Posts Tagged ‘Dorothy Day’

Jesus, His Church and “the uns”

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Tomorrow, January 23, is the first feast day for the newly canonized Saint Marianne Cope. I wrote this reflection while I was in Molokai last week.

“The uns . . .”

George Higgins — the legendary “labor priest” from Chicago was, if I recall correctly, the first person I ever heard use that expression, yet he attributed it to the future — God willing — saint, Dorothy Day.

I borrowed it in my brief concluding remarks and prayer at last October’s Al Smith Dinner, as I praised God for the Church’s lookout for the uns — the un-documented, un-employed, un-housed, un-fed, un-healthy, un-born, un-wanted, misunderstood, un-justly treated — and prayed that our beloved country might work for a culture where that dreaded prefix — un — might be no longer.

It was, of course, Jesus who embraced the uns, namely, us, the unsaved!

And He had a particularly tender spot in His most Sacred Heart for those suffering folks that society called “the un-clean,” the dreaded lepers!

This posting was written in Molokai, in the Hawaiian Islands.  The thoughtful shepherd there, Bishop Larry Silva, kindly invited me to the local celebration of Saint Marianne Cope, newly canonized, who came here 125 years ago, from New York State, as Mother Marianne, to care for these “un-clean” on Molokai.  (Her feast day is tomorrow, January 23.)

Here she joined the legendary Saint Damien of Molokai at his “colony” on a secluded, segregated corner of the island, in embracing those with Hansen’s Disease.  She did it, Saint Marianne wrote, because Jesus did it, and because Saint Francis, the patron of her religious congregation, did it.

She and her sisters not only ministered to these dreaded misunderstood uns; they identified with them. Saint Damien did so to such an extent that he became a leper, literally.  It was Mother Marianne who nursed him as he died, who made him the sling for his ulcerated, decaying arm that we see in his final photographs.

Jesus and His Church are always on the side of the uns.

About five years ago, I travelled to India to visit our Catholic Relief Services workers.  There we had lunch with a radiant group of sisters, all Indian, and their 200 or so students, all girls from about six to twelve.  The girls lived there and went to school.  But our CRS guide told us the sisters were in deep trouble.  Some of them had already been arrested, even put in jail.  Why?

“Because these little girls are Delats, what the culture here used to call “un-touchables.”  The powerful people here are threatened that, once these girls are educated, they will no longer stay around for positions of servitude.  One of the women from the established families even asked, ‘If these girls are educated, who will bring us our tea?’  Thus, the sisters are considered disruptive and threatening.”

Jesus and His Church are always on the side of the uns.

Three years ago, the bishop of the United States went-to-bat for the uns, the unborn baby and the undocumented immigrant, who were left uncovered in legislation bishops had promoted for nine decades, the Affordable Health Care Act.

Next week every parish in the archdiocese will have its second annual food drive for the unfed of our communities, and over four thousand of our people, mostly young, will March for Life for the unborn this Friday in D.C.

One of the nicest compliments we bishops of New York ever got, in my four years here, anyway, came from Governor Andrew Cuomo when we met with him in Albany in March, 2011.

We had spoken to him of the concerns of the Catholic community of the state.  When we had said our piece, the governor commented.

 “Bishops, most of the time, people come to see me about an agenda to advance their own interests.  For the last twenty minutes, I’ve heard you speak on behalf of people who can really not help you much — the prisoners, the sick, the homeless, the unborn, the elderly, the immigrant.  I might disagree with you on a number of issues, but I’m proud of my Church for speaking-up on behalf of those most people don’t . . .

 “For as long as you did it for the uns, you did it for me . . . “

Renewing Our Faith by Old Habits

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Here I am in Rome all month for the Synod on the New Evangelization.  I miss all of you already – - but my next bowl of Spaghetti alla Carbonara will snap me out of it.

How do we renew, restore, repair, re-energize our faith in the Person, message, and invitation of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

That’s the challenge posed by the New Evangelization.

To renew, restore, repair, and re-energize our faith, individually, and communally, as the Church . . .

. . . and then to be agents of the New Evangelization to others.

One of the most prominent and influential converts to Catholicism in the history of the Catholic community in the United States was Dorothy Day.

I’m reading her excellent biography by Jim Forest, All is Grace.

Dorothy herself relates a number of features that drew her to Jesus and His Church.

One especially powerful one was when she shared a meager room with two other young women, struggling, like her, to make it, down in Greenwich Village.

These two roommates were Catholic. Simple Catholics, but sincere.  And Dorothy at the time was a socialist, probably an agnostic, living a rather hedonistic life.

And Dorothy watched the two other girls.  She admired them.  What moved her?  What inspired her?

One, they went to Mass every Sunday morning (their only morning to sleep-in, by the way);

Two, they prayed silently every night before bed;

Three, they were deeply in love with two men, and had set their wedding date, but they wanted “to wait” until marriage something they admitted was tough to do.  That virtue impressed Dorothy;

Four, they were from poor, struggling families, and thus had a heart for others in need.

Not bad: Sunday Mass; daily prayer; virtue, even when it’s tough; and a humble charity.

Their example evangelized a future saint, Dorothy Day.

Maybe the “New Evangelization” requires the recovery of some old stuff!