Gina Christian

Kneeling for a quick prayer after a recent Mass, I heard someone pause at my pew and looked up to see a fellow parishioner.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” she said. “But Dorothy passed away this past week, and I was wondering if you might write an article about her.”

Holding back tears, the woman explained how her deceased friend had lived out the Catholic faith over more than nine decades. 

A member of Little Flower High School’s first graduating class, Dorothy married and, unable to have children herself, showered her niece and nephew with affection. 

Devoted to the Eucharist, she wept with joy when asked by the pastor to serve as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion. As soon as our parish opened a perpetual adoration chapel, she visited every Saturday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., the hour of Divine Mercy.

Her love for Mary was no less profound. Dorothy made two pilgrimages to the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal, and prayed the rosary every day. She was a regular at the Miraculous Medal Shrine’s novena each Monday, bringing many friends along for the ride.

Dorothy also logged quite a few miles shuttling others to church, doctors’ offices and grocery stores, while finding the time to volunteer with what is now Caring for Friends. And she had still room left in heart for her beloved pets and her cherished garden.

Somehow, though, steadfast spirituality and selfless service don’t tend to make the editorial cut in the world’s newsroom, especially these days. Crisis, scandal, conspiracy and violence all take up too much bandwidth and screen time; as the old journalism adage insists, “if it bleeds, it leads” — even among religious media outlets, which now chronicle increasingly fractured faith communities.

Perhaps the pandemic will help correct some of that imbalance; perhaps it already has in some small measure. We’ve grown accustomed to hailing frontline heroes on a regular basis, and the dreadful scourge of COVID has, as Pope Francis reflected, shown that “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked.”

Most of these individuals, he said, “do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days (they) are surely shaping the decisive events of our history.”

They are for us a reflection of St. Joseph, who himself was what Polish writer Jan Dobraczyński called “the shadow of the Father,” and what Pope Francis described as “a daily, discreet and hidden presence” that makes visible to us the Lord’s steady and sure love.

We have all known Josephs, and we have all met Dorothys — those souls who quietly, powerfully build the kingdom of God on earth by laying countless bricks of simple, ordinary holiness: a prayer said, a Mass offered, a kind word, a hot meal, a listening ear and heart. 

And although no news feature may ever include their names, or even the briefest mention of their witness, indeed, said Pope Francis, for them “a word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”

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Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, host of the Inside CatholicPhilly.com podcast and author of the forthcoming book “Stations of the Cross for Sexual Abuse Survivors.” Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.