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 pf her life. Dorthy 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 though she was always a woman who thought for herself.
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 came to live for the cause of the poor and the disenfranchised. She did a great many heroic things, things most of us would not dare 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 His 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 Catholic woman who did amazing things. I think of Flannery O’Conner (author of many 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 amazing 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. I guess, for me, 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 as much to me about the power of God as about a woman’s redemption. After all…women 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 innocents - in today’s world is as much as anyone’s a woman’s crime. Yet from such terrible depravity 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 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. Thank God. I get to look at their lives in the clarity of time, be amazed that they ever approached God…and try to do so as well.