Imagine a woman--a journalist, a feminist and a socialist--who has been drawn all her life to Catholicism. She thinks the Traditional Latin Mass is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen. She watches Catholics of all ages praying in their silent candlelit churches and loves them. She would be Catholic, too, if it didn't mean having to give up her zeal for social justice and her anti-marriage live-in lover, the father of her child.
But then she discovers that the Catholic Church is on the side of social justice. In fact, the Catholic Church has a pile of documents on the subject. Although Catholics seem to loathe communism, they love the poor. In fact, quite often they ARE the poor.
The woman has her baby baptised. And then, sadly, because she knows this means she must say good-bye to the man she loves but will never marry her, she leaves him and becomes a Roman Catholic. She becomes, in fact, Dorothy Day.
I love Dorothy Day. I think she was a latter day female St. Francis of Assisi. And there is something in Day for everyone to love. When it came to God, she demanded everything for God. When it came to the poor and to peace, she demanded everything for the poor and for peace.
Conservative or liberal? She simply could not be shoved into boxes. She protested the behaviour of a Cardinal Archbishop of New York towards diocesan workers, but she wouldn't allow her co-workers to insult him as he was, and I quote, "the Vicar of Christ in New York."
She was the editor of The Catholic Worker and with Peter Maurin, to whom I frankly think she always gave too much credit, she founded the Catholic Worker movement. And at the same time, she loved the Eucharist so much that when a trendy priest said Mass at the Catholic Worker using a coffee cup, Day buried the coffee cup in the back yard so that it could never be used for a mundane, profane purpose.
She was a radical, a complete peacenik, a marcher in the streets, and yet she lived a life of complete chastity after her conversion, refusing even to see her daughter's father, as she feared this would be an occasion for sin.
Dorothy Day was a modern woman with a checkered sexual past before she converted to Catholicism and brought her personal life in line with her zeal for social justice. Like many saints, she was appalled by the idea that she might be "made" into a saint, and certainly her not-quite-so-loyal-to-the-magisterium Catholic Worker friends and followers made no move until recently to set a canonisation process in motion. (To be fair, it is expensive and Day herself would have kittens that money that could have gone on the poor is being spent on that.) But I think she is a saint. For decades she dressed only in the horrible cast-offs sent to the Catholic Worker for the poor, and this thought alone always makes me want to cry.
Dorothy Day is a marvellous model for any single woman, I think, but particularly for any single mother, divorced Catholic woman, or even just a woman who is unhappy about her sexual past. Today is the 30th anniversary of her death, which I am relatively sure is her birthday into heaven, and I think the best way to celebrate is to encourage all my dear readers to read about her adventurous and eventually holy life.