Many thanks to Robert Ellsberg for his scholarship and recent reflection, Five Years With Dorothy Day (11/21). This remarkable woman, arguably the greatest American Catholic of the 20th century, I include in religious education classes at our Catholic secondary college.
A visit to New York this year afforded me the opportunity to seek out her grave. It took several phone calls to the Catholic Worker to find out the precise location of her resting place. On a sunny Sunday April afternoon, my wife and I drove to Staten Island to pray at the seaside cemetery. Having visited Lincoln’s grave in Springfield, Ill., reflected before the pool-surrounded tomb of Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta and often guided family and friends through Arlington Cemetery, I eagerly anticipated the visit to Dorothy’s resting place. Americans brilliantly celebrate in symbol and stone famous people and important events, but memorial was a real surprise.
Upon entering the cemetery grounds we began our search. The Catholic brochure did not mention this famous figure. The attendant at the information center, though initially unsure of the location, finally guided us to her resting place on the side of the road. Her plaque was not different from the hundreds of other plain marble blocks resting on the grass with a simple name and two dates. I was reminded of the difference between the ostentatious Roman tombs of some popes and the elegantly simple resting places of others.
Given her commitment to the poor, the humble plaque is somewhat fitting; but for those who want to visit and pray, could there at least be a sign? It is intriguing that the Catholic community of New York does not seem to celebrate her memory in this place. If I taught in New York, I would take Catholic classes to her grave on pilgrimage.
As my 12th-year students scrutinize her life, I hope some are empowered by her unrivaled story. The works of mercy echo a Gospel call: Care for the sick, help the poor, enlighten and rebuke. I especially appreciate the last maxim, knowing her fearless denunciation of priests, politicians and presidents. We are emboldened by the spirit of great people, and their resting places elicit prayer and encourage Christian action.
George V. Coyne, S.J., would like me to believe in evolution (Signs of the Times, 8/29). O.K., where’s his proof? It was not in the brief report. I well recall the late John Paul II calling it more than a hypothesis without further elucidation. Well, popes make mistakes. One pope banned the Jesuits. Two popes later, they were reinstated. (Today, some would say the first decision was the correct one!). Has Father Coyne found the missing link? Nah. Yet kids in the local Jesuit high school are being brainwashed that evolution is, of all things, fact. Father Coyne may believe he is descended from the apes. I don’t.
Gerald T. Griffin
The excellent article Religious Liberty, by John A. Coleman, S.J., (11/28) on Vatican II provoked local discussion about the great contributions of our own archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Elmer Ritter, at that assembly.
Cardinal Ritter was the first American to speak on human liberty, as he had been the first to speak on the initial issue, the schema on revelation. He had urged its rejection as useless...out-of-date...ambiguous...clouded in pessimism and a negative spirit. It was.
In the second session of the council on Nov. 18, 1963, Cardinal Ritter insisted that a declaration on human liberty should proceed from solid theological principles: the absolute freedom of the act of faith, the inviolability of the human conscience and the incompetence of any civil government to interpret the Gospel of Christ, with consequent independence of the church from a civil authority in accomplishing its mission.
Cardinal Ritter favored ecumenism to end counter-Reformation polemics. He called strongly for national conferences of bishops with juridical power. He supported the collegiality of bishops and priests. He noted that the Roman Curia had no autonomous existence, but was merely a body delegated by the pope.
Keep the discussion of Vatican II going.
William Barnaby Faherty, S.J.
Saint Louis, Mo.
I very much enjoyed your three recent articles (11/21), occasioned by the 25th anniversary of the death of Dorothy Day, on her person and her work through the Catholic Worker Movement.
Catherine Doherty, a friend of Day years ago, died 20 years ago on Dec. 14. The bishop of Pembroke, Ontario, will celebrate Mass in her memory. She was the foundress of the Madonna House Apostolate and one of the great spiritual writers of the 20th century. May I suggest some similar coverage or articles in America on the Baroness, as she was affectionately nicknamed? There is a Web page dedicated to her at www.catherinedoherty.org, and the postulator for her cause is the Rev. Robert Wild of Madonna House, Combermere, Ont., Canada. Catherine and Dorothy were kindred souls in their love for the poor, simplicity, deep prayer and interracial justice.
Raphael Bonanno, O.F.M.
To Peter Duffy’s review of John L. Allen Jr.’s Opus Dei (11/21) I would like to add two impressions I had after reading the book: that members appear to receive everything theological and spiritual from other membersthere was no mention of outside speakers or influences; and what they receive comes in a mold familiar to those of us who grew up in pre-Vatican II times, and tailored to the needs of the individual consumer.
(Rev.) Joseph Walsh
San Francisco, Calif.
Bread of Life
Congratulations on your editorial Budget Cuts and the Poor (11/28). I wonder if any of our bishops will deny the Eucharist to the members of Congress who support the House bill.
Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
We apologize for publishing an advertisement in a recent issue that was offensive to readers and to ourselves as well, once it was pointed out to us by several subscribers. The item offered for sale was intended by the advertiser, as he acknowledged in correspondence with a concerned reader, to be an assault on Catholic faith and devotion. Unhappily, the offending elements passed undetected through our advance review process. We regret this and will continue to do our best to detect such trickery by potential advertisers in the future.