Dorothy Day teaches us about the human person, archbishop says
Dorothy Day in 1934.
Dorothy Day in 1934.

.- In light of the modern crisis of misunderstanding the human person, American social activist Dorothy Day is a model for viewing humanity correctly, says Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles.

After her conversion to the Catholic faith, the 20th century advocate for the poor went on “to lead a transfigured life, in the image of Jesus Christ,” the archbishop wrote in an Aug. 9 column for “The Tidings.”

“She became 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. She criticized, like a prophet, America’s failures to live up to its high ideals.”

Baptized in the Episcopal Church, Day lived her early years as a journalist as she toyed with communist ideas, attempted suicide and had an abortion.

After a profound conversion, she co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement and started soup kitchens, farm communities and a Catholic newspaper. Spending much of her time in New York, she dedicated her life to aiding and advocating for the poor, leading a life characterized by voluntary poverty, works of mercy and Scripture.

At their annual conference in Nov. 2012, the U.S. bishops heartily approved the advancement of her cause for canonization.

In his recent column, Archbishop Gomez said that Day's understanding of the human person was rooted in a realization that each person is created by God.

He quoted her saying that “a most wonderful sense of the glory of being a child of God swept over me. So joyous a sense of my own importance that I have reflected on it since. I would pray that (you) have it, and grow in it. This sense of (our) importance as … sons of God, divinized by his coming.”

Archbishop Gomez wrote that “these beautiful words give us a place to begin thinking about the foundations of Christian 'anthropology,' by which I mean of our vision of the human person.”

The archbishop's column was based on a talk given at the Napa Institute Conference earlier in the month. He said that the push for same-sex marriage and the acceptance of homosexual acts and transgenderism are based on a “basic confusion.”

“ We have no idea anymore in our society of what 'human nature' is or what it means to be a human person. And this is rooted in our loss of the sense of God in our society.”

He then pointed to Dorothy Day, whose cause for canonization is open. Her understanding of herself as a person created by God in his image, is the understanding that has been lost in Western culture, the loss of which has lead to the 'culture wars' we are now in.

Because Day saw herself as a child created by God, she realized that “the human life has a God-given make-up – we are created as unity of body and soul, and who we are is crucially related to our sexuality, to whether we are made male or female.”

Western society has “almost totally rejected” this understanding of the human person, Archbishop Gomez wrote, leading to an “extreme individualism” where “people believe they have the ability to 'create' and 're-create' themselves … especially in the areas of their sexuality.”

By not seeing human life as a 'given', created as a “gift from God,” post-modern culture has regarded it as “a kind of 'raw material' which they can modify and re-fashion according to their own desires and their own sense of meaning and purposes.”

The forgetfulness that humanity is created by God is rooted in a forgetfulness that God even exists, wrote the archbishop. “When we forget our Creator, we forget what creation means.”

“We lose the sense of our own meaning as his creatures. That’s what’s happening in our society. If God is not our Father, then we are not brothers and sisters and we have no responsibility for one another.”

Without an acknowledgement of God, Western culture, formerly Christian, has slid toward relativism, which includes a “disintegration” of the idea of the human person.

In the face of this, Archbishop Gomez has begun to see “that the new evangelization must include … a new proclamation of our beautiful Catholic vision for the human person.”

“The men and women of our times need to hear … they are the glory of God, created and destined for the vision of God. They need to know that they are God’s image and that everyone they meet is God’s image, too.”

The new evangelization must teach people that persons have reason, and meaning to their lives, and that no one's life is “trivial.”

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

Because every human person is created by God as a person, a being with reason and will, they have a nature and a purpose, and that, Archbishop Gomez wrote, must be shared in the new evangelization.

The God-given purpose of human life, he reflected is “holiness,” and “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.”

“I’m convinced that this truth about the sacred image and destiny of the human person is a key to the new evangelization,” concluded Archbishop Gomez.

“We need to make this truth the substance of our preaching, our religious education, our work for justice.”

Tags: Social Justice, Dorothy Day, Human Person

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