'Saint' Dorothy

To be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church requires not only a reputation for exceptional sanctity in the saint’s lifetime but miracles after death that can be attributed to the saint’s intercession. In the case of Dorothy Day, I can think of at least one miracle of sorts: that the bishop who took the lead in proposing the addition of Dorothy’s name to the calendar of saints was a man who had devoted much of his life to the military. Before being appointed to head the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal O’Connor had been chief of Navy chaplains, retiring as a rear admiral. Yet here he was, a man who had worn a military uniform for 27 years, proposing that an oft-jailed woman who had opposed war and inspired many to become conscientious objectors should be seen as model of Christian life.

"But why does the church canonize saints?" O’Connor asked from the pulpit of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. "In part, so that their person, their works, their lives will become that much better known, and that they will encourage others to follow in their footsteps. And, of course, that the church may say formally and officially, ‘This is sanctity, this is the road to eternal life....’"

It’s now seven years since the canonization process was launched. Dorothy has since been recognized by the Vatican as "Servant of God Dorothy Day." We may live to see the day when she will be remembered as St. Dorothy of New York - or perhaps St. Dorothy of the Open Door. After all, her name will be forever linked with hospitality. Since she started the first Catholic Worker house of hospitality in 1933, hundreds of others have been founded.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2005
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