The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

Advanced Search 

Merton's Correspondence with:

Dorothy Day

Day, Dorothy, 1897-1980  printer


Descriptive Summary

Record Group: Section A - Correspondence
Dates of materials: 1956-1988, bulk 1956-1968
Volume: 72 item(s); 108 pg(s)

Scope and Content

This important collection of letters contains many original handwritten and signed letters by Day. Merton's letters are mostly carbon copies and photocopies of signed letters from Marquette University. The letters discuss issues of the Vietnam War, nuclear proliferation, the peace movement, foreign relations, poverty, and the faith experience of those concerned with social justice.


Social activist, author, and co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, Dorothy Day was a profound influence and mentor for Merton. Merton especially respected her commitment to non-violence and to the poor. A complex and dynamic figure, she espoused politically leftist views, while maintaining a traditional faith in Catholicism. (Source: The Hidden Ground of Love, pp. 135-136.)

Usage Guidelines and Restrictions

Please click here for general restrictions concerning Merton's correspondence.

Related Information and Links

See also Cold War Letters #11 and #86, and other published letters from Merton to Day, in The Hidden Ground of Love, pp. 135-154; and see also an unabridged version of the 16 June 1962 letter published in Signs of Hope, pp. 43-6. A letter from Merton to Day of December 20, 1961 was included with two others in Motive magazine as "Three Letters" (the other two being letters to Eileen Curns ["Letter to a Papal Volunteer"] and to Paulo Alceu Amoroso Lima [To a Brazilian Friend"]) which were additionally published in Seeds of Destruction.

See also Dorothy Day's letters to Thomas Merton (with introduction, editing and summaries of selected Merton letters by William Shannon) published in American Catholic Pacifism : The Influence of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement, edited by Anne Klejment and Nancy L. Roberts (Prageger Publishers; Westport, Connecticut; 1996: pp. 99-121). Most of Day's letters to Merton were also included in All the Way to Heaven, edited by Robert Ellsberg.

Other Finding Aids

If the person in correspondence with Merton has full text records in the Merton Center Digital Collections, there will be a numeric link to them below.

Series List

This Record Sub-Group is not divided into Series and is arranged chronologically.

Container List

Click icons for links: ✓="Published | Library Record", ✉="Scanned" | 🗷="Scanned, Viewable Only at Merton Center"

