Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story
Reviewed by Mark Reidy
Not long before her death in 1980, Notre Dame University in Indiana presented Dorothy Day with its Laetare Medal, thanking her for “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable”.
It is these two qualities that stand out in Entertaining Angels, a high quality and powerful biography of the life of a woman whose cause for canonisation is currently underway. Starring respected actors Moira Kelly and Martin Sheen, the movie successfully captures the passion which drove Day to found and establish the activist newspaper, the Catholic Worker, with an initial budget of 97 cents, while simultaneously turning her own New York apartment into a house of refuge and hospitality for the growing number of people battling the throes of the Great Depression.
Her struggle to tackle the immediate hardships of those in her midst, while trying to address the foundational injustices, are summarised in her words, “If you feed the poor you are a saint – if you ask why they are poor you are a Communist. We do both, but we are neither saint nor Communist”.
Day’s strong will and determination to overcome her own personal battle with the effects of abortion, heartbreak, her loneliness as a single mother and these accusations of Communism in the first half of the film, are followed by her struggle to marry her developing faith with her radical social values in the latter half.
Well acted and professionally produced, Day’s story is both inspirational and challenging as it confronts the universal struggle of being faithful to our call to trust in the providence of God while simultaneously keeping our feet planted within our earthly reality.
The film has encapsulated the life of this passionate, determined and, at times, stubborn woman as best as it could within two hours. While the movie tends to focus more on Day’s pursuit of social justice and care for the poor, it never separates these qualities from her faith, and will therefore strike a positive chord for those both within and outside the Catholic Church.
In his letter to initiate the canonisation of Dorothy Day just before his death in 2000, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York compared her to Saint Augustine of Hippo who lived a pre-converted life outside the parameters of Church teachings, but who later came to recognise and embrace them.
Entertaining Angels carries a powerful message for all – that we do not have to be perfect to be saintly.
Rated M (15 years or more)
Duration: 112 Minutes
Available from The Record bookshop.