Dorothy Day, Obl.S.B., died on this day, November 29, in 1980.
The Rule of St. Benedict recognizes the Christian imperative of caring for the poor in a number of ways. But religious institutes that developed later, especially as the West shifted from agrarian culture to urban, placed a particular emphasis on working with the poor. The Franciscans and the Vincentians are primary examples. It is therefore a bit surprising that Dorothy Day, so well known for her work with and for the poor, chose to affiliate herself closely with the Benedictine charism by becoming an oblate.
But it’s not surprising, really. As she wrote, “More and more I see [that] prayer is the answer. It is the clasp of the hand, the joy and keen delight in the consciousness of that Other. Indeed it is like falling in love.” She began each day by praying the Psalms. As one of her friends, Eileen Egan, wrote, Dorothy’s “fidelity to prayer was her path to the transformation called for by the witness of peace, voluntary poverty, and mercy to the needy.” (Quotes taken from Werner’s Reaching for God, 6)
Also fascinating is the reason Dorothy chose to become an oblate of St. Procopius Abbey, outside of Chicago. She was interested in the church unity work St. Procopius was doing at the time. St. Procopius was asked by the Holy See to promote unity between Catholics and Orthodox. (This was in the mid-twentieth century, before Vatican II.) “My special love for St. Procopius,” wrote Day, “is because its special function is to pray for the reunion of Rome and the Eastern Church. The monks can offer Mass in the Eastern or Roman rite and when Fr. Chrysostom [Tarasevitch] came to give us retreats at Maryfarm, we sang the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom” (cited in R. Tybor’s Benedict in the World, 61, quoted here.)
Given the ecumenical aspect of the St. Benet Biscop Chapter and the fact that we are at home with both the Ordinary Form and the Divine Worship form of the Latin Rite, I’m sure Dorothy Day would have been very supportive.