#DateFrom/ToFirst LinesPub ✓Notes
 y/m/dMerton Scan ✉ 
1. 1956/12/26 TLS to ? Alice Catherine tells me that you have offered Christmas Mass for me and the Catholic Worker at the [possibly to Fr. Urban Snyder and not addressed to Merton - the name of the addressee is scratched out on both the letter and the envelope / found in Gethsemani Archives] Christmas at the Catholic Worker - beautiful but sober and serious - past times when "the entire kitchen force got drunk" «detailed view»
2. 1959/04/22 TLS[x] from Merton People have been sending the novices here some things we do not use or need, like scented soap, [donated to Marquette University June 2018] «detailed view»
3. 1959/06/04? TACS to Merton What with jail and a sudden attack of arthritis, I neglected to write to thank you both for your [verso: "Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian" / written on the Feast of the Sacred Heart] Charles Butterworth, a Catholic Worker staff member, sentenced in Federal Court for harboring and aiding the escape of a deserter - Bob Steed may also appear in Federal Court for tearing his draft card / Charles de Foucauld retreat «detailed view»
4. 1959/06/20 TACS to Merton I enclose a letter to cheer your heart and to keep you writing. Your books are regarded as [verso: "Prayer of Abandonment (Brother Charles of Jesus)"] Caroline Gordon spent royalties of her book to buy Merton's books for others «detailed view»
5. 1959/07/09 TLS[x] from Merton It was a pleasure to get your letter, and of course I keep praying for you and for CW. «detailed view»
6. 1959/07/09 (#02) transcript from Merton Again, I am touched deeply by your witness for peace. You are very very right in going at it along [transcript of partial letter - contains as 1959/July/09 - Jim Forest gave this to Nazareth College] «detailed view»
7. 1959/12/23 (#01) HCS to Merton Your beautiful book containing the beautiful news arrived and Bob Steed had a hard time restraining [verso: printed woodcut of Mary and the baby Jesus / published letter begins at last line of first paragraph and continues through next paragraph, Day adds, "Have you a volume of Cassian? I have an extra one if you want it."] «detailed view»
8. 1959/12/23 (#02) HCS to Merton I forgot to mail the enclosed written on the ferryboat to Staten Island. Hope you can decipher it. [verso: Christmas card with Mary and the baby Jesus] «detailed view»
9. 1960/01/22 TLS to Merton Your beautiful and profound essay on Pasternak kept me awake from midnight until four this morning, Pasternak essay / trip west and visit to Indians - visits to the Hutterites and Doukhobors / Ann Fremantle's Desert Calling / Day a "postulant in the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of the Charles de Foucault family" «detailed view»
10. 1960/02/04 TLS[x] from Merton For a long time I have wanted to write to you and give you something that could be published «detailed view»
11. 1960/06/04 HLS to Merton How grateful we are to you for your poem. Bob Steed, who makes up the CW., and who was at Bob Steed, formerly at Gethsemani Abbey, and admirer of Merton / Merton's article on Pasternak in Thought / Hugh Madden / account of a family suffering through many difficulties and staying at the beach houses where day recovers from an illness / Day's daughter Tamar / Dostoevsky as "spiritual reading" «detailed view»
12. 1960/08/17 TALS[x] from Merton Your good letter of June 5th has been waiting for a reply and before that the Cassian came, «detailed view»
13. 1960/10/10 TLS to Merton It was good to get your book, and I do thank you for having it sent to me. I had read the Pasternak "The Pasternak Affair" from Thought / Bob Steed and another person formerly of Gethsemani at Catholic Worker, John Stanley / Ammon Hennacy - fasting and natural cures instead of medicine / need for obedience amidst the attitude of rebellion at Catholic Worker «detailed view»
14. 1961/07/23 TALS[x] from Merton Thanks for your good note of a month ago and the enclosed letter from the boy in California, and all «detailed view»
15. 1961/08/15 TLS to Merton I am terribly sorry about the poem. It was snatched from my hands so fast, and before I knew it, it apology for mistakenly publishing a poem given by Merton to Day in Catholic Worker - was not for publication / Jim Forest - bicycle tour of New England while discerning vocation / Day's son-in-law sent to mental hospital - Tamar left to care for 9 children and farm / nuclear war / Julian of Norwich «detailed view»
16. 1961/08/23 TALS[x] from Merton Don't worry about the poem: it worked out fine. Ferlinghetti is going to print it anyway, and is «detailed view»
17. 1961/09/22 TALS[x] from Merton Just a quick note. The attached article IS for Catholic Worker and it IS censored [Merton enclosed the essay of "The Root of War" with this letter, which was then passed to James Forest for editing and publication in the Catholic Worker - see Sub-Section E.1 for this copy of the essay] «detailed view»
18. 1961/12/20 (#01) TAL[x] from Merton I have read your latest "On Pilgrimage" in the December CW and I want to say how good I think it is. [Cold War Letter #11 - photocopy signature line cut off] defense of Fidel Castro as a human being, not a defense of all crimes Communism has committed in the world / separate people from their action and actions committed by their group - personal love versus natural law or casuistry / natural law as "jungle law" «detailed view»
