Now, she may become a saint.
This week, Dorothy Day’s cause for sainthood got a ringing endorsement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Day—the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement and certainly a beloved figure for many Catholics today—nonetheless may seem an unlikely candidate for sainthood. Early in her life she had an abortion and she once attempted suicide. She opposed World War II, dodged a bullet while advocating integration in the South, and was arrested several times for her social activism.
But it’s precisely her background that made Day such a compelling candidate for sainthood, the bishops said.
Day would come to later deeply regret her abortion and ultimately converted to Catholicism as a result of her second pregnancy. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has called her journey “Augustinian,” according to the Catholic News Agency, saying that “she was the first to admit it: sexual immorality, there was a religious search, there was a pregnancy out of wedlock, and an abortion. Like Saul on the way to Damascus, she was radically changed,” making her “a saint for our time.”
“Of all the people we need to reach out to, all the people that are hard to get at, the street people, the ones who are on drugs, the ones who have had abortions, she was one of them,” added Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, according to the CNA report. “What a tremendous opportunity to say to them you can not only be brought back into society, you can not only be brought back into the church, you can be a saint.”
Day had a Franciscan, counter-cultural attitude towards war and poverty—something that can inspire all Catholics today, the bishops suggested, even if they can’t go to the lengths that she did in her advocacy of her views.
“[The Church needs] pacifists as witness to the kingdom of heaven not being carried away by violence, even as we recognize there are just wars because governments must defend their citizens,” said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.
Day was “a living, breathing, colorful, lovable, embracing, warm woman who exemplifies what’s best in Catholic life,” Dolan concluded.