In 1932, while covering a worker’s strike in Washington, D.C., Dorothy Day said a prayer. Since her conversion to Catholicism, she felt that she could no longer join such strikes. Joining a strike was an expression of solidarity—and fundamental philosophical differences prevented true solidarity with communist-organized action. Frustrated, she visited the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (it happened to be December 8) and offered a prayer “that some way would open up for me to use what talents I possessed for my fellow workers, for the poor.” Returning to her apartment in New York, weary from the eight-hour bus trip, Day found Peter Maurin, a perfect stranger, waiting for her. Maurin introduced himself and said that the editor of Commonweal and a “red-headed Irish Communist in Union Square” had told him to look her up. Thus began the friendship that would spawn the Catholic Worker Movement.
Day insisted throughout her life that Maurin was a leader worth following. She stated in 1954 that “no one would ever realize how much Peter Maurin [was] responsible for,” but she did her best to make someone realize it anyway. When Catholic Worker communities around the country wrote to ask permission to name their farms or houses of hospitality after her, she would tell them to make Peter their namesake instead. She wrote angrily to William Miller when she realized that, contrary to her wishes, his history of the Catholic Worker Movement focused much more on her contributions than on Peter’s. And upon her death, she left behind an incomplete manuscript of her own biography of Maurin as well as dozens of columns in the Catholic Worker detailing Maurin’s convictions and the way he had lived them out.