Dorothy Day’s cause for canonization is being put forward by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the city where she lived and worked the later part of her life. Dorothy Day always left me a bit flummoxed. Her life was such a mix of great good, confused allegiance, and horrifying evil. She grew up in a world renowned for its confusion and she was herself a reflection of someone moving from chaos into a more ordered world with more ordered thinking. Early in life she had a series of relationships, attempted suicide, and aborted her first child; not the marks of a a future saint. But then – few saints knew what was coming. Dorothy later embraced Catholicism and offered her life serving the poor and the disenfranchised. She did a great many heroic things, things most of us would not choose to do; stand against war, identify with the poor, begin a newspaper called The Catholic Worker. But as popular, and unpopular, as some of her actions were she did live her vocation, attempting to do God’s will in her life – to the fullest. One thing that can be said for Dorothy, she was no coward.
When I think of Dorothy Day, I also think of other women’s voices. I think of Flannery O’Conner (author of several short stories who also spoke and wrote about being a Catholic writer) and Sigrid Undset (author of Kristin Lavransdatter-Nobel prize winner and a Catholic convert.) both Catholic women authors who had a lot to say about the world and humanity in general. They too offer different paths in their approach to God but they did approach and that is the amazing thing.
There are other examples of famous Catholic women who were brave and saintly but these three stand out in my mind not because they were the best – but perhaps – because they were not the best. They stand out because they overcame so much and tried to see through such incredibly murky depths. The fact that Dorothy Day is being considered for the cause of sainthood – coming as she did from so troubled a past into so heroic a future – says a great deal about the power of God. After all…people have been committing sin for an awfully long time. It seems in our day and age that it is somehow politically incorrect to admit that, but it is true. Abortion – slaughter of the innocent – is a crime. Yet from such terrible reality as killing one’s own unborn baby, a woman can be reborn. Eve came to be redeemed not only by Christ but by another woman – Mary – the one who said yes to her unborn baby and lived that yes in every heartbeat of every day. What God can do with a willing heart!
I do not know the state of Dorothy Day’s soul. I hope she is in the arms of Christ. I hope a lot of people are in the arms of Christ. I don’t get to make those decisions. Rather, I get to look at their lives through the lens of time, be amazed that they ever approached God…and try to do so as well.