the most armed, and we are supplying arms and money to the rest of the world where we are not ourselves fighting. We are eating while there is famine in the world…we are not performing the works of mercy but the works of war. We cannot repeat this enough.

In other words, witness to the peace described by the Mystical Body of Christ relativizes considerations of identity other than those made possible by the person of Jesus.  Intrinsic to Day’s doctrine of the Mystical Body is a rejection of politics, which divide humanity into nationalities; this rejection takes the form of the works of mercy done on behalf of all humanity, expecting to suffer opposition from those who seek to divide what Christ has brought together. Opposition to Day’s formulation was not limited to secular authorities, but included those from within the Catholic Church as well.34

War functions as a parody of the human unity seen in Catholic communion for Day:

War is deviltry. It calls for sacrifices indeed, but not at the altar of love. “Greater love hath no man than this.” A great blasphemy this, to use Christ’s words in connection with me going to war. They go because they are drafted, because they are afraid of what their neighbors will say, because the benefits accruing afterward…are great. And they are told by press and pulpit that they are going because they love their fellows, and they are filled with a warm glow of self-love.35

For Day, then, war was the most extreme example of other divisions perpetuated by a deficient anthropology, for instead of seeing all human communion as predicated upon the Jewish man Jesus, war predicated human communion upon the violent overcoming of political difference.  This criticism was not limited to international wars, but it also extended to class wars as the precursors to physical violence:

We oppose class war and class hatred, even while we stand opposed to injustice and greed. Our fight is not “with flesh and blood but principalities and powers.” We oppose also imperialist war. We oppose, moreover preparedness for war, a preparedness which is going on now on an unprecedented scale and which will undoubtedly lead to war.36

For Day, the response to war—if war is a parody of the unity present in the Mystical Body of Christ—is that of nonviolence. While Day’s pacifism is more detailed than can be described in this essay, we can say that Day’s Catholic nonviolence encompassed a variety of tactics, including non-payment of taxes, non-compliance with civilian air-raid drills, and protest marches.37  Through various forms of nonviolence, witness is borne to a different vision of human sociality, namely the Mystical Body of Christ. In sum, to oppose war for Day followed from a theo-anthropological vision of how humanity’s union flowed from the true human Jesus, whose life was seen and witnessed in the worship and unity of the Catholic Church.


In sum, for Day, opposition to war and advocacy for the Jews both rest upon the humanity of Jesus—the human whose life is the true narration of all human existence. Within Christian theology, Day links these issues together in ways which are challenging for those who would seek to keep them apart. For Day, to recognize the fundamental humanity of all persons means narrating human identity along a Christological axis; this narration is not a priori one which privileges Christian identity, in that the Jesus whom both Christians and Jews find their center is a specifically Jewish man of time and space. To be sure, for Day, this Jesus is made present in the Eucharist, but as I have shown, the presence of Christ as the paradigmatic human brings criticism upon the traditions of Jews and Christians alike, calling Catholics to a more full understanding of their common humanity with all persons and calling Jews to the telos of human existence in this person Jesus. Such solidarity begins within Jewish-Christian relations, but expands immediately for Day to an issue of importance to the non-religious as well: war.

Opposition to war, as an issue which implicates the religious and non-religious alike, is the extension of the logic of Day’s opposition to anti-Semitism. If, at the bottom, the life and work of Jesus is a paradigmatically human existence, then commitment to religious dialogue and against war are not unrelated concerns, but interlocking commitments. These commitments are not simply “useful” ways to bring together Jews and Christians, but are issues rooted in a theological commitment to the universal significance of Jesus for all humanity. This is not to say that these commitments cannot be paired together in other, non-Christological ways; Catholics were not the only ones opposing war or advocating for the Jews. Day’s wariness of other approaches is that pairing together commitments against anti-Semitism and war (as seen in Marxist anti-war movements) can lead to solidarity, but only at the expense of some other group for whom Jesus’ significance holds equally true.

The deep challenge of Day’s formulation is thus twofold. First, to Christians, commitment to Jesus’ universality comes hand in hand with opposition to war, for dividing humanity into political units is opposed to Jesus’ universality. Second, to non-Christians, the challenge is to formulate opposition to war in ways which ultimately do not perpetuate the agonism of war; for Day, this remains the fatal flaw of non-Christological reasoning about social change—that every advocacy creates a binary group which is negated. It is for this reason that Day remains a figure of great admiration and controversy: her vision of human unity—both in issues of anti-Semitism and war—is one which was deeply Christocentric, but it is also a vision which continues to strain the moral imagination of those who would claim her legacy.

A number of questions remain, particularly surrounding Day’s understanding of Judaism, which neglects Jewish practices of worship, teaching, and theology. In part, her advocacy for the Jews is shaped by the Jews she knew: secular Jews whom she encountered amidst a common struggle for justice. In part, preservation of Jewish places of worship is simply not Day’s concern; the question of preservation of the Jews in the face of vitriolic prejudice and apocalyptic forces of war eclipse any concern for interreligious dialogue. But primarily, Day’s treatment of Judaism is governed by her reverence for the paramount Jew: Jesus. For Day, Jews—like all other humans—are called toward the same telos: a recognition of the fullness of their life and vocation in the person and life of Jesus of Nazareth.


