Dorothy Day made one final public appearance four years before she died. She was invited to give a speech at the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The central theme of the congress was “The Eucharist and the Hungers of the Human Family.” Over a million people attended the 8-day congress and both Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day were invited, as well as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (who would go on to become St. John Paul II).
Both Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa were featured on a day of the congress entitled “Women and the Eucharist.”
Day delivered her speech at the Philadelphia Civic Center and was very nervous, expressing beforehand, “Though terrified at the prospect of such crowds I will certainly accept your request that I participate as panel speaker, Friday August 6, God willing.”
Dorothy Day’s last speech
According to Nicholas Rademacher in an article for the U.S. Catholic Historian Journal, Day “addressed both physical and spiritual hunger, explaining that those who arrive for bread at their House of Hospitality in New York City receive bodily and spiritual nourishment. The spiritual nourishment in the form of ‘human warmth’ arises, she explains, out of the celebratory and family-like atmosphere of their house of hospitality. Those who come are not clients, but other Christs. She described the Church as her mother, who both teaches and nourishes.”
During her speech she also criticized the planning of a military Mass, dedicated to military personnel and their families,that was to be celebrated in Philadelphia on the same day.
August 6 was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.
She said, “‘No-one in charge of the Eucharistic Congress had remembered what August 6th means in the minds of all who are dedicated to peace … Our Creator gave us life, and the Eucharist to sustain our life. But we have the world instruments of death of inconceivable magnitude.’ In light of the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons, she urged instead that ‘we will regard that military Mass, and all our Masses today, as an act of penance, begging God to forgive us.'”
Day’s speech was short and afterwards Mother Teresa took the stage and gave her address.
This was Dorothy Day’s last official public appearance, and it offers an appropriate summary of her life. She saw the “physical and spiritual hunger” of her time and did not neglect addressing either. Day firmly believed that the poor needed to be fed, not only in body, but also in soul.
Last of all, Day also was a strong advocate for peace during her life, stressing non-violence and not being afraid to express her views publicly.