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Dorothy Day’s Granddaughters on Canonization

by Martha Hennessy

It is a privilege for my family to be asked to participate in the effort to forward the cause for canonization of Dorothy Day. I hope that our contributions can be understood, in the words of Peter Maurin as part of “the clarification of thought” and that our sentiments will not disqualify us from any further invitations to e involved in this process. (I say this with humor.)

We all have our own individual abilities and perceptions when coping with what God has put before us in our lives. We may be absorbed in our own careers and ambitions, attempting to further whatever causes catch our attention and hearts. This desire to declare Dorothy a saint runs deeper than simply knowing her, loving her, working with her, reading her words, or being part of her family. It is about what she has given us and how we in turn share and give to others. Whatever each of our callings may be; such as volunteer work, journalism, service in the Church, health care, or raising children, our jobs are to provide care of others, to share, and to learn. Our daily work is sacred, if the work reflects love and respect of each other.

What we must remember is Dorothy’s example of love and sacrifice. There is not one day that goes by without my feeling a sense of failure. Have I failed her, have I failed the world despite my very small efforts? Dorothy’s life has evoked intense emotion and anxiety in many of us who knew her. We are forced to ask ourselves, how do we respond to the injustices of the world? We must act with her consciousness as our guide. We were told that the two greatest sins were presumption and despair. Along with the sense of failure comes hope and determination.

Our current world situation represents the failure of a system that we are all a part of. Dorothy was driven to respond to this abuse of power. She found her strength and solace to carry on the Works of Mercy and social justice through her faith in Jesus and His love and suffering. She opposed all war making. This is the ideal that we must preserve about her and her life’s work. This is her essence and the inspiration she has given us.


by Kate Hennessy

I’ve never been strongly against Dorothy Day’s canonization. How can I when I frequently pray to her? And I have no doubts she is a saint, though I’m sure my definition of a saint is vague and not entirely Catholic. I am uncomfortable, as are many Catholic Workers and members of my family, with certain logistical aspects, for example, the amount of money the process requires (A minimum of $30,000). I also think, as many others do, that there is a real danger that the more radical elements of her life and beliefs (I hear her voice as I write declaiming “this dirty rotten system”:) will be airbrushed out in favor of a more “obedient daughter of the Church.”

Now, I have no doubt that she was an obedient daughter of the church, but her definitions of obedience and of the Church were wide and vibrant, and in many ways not the world of the Church hierarchy. But, when all is said and done, I firmly believe that the heart of who she is and what she taught us will prevail regardless of our own fears and shortfalls. So, in short, if there is an honest and true pull in people’s hearts to canonize her, I’m all for it.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVI, No. 2, 2006.