1. We cannot be certain when Day first came into contact with the doctrine, but we can be certain that Day did not know of the doctrine prior to her own conversion.  Cf. From Union Square to Rome (Maryknoll: Orbis Books 2006), 142, concerning her daughter’s baptism prior to Day’s conversion: “Teresa was baptized, she had become a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. I didn’t know anything of the Mystical Body or I might have felt disturbed at being separated from her.” It is likely that Day’s sources for understanding the doctrine are likewise beyond reconstruction prior to her introduction to Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement.
2. Day, “Co-operative Apartment for Unemployed Women Has Its Start in Parish”, Catholic Worker, (December 1933): “However, we hug to ourselves the assurance that ‘all these things’ such as blankets ‘will be added unto us,’ so we are not dismayed. Come to think of it, there are two rugs on The Catholic Worker floor, which, if energetically beaten out, will serve as covers. Christ’s first bed was of straw.” Cf. Day, “Catholic Worker Program”, CW, (December 1933): “There was social justice in the demands made by the Communists—they were the poor, the unemployed, the homeless. They were among the ones Christ was thinking of when he said, ‘Feed my Sheep.’ And the Church had food for them, that I knew.”
3. Day, “Wealth, The Humanity of Christ, Class War”, CW, (June 1935).
4. Day will often speak of “potential members” of the body of Christ to indicate that while Christ’s humanity holds purchase for all people, its visible belonging to this body in time and space is a belonging which is seen in hope.  Cf. Day, “On Pilgrimage”, CW, (December 1963): “The entire world has acclaimed Pope John, and he increased the sum total of love in the world and renewed the health of the Mystical Body of which we are all members, or potential members.”  This terminology is used throughout Day’s writings. Cf., Day, “Catholic Worker Celebrates 3rd Birthday; A Restatement of C. W. Aims and Ideals”, CW, (May 1936); Day, “Fall Appeal – November 1957”, CW, (November 1957); Day, “Fall Appeal, October 1963”, CW,  (October 1963); Day, “On Pilgrimage”, CW, (January 1970) for a few representative instances.
5. Long Loneliness, 147. Unless Day is writing her memoir for an explicitly Catholic audience, the “we” here leaves open how Day is using this term. See also, Union Square, 14.
6. Long Loneliness. 144. In this latter sense, Day describes her own conversion as “[becoming] a member of the Mystical Body of Christ” (10). This second, more restricted sense is emphasized by Day’s frequent use of “members and potential members” when describing social movements involving Catholics and non-Catholics. Day employed this phrasing as early as 1936, and continues to use it well into the 1970s.  Cf.,  Day, “Catholic Worker Celebrates 3rd Birthday: A Restatement of C.W. Aims and Ideals”, CW, (May 1936); Day, “On Pilgrimage”, CW, (October-November 1972).
7. “Liturgy and Sociology”
8. Day, “On Pilgrimage”, CW, (May 1948).
9. Day’s conflicts with church authorities are perhaps one of the better known aspects of Day’s life, particularly her persistent protests of the church’s stance on war and poverty. Cf. Day, The Long Loneliness, (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1982), 150: “Romano Guardini said the Church is the Cross on which Christ was crucified; one could not separate Christ from His Cross, and one must live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the Church.”
10. William D. Miller’s A Harsh and Dreadful Love: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement (New York: Liveright, 1973), 138-153; Dorothy Day: A Biography (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983), 31-53 are exceptions here. Marc Ellis’ work has been one of the only Jewish engagements with Day’s work, first in his A Year at the Catholic Worker: A Spiritual Journey Among the Poor, (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2000), and later in Revolutionary Forgiveness, 211-228.
11. For a history of Day’s early activities, primarily vis-à-vis the writings of Jacques Maritain and Father Charles E. Coughlin, see Miller, A Harsh and Dreadful Love, 138-153.
12. Dorothy Day, From Union Square to Rome, 54ff.
13. Ibid., 50-51.
14. Ibid., 62.
15. Ibid., 11-13.
16. Ibid., 14: “These very leaders by their understanding of the struggle, how victory is gained very often through defeat, how every little gain benefits the workers all over the country…they are enabled to strengthen their wills to go on. It is only by exerting these faculties of the soul that one is enabled to love one’s fellow. And this strength comes from God. There can be no brotherhood with the Fatherhood of God.”
17. Ibid., 18.
18. Ibid., 18: “Suffering, sadness, repentance, love, we all have known these. They are easiest to bear when one remembers their universality, when we remember that we are all members or potential members of the Mystical Body of Christ.”
19. Ibid., 63. Quoting Maritain, Day writes: “‘It follows from the idea of Catholicity that every just man of non-Christian denomination belongs to the invisible unity of the Chruch and on this ground only has a title to salvation’ So reading, my heart is comforted about Rayna, for most assuredly she loved truth and justice.”
