Floating, not drowning: Learning about love from Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day died 32 years ago today. She died in New York City (I had to look that up). It was cold (I didn’t have to look that up).

The reason I know it was cold is because my father has told me so, repeatedly. It was a cold late November Saturday at the beginning of what would be a frigid winter in the northeast. The reason we talk about this particular day is that it was also the day I was born.

If her cause for sainthood ever ends in canonization, her feast day will be on my birthday, finally replacing St Saturninus, an early Roman martyr whose memorial was removed  during the “clean-up” of the liturgical calendar during the middle of the last century. I’ve been saint-less on my birthday my whole life, always wishing I could have held out a little longer and been born on the Feast of St Andrew.

Someone asked me jokingly yesterday if I was concerned about the bandwagon effect of Dorothy Day’s canonization efforts. Would I feel like a fan does when their favorite obscure band makes the big time? Would I insist on starting every conversation about her with “I liked her before it was cool?”

Probably, but I’m not alone. Many of the most heroic people I know count Dorothy Day as one of their heroes. They love her eloquence, her diligence, her insistence on seeing people as individuals with dignity. They love her conversion – not just her acceptance of Catholicism, but the reorientation of her life that led her to continue to love and serve the poor in a more radical way.

To stand on the side of life we must give up our own lives. Her conviction was so intense that it is almost daunting. I will never be like her. But I’m not called to. I’m called to be like me.

We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other.
This is the sacrifice, the way we give up our lives of self-centeredness and certainty. We move ourselves toward love and plunge into the marvelous mystery of other people, diving into others. Immersion in love means we lose control, it means we can be hurt, it means we serve not just ourselves any more but an unknown force that can lead us into unfamiliar waters.

Today, every day, that’s the deep end I’m swimming toward. I think that’s where most of my heroes lived their lives: finding the place where drowning becomes floating, and where that which surrounds us becomes that which supports us.

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2 Responses to Floating, not drowning: Learning about love from Dorothy Day

  1. Rae says:

    This is fabulous. I hope that you are enjoying a wonderful birthday, and that this year is better–if not easier–than the last!

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