Although she died in 1980, Dorothy Day made the front page of The New York Times yesterday. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbiship of the New York Diocese, has been talking about this divorced mother, journalist and social activist.
How did a woman with a “bohemian” youth, including an abortion, who rejected religion find her way to God? And possibly sainthood?
“She completely trusted God’s love for her and did not wallow in guilt over the mistakes of the past”. (Stephen J. Krupa, S.J., America Magazine) Her path to God is one of joy and love, chronicled in her autobiography, From Union Square to Rome.
The birth of her daughter, Tamar Teresa, catapulted Day into God’s arms.
“Day could think of nothing better to do with the gratitude that overwhelmed her than arrange Tamar’s baptism in the Catholic Church. “I did not want my child to flounder as I had often floundered. I wanted to believe, and I wanted my child to believe, and if belonging to a Church would give her so inestimable a grace as faith in God, and the companionable love of the Saints, then the thing to do was to have her baptized a Catholic.”
(from A Biography of Dorothy Day, by Jim Forest)
Day was already committed to causes of social justice, labor rights, and poverty. This experience offered her another path into God. Day so identified with the poor that she co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement, and voluntarily spent her life in poverty, operating ‘houses of hospitality’ for the needy.
“The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love.” (Dorothy Day)
A post-election political angle was picked up by the NY Times. Day is of interest to both poverty-motivated (left-wing) and right-to-life driven (right-wing) Catholics. Cardinal Dolan calls her a “saint for our time”, and a woman whose journey inspires.
For us, her faith journey is very well documented, and an inspiration to those of us, who, like her, live in a modern world. Her faith was the basis for her life, and her life is a testament to God.
“Your love for God is only as great as the love you have for the person you love the least.”
Whether she ends up titled ‘Saint’, or not, Dorothy Day is a model of strength and justice, especially in this Year of Faith. Most of us will never make the front page for our spiritual journey or charitable efforts. No need to. Our job is to keep God on the front page of our lives.