Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Passionate Roots, Relations, Religion in Dorothy Day

All the way to heaven.

That phrase is actually the title of Oribs Books editor-in-chief Robert Ellsberg's latest tome about one passionate saint.

All the way to heaven is a book of love letters of the famed Catholic Worker Movement, and newspaper by the same name, that Dorothy Day founded in her lifespan between 1897 and 1980 when she died at the age of eighty-three.

One would think she would have been canonized long before others who are in front of the line now to be recognized for their holiness by the Vatican in Rome, Italy, by Pope Benedict XVI.

Although this Pope has slowed down the production of saints, unlike his predecessor, who seemed to canonize one a month, this latest book of Ellsberg will have head turners tossing and turning at the humanity and realism of Dorothy Day.

Ellsberg has written a larger tome, titled, All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time.

From Therese of Lisieux to Mother Teresa behind the late Pope John Paul II, who will ascend May 1st in Rome, from Moses to Gandhi, Dorothy Day is included in Ellberg's litany of saints in his earlier volume.

Day asked penetrating questions on earth.

"Whatever I had read as a child about the saints had thrilled me. I could see the nobility of
giving one's life for the sick, the maimed, the leper...But there was another question in my mind.
Why was so much done in remedying the evil instead of avoiding it in the first place?...Where were the saints to try to change the social order, not just to minister to the slaves, but to do away with slavery?"

Day was recognized as the most influential, interesting, and significant figure in the history of American Catholicity.

This challenging figure ranked with the rest of the faithful as a pilgrim on the way.

She was, in fact, called a Communist, given her strict observance of the teachings of Jesus on love of God and neighbor.

Her blend of prayer, holiness and politics for change unsettled leaders everywhere, particularly, men who led her Church, and, were often silent in the face of injustice.

She was not a bishop who speaks out against injustice like the revered Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, or the late Ken Untener, a bishop of Saginaw, MI., who said the Church was acting like a dysfunctional family when it refused to talk about sex at national meetings of the hierarchs.

With no official position in the Church, and, with most of her ideas universally rejected thorugh her eight decades of life in New York, she now teaches us something about the passion of her long love relationship with Forster Batterham.

Day shared a home with him and has a baby girl, Tamar.

And, she wasn't born a Catholic, but rather converted to the Catholic faith as she cherished her politics but added orthodoxy as well.

Batterham loved Day, however, he wouldn't marry her, this new collection of her letters, All the Way to Heaven, notes.

Her brand was one of political holiness, not quiet acceptance of the status quo.

She stood up when others sat, like the late Father William Cunningham who co-founded a national feeding program for the poor in Detroit, with Eleanor Josaitis, who still pricks the conscience of Detroit.

They prayed and acted. Or, mixed action with contemplation, to get the results they did in feeding the hungry and raising the dignity of humans who were being shredded in the mill of
greed and capitalism at its extreme.

"When they call you saint," she often said, "it means basically that you are not to be taken seriously."

"Neither revolutions nor faith is won without suffering. For me Chrit was not t be bought for thirty pieces of silver but with my heart's blood. We buy not cheap in this market."

She was baptized an Episcopalian.

When she became pregnant, a mysterious conversion happend, Ellsberg writes.

She decided to have her baby baptized a Catholic in 1927.

The consequence of this was the end of her common-law marriage.

Batterhan had little use for marriage.

Her life aimed at the poor:

"...They are Jesus, and what you do for them you do to Him," she said.

She unites closer with readers and the world in her love letters edited by Ellsberg.

The letters link the reader with the sociable yet lion-like lady who could be ferocious in her feeling for the disadvantaged poor.

Day inspired Cesar Chavez, Eunice Shriver, and Thomas Merton, among others.

Day was determined in her day in the face of obstacles.

A freelance writer, Day lived in a Saten Island shack, where she fished and cared for Tamar.

All along the way, hoever, she lavished long on her companion who grew estranged.

She was, is the saint of the single, and the unwed mother, perhaps too.

So ordinary, yet, so extraordinary a pilgrim.


She was that, and more.

No comments:

Post a Comment