There’s lots to say about Dorothy Day, whose cause for sainthood continues to advance, but one of the most pertinent for Catholics in New York is that she lived in our world.
While she’s not quite our contemporary—she died in 1980 at age 83—she’s a modern woman in every sense of the word and she’s one to whom we can relate.
A New Yorker based for most of her life in the archdiocese—mainly Manhattan, Staten Island and the northern counties—she co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement to serve the poor and fought for justice and peace in the world.
Many people still active in the Church and community knew her, and many more still follow the style of Catholic service, commitment, activism and prayer that she modeled during her life.
For the last six years, the guild championing her sainthood cause has delved deep into that life, interviewing people who knew and worked with her including her granddaughter, biographers and scholars, and reviewing her published and unpublished writings to prepare a lengthy report known as a canonical inquiry to determine if she lived a life of “heroic virtue.”
The archdiocese, as sponsor of the cause, will mark the completion of the inquiry at the monthly Young Adults Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral Dec. 8, with Cardinal Dolan celebrating and Ms. Day’s granddaughter, Martha Hennessy, as a lector.
Then the report will be sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Saints for consideration, along with numerous boxes of source materials and other relevant items, including a CD called “Time With Measure” by the Philadelphia-area band The Chairman Dances, which has performed for guests at Maryhouse, the Catholic Worker center in Manhattan.
The album includes a song in honor of Ms. Day and her Catholic Worker co-founder Peter Maurin written by Eric Krewson, 35, who heads the band and has said he was inspired by Dorothy Day’s life.
That’s the kind of positive inspiration that saints are meant to provide, and we hope that those who attend the Young Adults Mass will learn something about her and be inspired as well.
In her time, Ms. Day frequently stepped out of the mainstream to take on causes that were not always popular, and was arrested several times for anti-war and anti-nuclear protests.
A talented journalist who grew up in an era of limited opportunity for women, she forged her own path with her work setting up Catholic Worker shelters and soup kitchens in the Great Depression, leading to a network of “houses of hospitality” as they’re known, in rundown areas around the world.
And through it all, she maintained her commitment to the Catholic Church, the Gospel and a life of prayer.
If the canonical inquiry is accepted by the Congregation for the Saints and Pope Francis, who extolled her virtues before Congress during his 2015 visit to the United States, Dorothy Day will be elevated from “Servant of God” to “Venerable,” and become eligible for beatification and ultimately canonization.
We hope and pray that day will come soon.
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