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Dorothy Day on the Renewal of the Church: “It is the saints…who keep things going.”

However, Dorothy Day’s realistic attitude to the clergy isn’t the main insight of the quote at the beginning. I think this is: “It is the saints that keep appearing all through history who keep things going.” Many of them are priests and bishops.

Something as old, as big, as complex as the Catholic Church, and with its history, is going always to be compromised. Its leadership will disappoint and sometimes scandalize us. Sociology and theology both tell us that. What Day saw was something sociology doesn’t explain: all those eruptions of holiness and heroism that suggest something Big is behind it, something that keeps it from being its natural self.

“Of course the church is corrupt!” Day wrote in her diaries. “‘But this corruption must put on incorruption,’ St. Paul says, so I rejoice as I have in my short lifetime seen renewals going on, or read of them, and the excitement, the joy of this sense of renewal. … I read the lives of the saints, and knew that the renewal they brought — over and over, the St. Benedicts, St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Isaac Jogues, etc., etc., etc. — was not just a thing of the past but was going on, over and over.”

—from the article Dorothy Day, Bishops, and the Church by David Mills

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