19. 1961/12/20 (#02) transcript from Merton I have read your latest "On Pilgrimage" in the December CW and I want to say how good I think it is. [Cold War Letter #11 from bound collection of Cold War Letters] defense of Fidel Castro as a human being, not a defense of all crimes Communism has committed in the world / separate people from their action and actions committed by their group - personal love versus natural law or casuistry / natural law as "jungle law" «detailed view»
20. 1961/12/22 HPCS[x] from Merton Have you seen the magnificent essay by Rabbi Samuel Dresner included in the book "God «detailed view»
21. 1962/03/21 TALS[x] from Merton As I don't know who is handling the paper now, I am addressing these changes to you. They are to go «detailed view»
22. 1962/04/09 TLS[x] from Merton Many thanks for your letter. There were certainly a lot of things I needed to know. And I am glad «detailed view»
23. 1962/06/04 TALS to Merton I am writing to beg prayer from you and your novices for Deane Mowrer, one of our editors who is eye surgery for Deane Mowrer / Elbert Sisson - Merton's writing on peace and opposition to modern war - not pacifist view / visit to Brazil and Papal Volunteers / Day's book The Long Loneliness translated into Portuguese by Aimee Amorosa Lima / denies Merton's association of the Catholic Worker with the Beat movement «detailed view»
24. 1962/06/16 (#01) TLS[x] from Merton I have just come from saying Mass for the intentions of Catholic Worker, especially all yours [Cold War Letters #86 - abridged versions in Cold War Letters and The Hidden Ground of Love with full version published in Signs of Hope] «detailed view»
25. 1962/06/16 (#02) transcript from Merton It is true that I am not theoretically a pacifist. That only means that I do not hold that a [Cold War Letters #86 - from bound/mimeographed copy] view not totally pacifist - describes that the idea of a "just war" in the modern age is "pure theory" and no current conflicts would be considered just / on Fr. John Hugo's "'natural-supernatural' division" / Day's trip to Brazil - Aimee Amoroso Lima «detailed view»
26. 1962/06/16 (#03) transcript from Merton It is true that I am not theoretically a pacifist. That only means that I do not hold that a [Cold War Letters #86 - from published volume - differs from other copy] Peace in the Post-Christian Era / fallout shelter for monks and Blessed Sacrament at Genesee Abbey in New York - "What a grim joke that is!" «detailed view»
27. 1962/07/12 TLS[x] from Merton The poem about the Ladies Jail has finally, after five months, been passed by the censors «detailed view»
28. 1962/07/23 HLS to Merton Thank you for your good letter and above all for the prayers, "spiritual direction" and papers about [verso: a modern, urban picture of a nativity scene and a quote from Teresa of Avila] Merton's prayer about the English Mystics / Deane Mowrer / Day's attempt to get a visa to travel to Cuba to visit collective farms, view the education system and see the what has happened with religion «detailed view»
29. 1962/08/11 (#01) TLS[x] from Merton You might be interested in the copy of the letter I sent to Hiroshima. A couple of extras in case «detailed view»
30. 1962/08/11? (#02) HNS[x] from Merton I have been praying for you all the while and for Cuba also. This is a crucial, stupid, and tragic [handwritten note on the first page of a typescript for "Ten Poems of Alfonso Cortes" - photocopy of the title page with note only] «detailed view»
31. 1962/08/23 TALS to Merton Do not fear, your material will get to Brazil, because I am surely going in April with Hildegard Jean and Hildegard Goss Mayr - trip to Brazil to speak of Christian non-violence in South America / granted visa for Cuba - trip in September - U.S. sabotage of Cuban buildings and fields - danger of being shot by a counter-revolutionary / the group Pax and Jim Forest / Bob Steed and walking trip to Rome for Papal appeal «detailed view»
32. 1962/11/12 HLS to Merton This morning one of the two lovely young girls who share the women's apartment with 2 old ladies of young girls from the women's apartment - their involvement in a peace march and sense of love and joy, but Day's concern about the drug addicts and sexually promiscuous friends they have - the many who are pregnant and those who had considered abortions / her return from Cuba and Mexico «detailed view»
33. 1963/03/04 TL[c] from Goss-Mayr, Hildegard We have read with great interest your articles on Cuba, and we are glad to notice how many contacts [see "Goss-Mayr, Hildegard" file for original copy - letter of 1963/02/27 from Hildegard Goss-Mayr to Dorothy Day - carbon copy enclosed with 1963/03/04 letter to Merton] «detailed view»
34. 1963/03/17 TLS to Merton I had the best of intentions to write to you before Ash Wednesday but at least you will have this Merton's "Selections from the Desert Fathers" / the many new women in Catholic Worker who are married outside of the Church / Day's friends who worry Merton will leave the monastery / trip to Rome with "Women Strike for Peace" and "who are foolishly expecting to get a[ Papal] audience" - Pope's good words on peace «detailed view»
35. 1963/06/18 (#01) TLS[x]  from Merton to Edward R. Sammis Thank you for sending me the proofs of Dorothy Day's LOAVES AND FISHES, which I have read with «detailed view»
