“Our country’s most radical witness to Christ’s love for the poor”: Gomez on Dorothy Day, personhood

In The Tidings Online this week, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles offers an important and sometimes beautiful reflection on what it means to be a human person and what he calls our current “crisis of anthropology.” Prominent in the Archbishop’s comments is Dorothy Day, whom he calls “our country’s most radical witness to Christ’s love for the poor and his call for us to be instruments of his peace and justice.”

Not everyone will agree with everything Archbishop Gomez has to say here. I doubt, for example, that it’s fair or wise to characterize “feminism” in general as a “distorted understanding of human nature.” (In some ways, after all, it has helped us correct a distorted understanding of human nature in ways that even the most “conservative” among us would recognize.) But even if you doubt some of his assumptions, this piece is still worth your time. A few snippets:

As a way to begin talking about some of these issues, I want to recall the American Servant of God Dorothy Day.

My brother bishops and I are promoting her “cause” to be canonized as an American saint. And I found it providential that, earlier this year, our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI chose to talk about Dorothy Day in his final public audience before retiring as Pope. It is fascinating to reflect that he chose this lay woman from 20th-century America as the last example of holiness that he wanted to propose to our Church.

Dorothy Day’s is one of the great conversion stories of modern times. Her life tells a kind of spiritual diary of the 20th century.

***

But the loss of God has even more personal implications for our sense of life’s “meaning.” When we lose our sense of God, we lose the “thread” that holds our lives together. We lose the answers to the questions that help us make sense of the world: What kind of person should I be? Why should I be good? What should I believe in? What should I be living for — and why?

Many of the elites in our culture today would argue that there are no true answers to these questions — just different opinions, beliefs and preferences.

But we know that’s not true. We know people need those answers. Without those answers we don’t know anymore what makes a human being human.

***

Our task in this moment is to restore this appreciation of the sacred image of the human person. We need to bring this truth into our homes and neighborhoods and churches.

We need to proclaim to our society what both the Old and New Testaments affirm — that each human person comes from the loving thought of God. That we are all made for holiness. That we are made to live as God’s image in the world.

So we need to help our neighbors to see that all our lives are not our project but God’s project. We are God’s works of art. Each one of us. By his grace and by his Law, God wants to make each of us more like him, day by day.

In our Christian tradition, our lives have a beautiful teleology, a beautiful and purposeful direction. Jesus Christ shows us “who we are.” He shows us that we are children of God, born of the love of the Father. We are born to love and to be loved. And we do that by loving as Jesus loved.

The full text is here.

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