header icons

Correspondence between Dorothy Day and the Benedictines (Virgil Michel)

February 14, 1934

Dear Miss Day:

Father Busch recently told me of your request to have “Orate Frates” exchanged for “The Catholic Worker.” I have spoken to the present editor-in-chief of “Orate Fratres” and he is putting your name on the exchange list. I am sending you a new study club outline on the liturgy and the liturgical movement, which I believe will interest you. I would suggest that if you should like to have the publication mentioned as necessary references, you write to the Rt. Rev. Alcuin Deutsch, O.S.B., for a donation of them to your cause. You may mention my name, if you wish, in this letter. I am sure he will be glad to have them sent to you, both to help you and to spread the work of the liturgical movement.

Yours very sincerely,

(Rev.) Virgil Michel, O.S.B.,


March 2, 1934

Dear Editors:

I gladly comply with your request, addressed to me at the suggestion of Father Virgil Michel, to donate to you all the publications of the Liturgical Press, not only those mentioned in the study club outline. I have, therefore, instructed the manager of the Liturgical Press to send them to you. In case you do not receive them within a week or so, please let me know.

I am greatly interested in your venture, as you may gather not only from this donation, but also from the donation of $l0 which I sent you some time ago. It was I also that called Father Michel’s attention to your publication and urged upon him to bring it to the attention of our students. I am delighted to find that he is so interested as to have sent you the study club outline and to have made the above suggestion. Also I am pleased that Father Busch is interesed in your work, as he has been working with us in the Liturgical movement since we took it up here. I pray that God grant you light and strength to continue your work efficiently and that He open the hearts of many to the call that you are sounding in the pages of your excellent little publication.

Yours sincerely,

(Rev.) Alcuin Deutsch, O.S.B., Abbot


May 22, 1934

Dear Father Deutsch,

Thank you very much for your generosity to us and for your continued interest in our work. We are indeed grateful for the help we are getting from the Benedictines out in Minnesota. Your help enables us to send the paper to many parishes which cannot afford to get bundles of the papers. We send out about a thousand to Minnesota, and in view of the bad labor conditions prevailiing there we’d be glad to get in contact with parishes. So if you have any suggestions to offer, or know of priests who would be interested in receiving the paper, we would be glad to send it on.

The thing that oppresses us as so sad in this morning’s news is the fact that all those workers wielding clubs out in Minneapolis are going to be blamed, and their cause discredited, when it was the employers who originally refused to arbitrate.

Pray for them, the workers, father, and for us in the work we are trying to do.


Dorothy Day


October l6, 1934

Dear Rt. Rev. Father Deutsch,

We indeed beg God to bless you for your generosity to us in sending your check to help along our work. We are so happy that the results of our appeal enabled us to pay every bill so that we are now all square again. I think it is very significant that God always sends us enough to keep going on, with nothing left over, so that we can still rejoice in the poverty we are privileged to share with Him.

Gratefully yours,

Dorothy Day


April l6, 1936

Dear Father Virgil:

Thank you for your continued support of our work. We are all looking forward to your visit to us in the summer.

You will notice that the farm is 7l miles out but it only takes l l/2 hours to get there by train and we hope you will spend a few weekends with us not to work but to rest.

Please pray for us all.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Dorothy Day


Dear Father Michel:

Thank you very much for both your kind letters and please excuse me fornot answering them both. We were certainly glad of your friendly criticism and will do our very best to work as Christians (This as members of the Mystical Body) and with love rather than animosity.

I regret your fears about moving headquarters into Easton, I wish you had taken this up with me before you left so that I could have reassured you. Our propaganda headquarters is still going to be New York, but Frank O’Donnell and Dan Irwin will have charge of the office in Easton receiving all mail, filling orders and carrying on the work with the school and parish in that city. I shall not be away more than a week out of every month and that week will be devoted to the apostolate of letter writing as Father Lord called it, which is certainly an important part of the work. Such work can be done down there more properly and quickly.

There are articles I must write and things I must do and there is more opportunity for that kind there. Here in New York we are seeing people from morning until night, there are meetings and demonstrations and such activities which must be carried on. I realize the importance of this and don’t think that we are deserting the city. The afternoon you mentioned in your letter I had to go down to see Mr. Moody in Wall Street and even so I managed to see six or seven priests during the day and many of those you mentioned as being in the office were still there when I got back. But even so it is important for me and the others to be there still you must admit that it is also important to go out into the fields among the steel workers. The very importance of our work lies in the fact that we have this real contact so of course there will be many times when people will complain of coming down to see us and not finding us in. It always concerns me very much when some woman tells me she has been to the office three or four times and never found me there.

Within the next ten days Bill Callahan is going away for a two months trip as you know and I also must be gone from October l2 to 30th covering Buffalo, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Gary, Indiana, Pittsburgh and Loretto speaking to steel workers, seminarians and college students. I really don’t enjoy this gadding around and would much rather remain put but I shall probably end up with dyspepsia. I keep reminding myself that haste is bad for the spiritual life and think of St. Catherine of Sienna in the kitchen which served l8 or twenty, making an altar in her heart.

We do indeed realize our responsibilities and are not trying to shirk them but the work in Easton must be built up as that is a big part of our program. I have talked these matters over with Father McSorley our spiritual advisor and he agrees with this move which is just a part of our growth.

The one thing I do not agree with you at all about was your feeling that perhaps “each one is willing to let the other one assume the burden of assistance in the general work.” We are blessed in the number of fellow workers who come to us and those who shirk are in some way the lame, the halt and the blind and need to be cared for with love. I can see many ways in which we fall down and I see these defects and faults so clearly that sometimes it is very hard not to give way to discouragement and become critical and desolate. Just because I do not point criticism but feel that it is better to let people recognize their mistakes and rectify them doesn’t mean that I do not see where things are wrong.

We all need to watch ourselves constantly. Please continue to help us by your prayers and pray that the Christian Front, Liturgy and Sociology and the Catholic Worker and the newest development The Catholic Student progress helpfully. I am very careful at this time to do nothing without the advice of Father McSorley our approved advisor so there will be as much united front as he sees fit. He has been in touch with the work since the beginning and I thank God that we have a priest who is on hand always to tell us what sides to take.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Dorothy Day


January 31, 1937

Dear Father Virgil:

We should be most happy if you can speak on Wednesday Evening, February l7th at The Catholic Worker office. I am certainly sorry that I am going to be away at that time as I am making my usual spring trip of a month–this time to cover parts of the South. You remember that I was not in the office before when you called and here it is happening again.

You will be happy to hear that our eviction has been postponed until June. This must be just a short note as I am in bed with a cold.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Dorothy Day

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XV, No. 3, April 1995. Special thanks is given to Fr. Vincent Tegeder, O.S.B. of St. John’s Abbey Archives for these letters.