Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dorothy Day & Following the Christ

(photo from Milwaukee Journal)
Recently, I read a blog post that asked the question if Catholics would be able to accept Dorothy Day as a saint, knowing that she had an abortion. This caused me to remember when I was first introduced to Day and the Catholic Worker. 

As I recall, it was in the book, New York in the Fifties, by Dan Wakefield. This is an excellent read, with Wakefield recreating this powerful era in his life, a time which included the Beats, and writers like James Baldwin.

In my thinking this was probably the ebbing point, or the zenith of Western civilization. After this moment everything became derivative or dribble, mere protestations toward the absurdity of life.

Wakefield well understood this, even as he was living through it (which is no small feat), and searched for meaning beyond his considerable writing talent. He searches for soul, his soul, and finds it in the Bowery with Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker.

When I first became directly involved in community ministry I had to search for models, people who had aligned themselves with the Christ and with the megalopolis ("the mega city in decline." Mumford).  Day and a few others helped me. Politics aside, her contrary unwillingness to quit her calling, even in the face of overwhelming odds, inspired me then and inspires me now. 

Is Dorothy Day a saint? Who knows? But to me she is what it means to actually follow the Christ in our flesh and blood.
 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."