Today is the last match-up of the Saintly Sixteen; tomorrow begins the assonantly and quaintly named “Elate Eight.” I covered the meaning of “assonance” several posts ago. I applaud the Lent Madness Supreme Executive Committee for broadening my vocabulary’s horizons with “elate.” I shall try to use it in a sentence some day, but don’t hold your breath. Friday’s match-up led to a victory lap on the Underground Railroad for Harriet Tubman as she left Martha of Bethany in the dust. For anyone who follows that other Madness event — University of Miami continues to advance. I don’t remember UM’s being a basketball powerhouse before, but we Miamians are enjoying this run. But back to the madness at hand…
Today pits fifth/sixth century monastic — nay, not just any monastic but pretty much the father of monasticism as we know it today — against the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. Benedict of Nursia vs Dorothy Day. Both have left a legacy of prayer in action. For Benedict it was the balance of prayer, work, and recreation all being offered up to God and for Day it was work done in community for the benefit of others. For both hospitality was a huge theme. Benedict’s famous quote ““Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ…” sums up his understanding of hospitality. For Day, as historian Walter G. Moss wrote: “By 2011, according to the Catholic Worker website, ‘213 Catholic Worker communities remain committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken.'” Yes, I lifted both quotes directly from today’s Lent Madness post.
Obviously as we move closer to the Elate Eight round (and I shudder to think of the tough choices ahead in that round and beyond!) the choices have become very difficult. As worthy as they both are (and a case can be made that Day could trace her theological lineage directly back to Benedict) I am going with Dorothy Day today. Ironically I voted for Benedict in the round of 32 and against Day (I was trying to boost the lesser-known first African-American bishop, the Rt. Rev’d Edward Thomas Demby). I note a trend in my own voting (which in this round at least has pretty much mirrored the general LM voting) of going with the more modern saint over the older one. I didn’t set out to do this intentionally, it just seems to have happened. Reflecting on this I realize I must be favoring the more modern saints because they seem so much more approachable, available. Knowing that someone who was alive in my lifetime, or at least within the last hundred years, lifts up a mirror and reminds me that, no, saints are not distant, dusty people from centuries ago, they continue to walk and work among us today. And what am I doing to follow their example…?
I also choose Dorothy Day for another reason. Her life bears testimony to the very things I’m hearing from the new pope: a heart for the poor, a passion for justice, the need to live simply in a time when we are destroying God’s creation in ways that may not be reversible at this point. I know Lent Madness is meant in good fun (and wider knowledge about some great people) and will certainly not (but who knows?…) influence the wider doings in the world, but I would love to see the Roman Catholic Church move forward in the effort to beatify Dorothy Day (take note, RCC: she is already in the Episcopal calendar of Holy Women, Holy Men!). Her beatification would continue to set the tone that Pope Francis has clearly already staked out in just his first week. Certainly I wish he were in a different place about the role of women in the church, full rights for the LGBT community, reproductive rights, and, at the very least, allowing parish priest to marry (a right which was rather gradually eroded over away over several centuries, but certainly hastened along by Pope Gregory VII who in 1074 said: “priests must first escape from the clutches of their wives” and by Pope Urban II who, in 1095, had priests’ wives sold into slavery, and their children were abandoned). But hey, now that he’s pope these things could change. Remember how Oscar Romero had a huge conversion experience after he became Archbishop (and remember where it got him…)? I am greatly impressed, though, with Pope Francis’ very clear stance on justice, the huge and growing gap between the rich and poor in this world, and the environment. And I also love that he is a Jesuit! I keep him in my prayers as so many billions do; may he be a beacon of light to our world.
Can’t vote for Pope Francis today, but you can vote for either Benedict of Nursia or Dorothy Day by going here.