Dorothy Day, Archbishop Gomez and today’s challenges

I had the great privilege earlier this month of attending a conference on Dorothy Day at the University of St. Francis here in Fort Wayne, Indiana (see Pages 6-7 for the full story), and one of the many highlights of those three days was spending time once again with Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, an OSV author and, I believe I can say, friend.

Archbishop Gomez was kind enough to visit the offices of Our Sunday Visitor while he was in town, updating the staff on a recent meeting with Pope Francis (he’s very much looking forward to his trip to the United States in September), the state of the archdiocese of Los Angeles (5 million Catholics), and the growing rate of Hispanic and Asian Catholics in that part of the country.

All fascinating stuff.

But what has really stayed with me from Archbishop Gomez’s visit was the talk he gave to members of the Dorothy Day conference May 15, in which he illustrated how the example of Day in the 20th century can help Catholics as we face the challenges of today’s society.

“I think we all recognize that the America we live in today has grown radically de-Christianized and secularized,” Archbishop Gomez said. “More and more, our society functions as if God does not exist and as if religious faith and morality are irrelevant to the concerns of our life together. I think we understand that the direction of our secular society means that we are going to see more and more hostility toward Christian institutions and the expression of Christian beliefs in the years to come.”

One only has to keep up with the daily news to know that these observations, unfortunately, are already proving to be true. So, he asked, “how do we continue to live as Christians in a society that no longer has any room for Christ and for God?”

“This is a challenge that I personally face every day as a Church leader ... and it is a challenge that each one of you faces in your own lives,” Archbishop Gomez said. “This question goes to the heart of how we live, how we work, how we raise our families. In other words, it’s very serious. It’s real. What is at stake for us, for all of us, is the future of the Church’s mission.”

Thankfully his talk did not end there. Rather than focus on doom, gloom and dire predictions, the archbishop said we must do as Day suggested and “raise up a new generation of saints.” How? By helping everyone we encounter find a home in the Catholic Church the same way that Day did: through an “overpowering awareness of the reality of God’s love and mercy.”

Is that not what Pope Francis is calling us to do, almost on a daily basis?

We must be a Church of mission, Archbishop Gomez said, and “we need to feel the passion that Dorothy Day had for the Incarnation.”

Only then will we be able to combat the great challenges of our time, and only then will we be on a path to holiness.