Whew! I escaped by the skin of my teeth! Have you ever been "blessed" with a conversation about "God", "Truth", and "Church"? Have you been "blessed" with the certainty that a spot has been especially reserved for you in an "eternal hot tub" -- without the water? Whew, again!
Bless "facebook"! There are groups galore and incredibly interesting people... and then, low and behold, a "true believer" shows up and starts posting his stuff... at first there is the temptation to engage: I admit I gave in! There were a couple of posts about Dorothy Day... this and that about her possible canonization as "saint"... I added my penny in the mix: I believed her statement that she didn't want to be declared a saint: because she "didn't want to be dismissed so easily"... no direct comment upon her consistent Catholic faith and practice: after working in a Soup Kitchen for thirty years (named after her), I knew that intimate struggle with enduring in the struggle of faith, hope, and love in the midst of endless suffering. "The Bible, the Psalms, the Rosary, and good, strong, coffee" were each and all the daily practice of Dorothy: as she peeled potatoes, guided intentional communities, served the street homeless, and went to jail for peace, civil rights, and for the farm workers... but to stop and say that she was a "saint" is almost to miss the point of her life!
Dorothy, like Thomas Merton (her good Trappist friend) and Phil and Dan Berrigan (her good revolutionary priest friends), loved the richness of a sacramental life -- rooted in the street, in the worker, in the peasant, in the addict and alcoholic, in the hardship of paying rent and putting food on the table, in the un-ease of comfort in the midst of raging dis-comfort, in all the struggles of classism, racism, sexism, and every injustice, environmental degradation, and the ultimate, brutal, folly of endless war and preparation for war: where else can holiness go except down on one's knees? From soup kitchen to shelter to jail to church -- to the Greyhound bus going anywhere: a chance to talk about war and peace: another chance to picket (this time with Cesar Chavez and farm workers): a chance to meet some college students pondering their fate, future, and faith... No, Dorothy was no saint: she is too big and too great for such a mean, little, definition!
Mean? Yeah, I said mean! Mean because folks want to use her to try and recover folks they've lost in their pews... "maybe she could be a connecting link": never mind that she lived a "harsh and dreadful love" (in the words of Dostoevsky). You should see how she is being suddenly embraced by the "good, conservative Catholics" who so admire her steadfast faith now (and forget how they used to call her a Communist)... she is suddenly a stunning example of the "call to holiness" for the laity (while forgetting her reference to the church as a collection of fish in a net: with not a few blowfish). Dorothy was never "easy": there is a story of her peeling potatoes in the New York Catholic Worker House with another volunteer, when a guest barged into the kitchen, cursing up a storm, getting the volunteer in a head-lock, all the while berating him... all the while Dorothy just kept peeling potatoes... finally, the enraged guest left... the terrified and humiliated volunteer angrily challenged Dorothy with "Why didn't you do something?" ... to which Dorothy calmly replied, "I did. I was praying for you." The volunteer scratched his head, wiped his brow, realized he was actually unhurt, and went back to work... Do you see? She was down-right mean -- and holy. A saint would have started hurling potatoes at the crazy guest!
Actually, the intention of this post was to focus a bit more on the good, conservative Catholics who are embracing Dorothy so dearly... and the Westboro Baptist Church, and the Taliban: they are, to me, all disgustingly similar: they all possess the truth! For them, the ends always justify the means (whereas for both Dorothy and Gandhi, "as the means so the ends"). For them, everyone who does not agree with their theological opinions and justifications is "worthy" of eternal damnation (all in the name of Love, of course). For them, and this is the core of the matter: every person is contingent and relative to truth: only submission to "truth" validates a human life: until then, every life has value only insofar as it may accept "truth" and submit to it. Delving deeper: Dorothy (and Gandhi... and King... and all the true lumineers, like Yeshua) believed (and lived) that every person (by the very fact of personhood / existence) is of absolute worth, and absolutely worthy of the very best (love, justice, service, respect, kindness, equality as a few examples) every moment of their life: which must never be harmed by any act of violence or injustice. This personalist manifesto was the real creed by which Dorothy lived her life. It is by her adherence to this creed that Dorothy is a saint. Likewise, it is this creed that will liberate all of us from the hate, violence, oppression, and intolerance, of all the "righteous" -- and perhaps save this precious blue Planet, besides...
Oh, and I did resign from that particular "facebook" page... it's all too easy for Westboro baptists to say "God hates fags"... it's all too easy for someone to call Matthew Fox a heretic... it's all too easy to question Hawkings "absolute atheism"... folks really need to spend at least an hour with me and Rumi... and maybe a glass of wine... life is meant to be beautiful and we are meant to be practicing beauty...
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.