Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day
No matter how we dumbly try to categorize everything as conservative or liberal, Dorothy Day confounds such efforts. Running in circles with anti-religious radicals, she attended daily Mass. She faced down racist police while praying the rosary. She edited a newspaper that promoted both the low-wage worker and the liturgical calendar.

Nov. 8 marks 124 years since Day’s birth.

No one so effectively sustained a traditional faith within the rising progressive movement. But Day neither ran for office nor endorsed candidates. Her campaign came in the form of sticking to Gospel principles, even if it meant scorn and jail. She wore second-hand clothes, traveled by bus and worked the farm like everyone else.

Whatever our politics, we can find something to emulate in her.

Once, Day was speaking with a person who was homeless. A starstruck journalist walked up, hoping for a moment with the famous activist. Not only did Day continue her leisurely conversation, but when finally done asked the reporter, “Which one of us would you like to interview?”

Pope Francis listed Day among the most distinguished of American Catholics, and the Vatican is considering her cause for sainthood. Day herself bristled when someone called her a saint; she knew her faults and furthermore felt the designation might blunt some of her sharper stands. She feared that saints get admired more than imitated.

But we advocate for Day’s sainthood cause, in part because we know saints are not goody two-shoes and in part because sainthood will draw her thinking from the margins of church life into its heart.

We in Oregon already stand on her shoulders. Blanchet House in Portland, the venerable ministry among people who are homeless, was inspired by her, as was Blanchet Farm. Smaller Catholic Worker houses have existed in Oregon for more than 50 years, now including one in Eugene and one in Portland. Generations of Catholics have looked to Day as a modern example of giving away all we have and following Jesus.