Dorothy Day: Several Hours Later

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Finished the Dorothy Day Book. And while it is insufficient to understand the intimate details of Ms. Day's spiritual life, there were elements of it that were both laudable and lamentable. Perhaps it is merely the presentation, but much of Ms. Day's activism strikes me as principle first, Christ second. Now, this is probably a result of just a striking blow at biography, so please don't let my words persuade you--they don't even persuade me.

But there is much that I like in what Ms. Day has to say. Most famously she is quoted as saying "Don't call me a saint, I don't want to be dismissed that easily." And I think that the statement is often taken out of context and misunderstood. If I read Ms. Day aright (and again, on this brief acquaintance, it's highly likely I do not) those who use this quote as an argument against canonization are dead wrong.

Ms. Day was not saying that sainthood was not a good thing or that to become a saint was not a desirable goal. It strike me that her statement is simply that once you've been labeled a saint your works are extraordinary and beyond the ability of any normal human being. It gives everyone an excuse not to try. This, it seems to me, is what Ms. Day is arguing against.

Finally, a wonderful quote, among many good things in the book:

Thank God for retroactive prayer! St Paul said that he did not judge himself, nor must we judge ourselves. We can turn to our Lord Jesus Christ, who has already repaired the greatest evil that ever happened or could ever happen, and trust that He will make up for our falls, for our neglects, for our failures in love.
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I have not read Koenig-Bricker's biography so I can't comment on that per se.

I think it is indeed the case that "principle first, Christ second" may be true of certain members of the Catholic Worker movement itself, which is open to all and not necessarily Catholic. Perhaps this may come across in the author's selections from Day's writings as well

Actually, I was curious if you had read Day's own autobiography, "The Long Loneliness"? If not, I think you may receive a different impression. While she did adhere to some guiding principles in her work -- pacifism and nonviolence, for instance, or solidarity with the poor -- her own biography really conveyed to me the message that her convictions were grounded in her faith in Christ.

Thanks for the review, and Merry Christmas!



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 22, 2003 5:01 PM.

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