36. 1963/06/18? (#02) other   A LETTER FROM THOMAS MERTON [-] "Every American Christian should read Dorothy Day's LOAVES [appears to be photocopy from the back of the 1963 first edition of Dorothy Day's book Loaves and Fishes] «detailed view»
37. 1963/09/05 TLS[x] from Merton The other day a packet of mimeographed articles emanating from here went out to you. I hope you «detailed view»
38. 1963/12/04 TAL[c] from Merton Fr Charles passed your letter along from the hospital, and I write immediately to say that you will Fr. Charles [English?] / deaths of President John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley, and Fr. Lafarge «detailed view»
39. 1963/12/no? HLS to Merton Thank you for your good letter. After I heard Fr. Charles was recovering I gave up the idea of [no date / seems to be after Merton's 1963/12/04 letter] «detailed view»
40. 1965/06/24 TALS to Merton Yesterday Dr. Stern telephoned me from Montreal asking me to ask the Trappists, and my friends the reading Prison Meditations of Fr. Delp with Merton's introductions at retreat / the great costs of burying the poor - harassment by undertakers / troubles with young people on peace marches taking drugs and living promiscuously / Day's only daughter, Tamar, enrolling in a course in practical nursing to support 9 children «detailed view»
41. 1965/07/16 HLS[x] from Merton I was very glad indeed to get your letter. It came at a good time, I had just been reading «detailed view»
42. 1965/08/11 HLS to Merton Your letter and manuscripts came while Karl Stern was staying with us and he was so happy to get success of Pax weekend - Jim Douglass and Day to go to Rome to confront bishops directly - the good work of Douglass and Jim Forest / Tom Cornell's critically ill wife / Eileen Egan / Pax group getting new members who are older and more conservative «detailed view»
43. 1965/10/06 HLS[x] to Merton so good you wrote, but I am not connected in any way with Women Strike for Peace!!!! Write later [see "Forcellino, Claude" for original - notes from l'Arche community members - Chanterelle del Vasto, Dorothy Day, Claude Forcellino, Lise Caillon, Edith Maximoff, Mayse Chenevey, Louisette Caramelli, Marcella Bernadat, Nicole Uhl, Matilde Seghezzo, Christiane Pons, Lea Provo, Erika Mitterer, Marianne Platz] «detailed view»
44. 1965/11/11 (#01) HN[x] from Merton Just heard tragic death of Roger Laport [sic] am deeply shocked and concerned about current [handwritten note from verso of 1965/08/24 letter from Howard B. Gotlieb to be sent as telegram to Dorothy Day and Jim Forest] suicide (self-immolation) of Roger Laporte - does not represent to Merton the proper understanding of non-violence «detailed view»
45. 1965/11/11 (#02) telegram from Merton Just heard tragic death of Roger Laport [sic] am deeply shocked and concerned about current [typed version of handwritten note 1965/11/11[1] above] suicide (self-immolation) of Roger Laporte - does not represent to Merton the proper understanding of non-violence «detailed view»
46. 1965/11/15 HLS to Merton Excuse me for writing your name wrong on the envelope. We are so full of distractions these days. support for those burning draft cards / Roger Laporte had only been at Catholic Worker a few days - if other young people had known about his plans for suicide, they would have interceded - hoping others are not holding them responsible / accidental bombing of friendly villagers and Napalming of our troops in Vietnam «detailed view»
47. 1965/11/22 TL[c] from Merton This is just a note to thank you for your warm, wise letter. You are well experienced in this kind apology for "ill considered and immediate reaction to the sad news of Roger Laporte" - as hermit, not in touch with these issues / told by superiors not to write on peace movement - Merton feels not well enough informed - against card burning - his role as prayer - Jim Douglass and John Heidbrink see this as betrayal «detailed view»
48. 1965/12/02 TALS to Merton I hasten to write you thank you from my heart for your most reassuring letter and to tell you that I defense of stand supporting draft card burners / criticism of Fr. Daniel Berrigan - his writing has done much good, but because of his youth and inexperience, South American exile might do him well / Jim Douglass's recent speech in Pittsburgh / a woman formerly into drugs found Merton's books and is now on a good course «detailed view»
49. 1965/12/20 (#01) TL[c] from Merton Thanks for your very good letter. I reached what I thought would be a fair solution with the CPF: [annotated carbon copy sent either 1965/12/20 or 1965/12/29] agreed to remain sponsor for Catholic Peace Fellowship (CPF) with the understanding that he approved of ministry to conscientious objectors and did not condone every political statement / Dan Berrigan - paradox of good from obeying bad decisions by Superiors «detailed view»
50. 1965/12/20 (#02) other from Merton You might like this "saying" of St. Bridget of Kildare: it would make a nice insert to fill in «detailed view»
51. 1965/12/29 TL[c] from Merton Just a note to thank you for your very good and very encouraging card, and to reassure you about my describes how important reading The Catholic Worker has been for him / November issue made him understand more fully burning of draft cards - can understand the draft law itself but not the law against destroying the card / "If there were no Catholic Worker [...], I would never have joined the Catholic Church." «detailed view»
