Vincentian View: A Glimpse of Dorothy Day

Fr. Patrick J. Griffin, C.M., Special to the Torch

Is there anyone whom you would really like to meet?

I mean, someone with whom you could sit together. Thus, not Jesus or Beethoven or Newton. Someone more like Paul McCartney or J. K. Rowling or Zoe Saldana.

I confess to having no great desire to be photographed with Pope Francis or Barack Obama or Barbara Streisand.

It just does not interest me. They are all good people, but being depicted beside them is not important to me. (Though, I would be happy to have a picture with Lou Carnesecca.)

No, the person whom I would like to have personally met in my lifetime is Dorothy Day. I would have been 28 when she died in 1980.At that point in my life, I still did not have enough sense to understand what kind of person she was.

Like me, she was born in Brooklyn. I could have met her along the streets of our city before she died in Manhattan.

This place was home to both of us. Go to Wikipedia and look at the picture of her at 19. Do I imagine the depth of her intelligence and soul in this photo?

I have read some of her writings. Her autobiography, “The Long Loneliness,” reveals something of her journey to becoming the holy woman that she was — though she would never describe herself in those words.

She co-founded the “Catholic Worker Movement” which connects direct service of the poor with non-violent intervention on their behalf.

Her essays in the newspaper of the movement reveal her love of justice coupled with and flowing from a deep faith.

Day heard the Gospel in a personal and profound way. Some years ago, there was a wonderful movie which told her story: “Entertaining Angels.” It is worth a look.

Day is one of those people who would have been close to the heart of Vincent de Paul.

Both she and he walked the streets of great cities with eyes wide open to the needs of those most marginalized. Both drew people together in compassionate service of these less fortunate ones.

Next week, we will welcome Kate Hennessy to campus. She is the granddaughter of Day and has just completed a story of her grandmother, “The World Will Be Saved By Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of Dorothy Day.”

I think that listening to a personal presentation of Dorothy from one who knew and loved her will be a special gift to our University community.

I am eager to hear her. I wish that I had already read the book and could bring that understanding and ardor to the conversation.

The joy of meeting Day face-to-face and speaking some few words with her is not to be mine on this side of the Kingdom of God.

Listening to one who has had that experience in an intimate and personal way will need to suffice.

Our University community will know that pleasure as we open our doors and ears to Hennessy on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 5 p.m in Marillac 232.