Monday, September 28, 2015

‘Blessed’ Day within five years?


Dorothy Day with Bl. Mother Teresa in 1979.  (c) Bill Barrett.
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When Pope Francis cited Dorothy Day in his address last week before the U.S. Congress—only one of two American Catholics named by the pontiff (alongside the non-Catholic giants Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.)—it naturally triggered speculation that Day’s beatification cause might soon pick up steam.  Sources familiar with the cause expect that the papal acknowledgement will accelerate Day’s beatification, though it may not occur earlier than the next two years.  In short, Francis’ shout-out may serve a similar function for Day’s cause as his “unblocking” Oscar Romero’s cause in April 2013 did for the Salvadoran martyr (Archbishop Romero who, like Day, died in 1980, was beatified last May).
Papal support is one of the decisive factors that sets apart fast-moving sainthood causes.  It was one of the five factors identified in a 2011 piece by Vaticanista John Allen that has informed my analysis in the Romero case.  Consider the fact that when Pope Francis discussed Romero in August 2014, his remarks were cited in the opening lines of the introduction to the «Positio Super Martyrio»—the final argument submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to call for Romero’s beatification.  In the case of Dorothy Day, her postulators will be able to cite two popes—in addition to Pope Francis, Pope Benedict also cited her in his second to last General Audience before leaving the papacy in February 2013.
Despite being kindred spirits in the trenches of Catholic social justice issues, Dorothy Day never met or talked to Oscar Romero.  Robert Ellsberg, an adherent of the Catholic Worker movement who worked with Day in the 1970s and is now publisher of Orbis Books, told Super Martyrio: “Dorothy never had any direct interaction with Romero, though a number of Catholic Workers attended the Puebla Conference and heard Romero preach in San Salvador.  So she was certainly aware of him.”
Day’s notes from the period confirm Ellsberg’s account.  She recorded: “Marj Humphrey and Jane Sammon sent me this card from Puebla Mexico: ‘Dearest Dorothy, CELAM [the Latin American Bishops’ Conference] is drawing to a close ... Archbishop Romero from El Salvador spoke last night – what a beautiful man, so committed to the poor. A reporter, who said he was an atheist, went up and hugged Archbishop Romero and thanked him for what he has done for the poor and oppressed in El Salvador’.”
Imagine you are writing the introduction to the «Positio super Virtutibus» (the final brief for a candidate like Day who is not a martyr).  First, you cite Benedict XVI, who said that Day experienced a conversion that recalled “important conversions such as that of St Paul on the road to Damascus, or of St Augustine.”  By putting aside her youthful attraction to Marxism to follow Christ, Day demonstrated “the ability to oppose the ideological enticements of her time in order to choose the search for truth and to open herself to the discovery of faith,” said Benedict.  He concluded: “God guided her to a conscious adherence to the Church, in a life dedicated to the underprivileged.”  Then you cite Francis: “Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.”  In short, you can let the popes make your argument.
The cause for Dorothy Day began the decade after her death, when the late Cardinal John O’Connor began to promote her sainthood.  He enlisted Monsignor Gregory A. Mustaciuolo as the Postulator.  On March 10, 2000, the Archdiocese of New York received the «nihil obstat», a decree clearing the way for the cause to go ahead.  Unfortunately, Cardinal O’Connor became ill and died, causing the first significant delay in the cause.  On, June 7, 2005, the Dorothy Day Guild was formed under O’Connor’s successor, Cardinal Edward Egan, as a way to promote the figure and the cause.  In a way, this was the first acknowledgment that there was resistance or misunderstandings around Day.  By November 2012, O’Connor’s and Egan’s successor, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, was able to obtain an endorsement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for the cause.  By the following February, Benedict cited her in his General Audience as noted above.  In October of last year, the New York Archdiocese hired Jeff Korgen as coordinator of the diocesan investigation—a solid indication that the cause was deemed prime for substantive action.
The diocesan process in Dorothy Day’s cause is set to begin interviewing witnesses this Fall, after which the cause and a «Summarium» of arguments and evidence will be transferred to Rome for processing, and the «Positio» may be submitted to the congregation for saints in about two years.  The promoters of Day’s cause may want to heed the advice that Francis had for Romero’s team in his August 2014 remarks: “right now the postulators have to move forward because there are no obstacles.”
I would be very surprised if we did not have Blessed Dorothy Day within five years.

Commentary on other causes and saints:

Ven. Abp. Fulton Sheen
Fr. Rutilio Grande
Bl. Abp. Clemens August von Galen
The Cristero Martyrs

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