Love Is The Measure: A Biography of Dorothy Day by Jim Forest (Marshall Pickering, £6.95).
AUTHORS of lives of saints often feel it incumbent on them to contrast the dark side of evil in their subject with a brilliant flash of grace as the saint moved into the sphere of holiness.
Jim Forest is not an author of that kind. But then Dorothy has not yet officially been declared a saint, though enthusiasm for her canonisation is mounting.
Jim Forest is an excellent chronicler, avoiding over dramatising Dorothy's conversion to Catholicism, or her achievement in the Houses of ' Hospitality and Farm Communes. His cool description of the facts of her life from the start reveal the pattern of her sanctity from her earliest years.
An upbringing in a journalist's world (father and brothers) gave her the approach of the apostle, a world which was harshly materialistic veered her always to the left. At the same time Dorothy from time to time found her friends reminding her of prayer and of God and that became a sort of undercurrent in her life.
There was a period of passion which led to an abortion but eventually a serious relationship and a daughter (illegitimate) led Dorothy into the Catholic Church, for Dorothy saw the need for Baptism for the child and then for herself. There is no sudden transformation into a plaster saint. It is significant that Jim Forest chooses for the title of the whole of Dorothy's life Love Is The Measure.
There is a point of specialisation which emerges from the early days into full fruit. In these days when those who vow poverty have ceased to realise its meaning Dorothy discovered the meaning the hard way but she found it the way of life and of love. The San Franciscan had reduced her family to poverty and for a while she felt ashamed of being poor.
But she soon came to love the poor and poverty itself. It was St Francis as a way of life not just as an ideal. It may be that here lies the difference between "religious poverty" and poverty accepted with joy as a life.
Thus Jim Forest in an almost prosaic manner describes the life of this remarkable woman, and precisely because his treatment is prosaic he brings her to life according to reality. A good book tells us of a good person, may it produce many followers, for she led many into a fruitful desert.
Conrad Pepler OP