Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Inconvenience of Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day and the work of Georges Rouault. Copies of his work are hung around Mary House.

The story of Day's cause for canonization has been picking up steam since the NY Times published a piece about it yesterday.

As I work out my thoughts surrounding the tone of the conversation on this issue, one thing is abundantly clear--something is missing. The problem is, I'm not exactly sure what that thing is. There's a quote of Day's that's been floating around the blogosphere about her not wanting to be saint, and it seems that some have been using that as a weapon of sorts against the Bishops taking up her cause. I'm no expert on Dorothy Day, but I suspect that the quote might be the victim of misuse.

Day may not have always seen eye to eye with the clergy, but she was always faithful, even referring to Francis Cardinal George as "our dear, sweet cardinal, who is the vicar of Christ in New York City." Flannery O'Connor, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, referred to him as "Frank the Spell Man."

Everything Day did was for Christ. Everything she did brought her to Him. Christ uses everything, including abortions (Day had one prior to being received in the Church), to bring us closer to Him. This alone is a completely radical thought, gesture. It defies political labels such as "left" or "right." To reduce Day to an icon of the "left" or "right" is to not understand her at all. Day is a saint for our times, not because she is a bridge for both sides to meet on, but because she was always oriented toward the Infinite, that is, the Incarnational God, whom she saw in both the princes of the Church and the pauper of the streets. People like that stir an uncomfortable feeling deep in the breast. How can I love the clergy, who have hurt me, and love the poor who have not? I have to hold those two loves in tension and fight off every attempt to reconcile them so that I may sit more comfortably. Everything does not need to be resolved. Not everything needs to fit into a nice and neat package. I can only look to Day as a reminder that this tension is the kind of sword Christ talks about; that He does not come to bring the type of peace sought after in resolution. He brings the peace that can only come in the search for truth.

To be Catholic at all is neither left, right, nor comfortable. It is to be whole