52. 1966/09/12 TLS[x] from Merton I have not sent you anything for the CW for quite a long time, and I have been meaning to. «detailed view»
53. 1966/10/28 HNS[x] from Merton Tom Cornell said you would be using the Camus article in the October CW. I have not seen this yet «detailed view»
54. 1967/01/29 TACS to Merton Do please forgive my long silence-- I do not remember if I ever thanked you for your wonderful [verso: St. Benedict woodcut and quote "That in All Things God May Be Glorified"] praise for Merton's Camus article and for Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander / Catholic Worker issue - criticism of Cardinal Spellman's stand in favor of the Vietnam War but the shared guilt of many Catholics «detailed view»
55. 1967/02/09 TLS[x] from Merton Thanks so much for your good note of Jan. 29th. I have read your piece in the latest CW on Cardinal «detailed view»
56. 1967/07/no? HLS to Merton This suffering soul asked me to forward this to you. She is an old friend, by letter, and has lived [undated but William Shannon places this letter July-August 1967 based on Merton's 1967/August/18 response] Pax meeting with Gordon Zahn / visit by Karl Stern / Romano Guardini's Last Things «detailed view»
57. 1967/08/18 TL[c] from Merton I have finally managed to write a brief letter in reply to Louise Gosho. I am sure she understands Merton's article on Auschwitz sent to Marty Corbin for Catholic Worker / Jim McMurry leaving the hermit's life - the trials of living as a hermit / seven day fast in Geneva «detailed view»
58. 1967/09/13 TALS to Merton Please excuse me for my delay in answering your most welcome letter. I read the article you sent on Merton's article on Auschwitz - Germans soon forget as do Americans / Day attending Lay Congress in Rome / visit by Jack English - one good of Cardinal Spellman is that he harbors priests in difficulty / problem with a widow her took in a violent drug addict «detailed view»
59. 1967/09/19 TL[c] from Merton I have written giving your name to Pasteur Jean Lasserre, of the IFOR, 42, Cours Fr Roosevelt, Lyon, more information about the Geneva ecumenical fast for peace in December from Pasteur Jean Lasserre from the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) - Lanza del Vasto / Merton's thought of going to Gethsemani's new foundation in Chile, a country without "the bomb" / death of Ad Reinhardt / Jack English «detailed view»
60. 1967/09/28 TL to Merton Thank you for your very prompt answer about the fast. I will be home before it begins, I see. the Little Brothers of Jesus "know how to do nothing" - brought peace in Detroit between young peace group and older Catholic Workers «detailed view»
61. 1967/12/20 HLS[x] from Merton A joyful and peaceful Christmas, with much love to all of you at CW. The cover of the December CW «detailed view»
62. 1968/07/25 TLS[x] from Merton Here is the address of Mark Lillis. It is quite touching that you have all those families «detailed view»
63. 1968/08/19 HCS to Merton We have just listened to your poems, set to music by Alexander Peloquin. There were four of your 8 [verso: "Mysticism and Ecumenism" by Robley Edward Whitson] Day's reaction to hearing performance of "Four Freedom Songs" of Merton's set to music by Alexander Peloquin - Martin Luther King's sister in the choir - "enough to break down the walls of Jericho" / Merton's article for the Pax group «detailed view»
64. 1981/11/09 TLS[x] from Shannon, William I enclose an original "Shannon" which you may auction off for the benefit of your drive! «detailed view»
65. 1983/04/22 TLS[x]  from Shannon, William / to Philip Runkel Dr. Daggy from the Merton Center in Louisville informed me that at a recent meeting he had talked [from William H. Shannon, editor of The Hidden Ground of Love to Philip M. Runkel, archivist at Marquette University] «detailed view»
66. 1983/04/26 TLS  from Runkel, Philip / to William Shannon Greetings from Marquette. In response to your letter of April 22, I regret to inform you that [list of the dates of Merton's letters to Day in the Marquette collection] «detailed view»
67. 1983/04/29 TLS[x]  from Shannon, William / to Philip Runkel I am most grateful for your prompt response to my letter. Would that all the people I have written «detailed view»
68. 1983/05/10 TLS  from Runkel, Philip / to William Shannon Greetings from the Archives. I am enclosing copies of the requested letters from Thomas Merton «detailed view»
69. 1983/05/18 TLS[x]  from Shannon, William / to Philip Runkel I was delighted to receive the Dorothy Day letters that you duplicated for me. They are splendid «detailed view»
70. 1983/06/16 HLS  from Mauk, Daniel / to William Shannon I trust that by now you've heard from Phil Runkel, our archivist at Marquette University, concerning [from Daniel Mauk of the Catholic Worker to William Shannon] «detailed view»
71. 1987/08/17 other   CORRESPONDENCE: THOMAS MERTON and DOROTHY DAY 8/17/87 [William Shannon's list of correspondence between Merton and Day] «detailed view»
72. 1988/06/28 TLS[x]  from Shannon, William / to Anne Klejment I just returned from Louisville and Gethsemani and a retreat in the woods - in 100 degree Kentucky [from William Shannon to Anne Klejment of the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota] «detailed view»

Printer-Friendly Version   Return to the Top of the Page