Central to the development of Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement was her reading of the Bible, youthful radical activism, conversion to Catholicism in 1927, and the gradual realization of her vocation in living and publicizing Catholic gospel radicalism after meeting Maurin in 1932. Her synthesis of renewed Catholicism involved a life that was nourished by Catholic sacraments and worship and the social encyclicals of modern popes, orthodox in the essentials of the faith, and allowed her to practice corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which originated in Christ’s teaching to love one another. Day created a movement of lay initiative long before the reforms of Vatican II (1962-1965) legitimated lay leadership. She explained that no permission was needed to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, such as feeding the hungry and visiting prisoners. Taught to every Catholic in the catechism, these works of mercy embodied specific ways to live the Beatitudes and Christ’s teaching of love.
Day’s earlier radicalism, aimed at a social, political, and economic revolution by whatever means necessary, contributed to her conversion to Catholicism and the establishment of the Catholic Worker. The young radical had experienced community and sacrifice on behalf of workers and the poor, something lacking in the mainstream Christianity she once discarded as hypocritical. Experience as a radical taught her to prefer uncompromising individual direct...
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