A Place For All To Worship

Day 5 | Thursday, December 3, 2020


Jesus said to them, “Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like someone going on a journey, who leaving home and putting the servants in charge of their work, commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore – for you do not know when the lord of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning – lest the lord come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” — Luke 20:34–40

Dorothy Day died on November 29, 1980, just as night began to soften the harshness of the poverty and ugliness of Third Street. Her daughter, Tamar, was in the room with her. There was no struggle. The last of the energy that sustained her life had been used.

The funeral was on December 2 at the Nativity Catholic Church, a half block away from Mayhouse. An hour before the service, scheduled for 11 o’clock in the morning, people began to assemble in the street. Some were curious onlookers, the hollow-eyed and stumbling people who roam the streets of  lower New York, but others were drawn there by some sense of the propriety of paying their last respects to the woman who had clothed and fed them. There were American Indians, Mexican workers, Blacks and Puerto Ricans. There were people in eccentric dress, apostles of causes who had felt a great power and truth in Dorothy’s life…

At the appointed time, a procession of these friends and fellow workers came down the sidewalk. At the head of it Dorothy’s grandchildren carried the pine box that held her body. Tamar, Forster, and her brother John followed. At the church door, Cardinal Terrence Cooke met the body to bless it. As the procession stopped for this rite, a demented person pushed his way through the crowd and bending low over the coffin peered at it intently. No one interfered, because, as even the funeral directors understood, it was in such as this man that Dorothy had seen the face of God. 

William D. Miller