Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty
Date: April 19, 2017
Co-sponsored by the Department of Continuing Education (STM), the Theology Department, the Volunteer and Service Learning Center, PULSE, the Catholic Studies Program, and the Church in the 21st Century Center.
Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was a prominent Catholic, writer, social activist, and co-founder of a movement dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor. Her life has been revealed through her own writings as well as the work of historians, theologians, and academics. What has been missing until now is a more personal account from the point of view of someone who knew her well. Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty (Scribner, 2017) is a frank and reflective, heartfelt and humorous portrayal as written by her granddaughter, Kate Hennessy.
Kate Hennessy is a writer and the youngest of Dorothy Day’s nine grandchildren. Her work has been included in Best American Travel Writing, and she is the author of Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother and, in collaboration with the photographer Vivian Cherry, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker: The Miracle of our Continuance. Kate divides her time between Ireland and Vermont.
On April 19, 2017, the Boisi Center hosted Kate Hennessy, a writer and the youngest granddaughter of Dorothy Day. The event was co-sponsored by the Department of Continuing Education (STM), the Theology Department, the Volunteer and Service Learning Center, PULSE, the Catholic Studies Program, and the Church in the 21st Century Center.
Hennessy’s talk focused on her new book, Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty. Hennessy gave a brief background on her grandmother’s life as a leading figure in the founding of the Catholic Worker Movement. Hennessy emphasized the complexity, richness, and contradictions of Dorothy Day’s life that made it challenging to tell her story. Personal relationships also complicated Hennessy’s writing process, as she felt a responsibility to everyone she wrote about. It was difficult for her to navigate the dynamics between herself, her mother, and her grandmother.
Hennessy read several excerpts from the book to represent how her grandmother sought “salvation through beauty” and then invited the audience to ask questions and share their comments. Audience members inquired into who Dorothy Day was outside of The Catholic Worker, the realities of her family relationships, and Hennessy’s feelings of exposure or invasiveness when writing so intimately about the lives of others.
Hennessey, Kate. Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother. New York: Scribner, 2017.
News Articles and Reviews
CNA Daily News. "Dorothy Day, as seen by her granddaughter." patheos.com 2017.
Lewis, Peter. "'Dorothy Day,' portrayed by her granddaughter, is a hero but not a saint." csmonitor.com 2017.
NPR. "An 'Intimate Portrait' Of Dorothy Day, The Catholic Activist With A Bohemian Past." npr.org 2017.
Schlumpf, Heidi. "'Don't just admire Dorothy Day,' says granddaughter." ncronline.org 2017.
Steinfels, Peter. "Martyrs & Saints: 'Dorothy Day.'" commonweal.org 2017.
Valente, Judith. "Granddaughter’s memoir paints complicated portrait of would-be saint Dorothy Day." religionnews.com 2017.
In the News
Pope Francis has spoken highly of Dorothy Day for her "social activism and her passion for justice." Read Thomas Rosica's Atlantic article: "Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, MLK and Pope Francis: models of good citizenship" here.
In the News
From October 6-28, a synod of bishops, primarily from the Amazon region, will take place in Rome. There are a few key points to be discussed at this meeting, namely the possibility of ordaining married men, the relationship between the Catholic Church and indigenous cultures, and the protection of the environment. While the possibility of married men in the priesthood is garnering much attention, the other two topics are also of extreme importance as the Catholic Church has a history of partaking in the mistreatment of indigenous cultures. Additionally, Pope Francis has recently made increasing efforts to draw attention to the severity of the environmental crisis. The “How Would You Reform the Catholic Church?” panel will provide a platform for all to consider what they hope the church will say and do to address these issues.