What’s in a name? Why we named her after Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day“Why Day?” It’s a question we are often asked when we introduce our 3.5 month old daughter, Anna Day, to the world.

Since Anna’s birth we have gotten a myriad of reactions to her middle name. Most are positive (how could they not be?) but some are more inquisitive. We even got a few, “That’s interesting.” But when we explain that Anna is named after her two great grandmothers and Day for Dorothy Day, the most common question we get is “Who is Dorothy Day?”

This is the question we love. We love sharing the story, as we understand it, of who Dorothy Day was and why we hope our daughter is inspired by her. We hope Anna learns from Dorothy’s generosity and hospitality to those in need, her commitment to seeking justice, her voice against racial and economic oppression, her dedicated faith, and also her profound sense of humility. These are all things that we know Dorothy Day’s life and spirit can teach not only our daughter, but us as well.

When asked, if her name was difficult to come up with, we honestly can say no. In fact, Anna Day has been named for a long time. Getting to meet her was more of a journey than we ever anticipated.

We have walked together physically and spiritually for 14 years. And when we married 7 1/2 years ago, we knew that children were definitely a hope and dream of ours. But having children seemed to get delayed. We both spent time in graduate school, trying to find how we best fit in the world. Then work took over much of our time and attention. When we both felt “ready” for children, we learned the hard way it wasn’t time. We faced some losses and prayed harder and more sincerely than we ever had. We prayed for direction and guidance, for comfort, and for understanding. During this time of sadness, anger, and doubt, we felt a small piece of the loneliness that Dorothy Day wrote about in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness. We were reminded of the lesson that she shares with us, “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”

As our long anticipation gave way to the Ignatian value of contemplation, we began to reflect about the spiritual community that has shaped how we love. As graduates of Jesuit universities, we both looked to the Church Women of El Salvador, to Oscar Romero, and to the six Jesuits and their companions for their love of justice and the common good. We looked to Ignatius, Dean Brackley, Francis Xavier, and Pedro Arrupe for their love of faith in God and each other. And to others like Francis of Assisi, Vincent de Paul and Louis de Marillac, Martin Luther King Jr., Desmond Tutu, and Fr. Greg Boyle for their love of those marginalized by society. Yet among all, we both looked to Dorothy Day who modeled all of these expressions of love through her humble life.

Eventually our prayers were answered when we learned our baby was a girl and we knew we would finally get to meet Anna Day. Today, as we gaze into Anna’s gorgeous blue eyes, we see a whole fresh world before us. And we hope that in naming her after Dorothy Day, Anna will embrace this world with Dorothy Day’s strength of conviction, tenacity, intelligence, spirit of questioning, and most of all, her faith.

The world Anna Day walks into may be full of loneliness and despair. She will witness too much poverty, racial inequity, income inequality, homelessness, corporate and political greed, and climate change related disasters. But we will try to teach her about the amazing cloud of witnesses that show us there is a world where radical love and hope can overcome the darkness. On this 33rd anniversary of Dorothy Day’s death, we hope that our daughter, Anna Day, can look to her namesake for inspiration and that her actions will be guided by compassion and hospitality.

1 reply
  1. Pam
    Pam says:

    Anna Day will know the compassion of Dorothy because of her remarkable parents. Anna is already the embodiment of hope overcoming darkness. Thank you Cate and Anthony for this beautiful reminder of where our thanks for our many gifts leads us. Right back to the giver.


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