Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 29: Dorothy's "Day"

Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day has been on the blogs in honor of the anniversary of her death (the day that many hope will eventually be her "feast"). Not surprisingly, she has also lit up comment boxes. It somewhat misses the point, however, to cherry-pick statements from her many writings on political and social topics in order to enlist her as an ally, condemn her as an extremist, or commence upon a long episode of head-scratching.

Dorothy Day's holiness does not depend on her being correct in all her judgments. She was trying to articulate things from the perspective of a profound life, a life in which her real Catholic faith was immersed in circumstances and places where most of us would rather not go.

In these times, however, many are discovering the fact that living our faith seriously in contemporary Western society is very difficult. Now more than ever, Dorothy Day presents a provocative witness--a woman of heroic faith and burning charity who stood throughout her life as a sign of contradiction to the dominant mentality of our culture, in all its manifestations.

Dorothy Day with Mother Teresa
But what strikes me (and challenges me) in a compelling way is her radical awareness of Christ. Her daily work was simple: she lived with Christ, she fed Christ, she clothed Christ, she gave Christ a place to sleep. She built houses where Christ would be welcome. She did this for over forty years. She was drawn to the presence of Christ in the suffering of people. This was always the focus of her attention.

It would do all of us some good to practice a bit more those works of mercy that require us to get dirty and uncomfortable. But even here Dorothy Day does not want to be "dismissed so easily." Like her personal friend Blessed Teresa (who gave her the crucifix of the Missionaries of Charity when she visited the sisters in Calcutta), she knew that this is something we all have to do at home. We want to recognize Christ and love Him more in those broken and needy people we live with every day.

Here is what Dorothy Day has to say about life:

We face the situation that there is nothing we can do for people except to love them.
We continue in our fourteenth year of feeding our brother and clothing him and sheltering him and the more we do it the more we realize that the most important thing is to love.
There are several families with us, destitute families, destitute to an unbelievable extent and there, too, is nothing to do but to love. What I mean is that there is no chance of rehabilitation, no chance, so far as we see, of changing them; certainly no chance of adjusting them to this abominable world about them, and who wants them adjusted anyway.
There is nothing that we can do but love, and dear God–please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.
If one loves enough one is importunate, one repeats his love as he repeats his Hail Marys on his rosary.
What does the modern world know of love, with its divorces, with its light touching of the surface of love? It has never reached down into the depths, to the misery and pain and glory of love which endures to death and beyond it.
We have not yet begun to learn about love. Now is the time to begin, to start afresh, to use this divine weapon.