20. For a full account of Bodenheim’s life, see Jack B. Moore, Maxwell Bodenheim (Twayne Publishers: Woodbridge, CT, 1970), and Arthur B. Sacks, “The Necessity of Rebellion: The Novels of Maxwell Bodenheim”, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1975.
21. Dorothy Day, Loaves and Fishes (Harper and Row: San Francisco, 1963), 155.
22. Ibid., 151-152.
23. Ibid., 154.
24. Marc Ellis rightly notes this facet of the Catholic Worker Movement’s thought in Revolutionary Forgiveness, 220. However, he reads the Catholic Worker position on Judaism during this time as promoting a kind of “ecumenical religiosity” which is conceived of in terms of the particulars of peoples (Jews, African-Americans, Christians) being maintained with a broader universality of common human moral behavior. By contrast, what I am suggesting is that, for Day, the Jews are maintained qua Jews only because of what has been accomplished in Christ.
25. Miller, A Harsh and Dreadful Love, 145ff, recalls how Coughlin named the Jews as both “communistic” and “capitalistic” as it suited his rhetoric.
26. Day, From Union Square to Rome, 151: “Today there are Christians who affront Christ in the Negro, in the poor Mexican, the Italian, yes and the Jew. Catholics believe that man is the temple of the Holy Ghost, that he is made to the image and likeness of God. We believe that of Jew and Gentile. We believe that all men are members or potential members of the Mystical Body and since there is no time with God, we must so consider each man whether he is atheist, Jew or Christian.”
27. Peter Maurin, CW, (July-August 1939).
28. Day, “Untitled Review of ‘A Christian Looks at the Jewish Question’, CW, November 1939; “Where is Sanctuary?”, CW, (June 1943). On Day’s activities with the committee, see Miller, A Harsh and Dreadful Love, 151-152.
29. Day, “Our Brothers, the Jews”, available at, accessed on 12/19/2011.
30. As Marc Ellis has posed the question, “Were Christians really following Jesus the Jew, a Jew who also stood in line with the prophets, even when the persecuted Jews and denigrated Judaism?…The mystery of Israel was really the mystery of the church” (Revolutionary Forgiveness, 227). Ellis reads this solidarity, however, as one which is “demonstrated in the actions of their adherents”, a union which I have argued misreads the nature of union between Christians and Jews. For Day, the union between Jews and Christians lies in the Jewish man Jesus, in whom all humanity—Christians, Jews, Marxists, and atheists—find their true center.
31. Day, House of Hospitality (Sheed and Ward: New York, 1939), 137-149.
32. Day’s defense of nonviolence on the basis of the Mystical Body would nearly lead to the demise of the Catholic Worker paper, following articles refusing to support the Catholic pro-Franco party in the Spanish Civil War.  Cf. Day, “The Mystical Body and Spain”, CW, (August 1936).  A similar crisis emerged for the paper during the Second World War. Cf. “Why Do the Members of Christ Tear One Another?”, CW, (February 1942).  It could be argued that any division within human sociality, such as labor disputes or nationalism, could be the prime example.  War’s explicit connection with the opposition to the works of mercy—as opposed to other forms of social division—places it as the most virulent expression of the Mystical Body’s rejection.
33. As Michael Baxter has suggested, Day’s understanding of the unity between the “public” world and “private” religious activity runs counter to the theologies of the predominant Catholic voices of her day, namely John Ryan and John Courtenay Murray, who provided justification for Catholic involvement in the Second World War, in “‘Blowing the Dynamite of the Church’: Catholic Radicalism from a Catholic Radicalist Perspective”, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement: Centenary Essays, ed. William J. Thorn, Phillip M. Runkel, and Susan Mountin, (Marquette: Marquette University Press, 2001), 82-83.
34. For Day’s use of the encyclical tradition in reasoning about war and peace, cf. “Wars Are Caused by Man’s Loss of Faith in Man”, CW, (September 1940); “Day After Day”, CW, December 1942; “Letter to Our Readers at the Beginning of Our Fifteenth Year,” CW, (May 1947); “The Pope and Peace”, CW, (February 1954); “The Pope is Dead. Long Live the Pope/Viva John XXIII”, CW, (November 1958); “On Pilgrimage”, CW, (June 1963); “On Pilgrimage”, CW, (June 1966).
35. Day, “Things Worth Fighting For?”, Commonweal, 21 (May, 1948), 136-7.
36. Day, “Pacifism”, CW, (May 1936). Cf., “We Are to Blame for New War in Europe”, CW, (September 1939).  Day goes on to cite Nova Impendet, in which the Pope argues that “the unbridled race for armaments is on the one hand the effect of the rivalry among nations and on the other cause of the withdrawal of enormous sums from the public wealth”, citing Nova Impendet, 8.
37. Day, “Where are the Poor? They are In Prisons, Too”, CW, (July-August 1955); Day, “On Pilgrimage”, CW, (September 1973).  For resistance to air-raid drills, Day, “On Pilgrimage—June 1960”, CW, (June 1960).  In a 1960 protest of air raid drills, Day and twenty-nine others were arrested for non-compliance for refusing to seek shelter during the drills. For Day’s involvement in marches against war, cf. “On Pilgrimage”, CW, (July-August 1957).

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