On Aims and Purposes

Here are some key articles by Dorothy Day on the theme of the Catholic Worker’s “Aims and Purposes.”

1933 May
To Our Readers 

States that the purpose of the paper is to articulate the Church’s social program and to popularize the Popes’ social encyclicals. Comments on the Communist influence in the Unemployed Councils and on Lenin’s pamphlet on religion.

1933 June
Maurin’s Program

Outlines Peter Maurin’s three step program of social reconstruction (round table discussions, houses of hospitality, farm colonies) led by the laity working out the principles in the Popes’ encyclicals on social justice.

1940 February
Aims and Purposes (1940) 
Restates the central vision of the Catholic Worker Movement as working for “a new heaven and a new earth, wherein justice dwelleth.” This vision recognizes the “primacy of the spritual” and the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. The Catholic Worker is “a new way of life” involving Houses of Hospitality for the daily practice of the Works of Mercy and Farming Communes where each person can take responsibility of doing their part.

1943 May
Aims and Purposes (1943)

On the tenth anniversary of The Catholic Worker she explains their purpose as promoting love of God and our brother. Their work expresses the beauty of Christianity in supporting the worker, the poor, and eschewing violence. She highlights instances of violent racism.

1947 May
Letter To Our Readers at the Beginning of Our Fifteenth Year
Outlines Peter Maurin’s program for social action as the instituting of Houses of Hospitality, Clarification of Thought and Farming Communes, and explains where the C.W. has gone with each program. Reveals Maurin’s sources of thought and the need to find lay apostolates. Traces personal sacrifices to Jesus’ command in the gospels and asserts that the state cannot take over this duty.

1947 July
What Dream Did They Dream? Utopia or Suffering?
A self-critical appraisal of the Catholic Worker movement’s first fifteen years. Readily accepts criticism of their ideals of voluntary poverty and pacifism, failure to implement Peter Maurin’s vision, of rigorous and demanding retreats, of internal dissent, and of their approach to helping the poor. Says they have not been good servants nor recognized the failure of the cross and the need to die to self. Says they are in a time of transition with only ten houses remaining.

1948 May
On Pilgrimage – May 1948 
16th anniversary recapitulation of distinctive CW positions, especially pacifism and distributism. Explains the C.W.’s philosophy of labor as serving others. Argues that the problem of unemployment originates from the machine – and advocates Gandhi’s economic program. Emphasizes a philosophy of work and a philosophy of poverty.

1953 May
Personalist – Peter Maurin

Summarizes Peter Maurin’s worldview and discusses his new social order and how his life embodied his ideas. Reveals the sources of his thought such as Proudhon, Kropotkin, Guardini and Karl Adam.

1958 May
Workers of the W
orld Unite
Celebrates the 25th anniversary of the C.W. Perceives freedom as the greatest gift to man from God, and advocates a four-hour work day, child labor, private property as personal property and manual labor. Personalism works from the bottom up and reminds her readers that Jesus told people, not states, to perform works of mercy.

1973 May
On Pilgrimage – May 1973
Series of reflections on the occasion of their 40th anniversary. Laments little time to read, recalls the books Peter Maurin recommended and his constant agitating. Notes the primacy of conscience, defends critics of the Pope, and the need for Christ rooms. Keywords: Philosophy of the CW, obedience, folly of the cross

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