In just about any article or bio of Dorothy Day, one of the first quotes you’ll come across that is ascribed to her is, “Don’t call me a saint; I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.” One the heels of news that the USCCB has enthusiastically endorsed her cause Father James Martin, S.J. talks to Robert Ellsberg (who edited her wonderful diaries for The Duty of Delight) about that remark, what it means, and in what context Dorothy might have made it:
Dorothy’s own relationship with saints was anything but cynical. Both her daily speech and her writings were filled with references to St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Teresa of Avila. She treasured their stories. For Dorothy these were not idealized super-humans, but her constant companions and daily guides in the imitation of Christ. She relished the human details of their struggles to be faithful, realizing full well that in their own time they were often regarded as eccentrics or dangerous troublemakers.
But she didn’t just study their life and writings. She also firmly believed in their role as heavenly patrons. Whenever funds or provisions ran low she would “petition” St. Joseph. She would pray to St. Therese for patience and understanding. She would pray to St. Francis to increase her spirit of poverty. For many years, the Catholic Worker was largely illustrated by woodcuts by Ade Bethune depicting the saints in everyday dress, performing the works of mercy. She devoted many years of her life writing a life of St. Therese of Lisieux. I have no doubt she would have delighted in the news that St. Therese was named a Doctor of the Church. It is unthinkable that she would have responded by saying, “That means basically that Therese is not to be taken seriously!”
Read it all here.
Interestingly, as the news broke yesterday, on and hit Twitter, Brandon Vogt wondered whether Dorothy might eventually become the Patron Saint of Post-Abortive women or women considering abortion. Or, he considered, the bridge between the Marys of contemplation and the Martha’s of active apostolate. I can see either or both. But I personally think Dorothy could be a powerful bridge between the sad, unnecessary and increasingly destructive chasm that has opened between “life” and “social justice” Catholics. We need a patron standing over that needless divide, and Day was as coherent on the dangers of too much government intervention dooming people to poverty as she was on the absolutely responsibility we each have to look out for one-another. She was of-a-piece, through and through, cohesive on “life” and “social justice.” The full package, and always, in her own words,”an obedient daughter of the church.”
Speaking of Saints, Frank Weathers goes all manly on us today!