Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dorothy's day

Eighty-four years ago today, on a cold winter's morning in Tottenville, Staten Island, Dorothy Day was received into the Catholic Church.

I developed a devotion to Servant of God Dorothy Day, whose cause for canonization, while reading her autobiography The Long Loneliness. Learning about her spiritual journey, particularly how she came to accept God's mercy after confessing her abortion, led me to feature her in a chapter of my upcoming book for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. I discuss how, in her initial reluctance to believe that God had truly forgiven her, she experienced feelings analogous to those of victims whose childhood abuse causes them to doubt the depth of the Father's love for them.

Over time, as she drew nearer to the Lord through weekly confession and daily Mass, Dorothy grew to comprehend the sheer gratuity of divine love and mercy. More than that, like her beloved patron St. Therese of Lisieux, she sought to share that Eucharistic love with others, as in this excerpt of her conversion memoir, From Union Square to Rome:

"[It] is hard to understand the love of God for us. We pray daily to increase in the love of God because we know that if we love a person very much, all things become easy to us and delightful. We want, rather unreasonably, sensible feelings of love. St. Teresa [of Avila] says that the only way we can measure the love we have for God, is the love we have for our fellows. So by working for our fellows we come to love them. That you understand, for you believe that you are working for them when you give hours every morning to the distribution of literature, climbing tenement-house stairs, knocking at doors, suffering rebuffs, enduring heat and cold, weariness and hardships to bring to them what you consider a gospel which will set them free.

"And if you and I love our faulty fellow-human beings, how much more must God love us all? If we as human parents, can forgive our children any neglect, any crime, and work and pray patiently to make them better, how much more does God love us?

"You may say perhaps: 'How do we know He does, if there is a He!' And I can only answer that we know it because He is here present with us today in the Blessed Sacrament on the altar, that He never has left us, and that by daily going to Him for the gift of Himself as daily bread, I am convinced of that love. I have the Faith that feeding at that table has nourished my soul so that there is life in it, and a lively realization that there is such a thing as the love of Christ for us.

"It took me a long time as a convert to realize the presence of Christ as Man in the Sacrament. He is the same Jesus Who walked on earth, Who slept in the boat as the tempest arose, Who hungered in the desert, Who prayed in the garden, Who conversed with the woman by the well, Who rested at the house of Martha and Mary, Who wandered through the cornfields, picking the ears of corn to eat.

"Jesus is there as Man. He is there, Flesh and Blood, Soul and Divinity. He is our leader Who is always with us. Do you wonder that Catholics are exultant in this knowledge, that their Leader is with them? 'I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.'"