Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"The Duty of Delight"


Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the Catholic Worker movement, kept personal diaries throughout her life. She left explicit instructions that her journals not be published or shared with the public until 25 years after her death. Day died in 1980. And now Marquette University Press has published her diaries. Edited by Robert Ellsberg, one of Day's followers from late in her life, the collection of personal reflections is titled The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day.

Fascinating reading that provides an unique look into the life and soul of Dorothy Day, activist and pilgrim.

Here's an excerpt from Ellsberg's Introduction to the collection:

If Dorothy Day is one day formally canonized, this diary will offer something quite unusual in the annals of the saints--an opportunity to follow, almost day by day, in the footsteps of a holy person. Through these writings we can trace the movements of her spirit and her quest for God. We can see her praying for wisdom and courage in meeting the challenges of her day. But we also join her as she watches television, devours mystery novels, goes to the movies, plays with her grandchildren, and listens to the opera.

Many people tend to think of saints as otherworldly heroes, close to God but not exactly human. These diaries confirm Thomas Merton's observation that sanctity is a matter of being more fully human: "This implies a greater capacity for concern, for suffering, for understanding, for sympathy, and also for humor, for joy, for appreciation for the good and beautiful things of life."

To be human is constantly to fall short of the ideals one sets for oneself. Dorothy Day was no exception. There are frequent reminders in these pages of her capacity for impatience, anger, judgment, and self-righteousness. We are reminded of these things because she herself points them out. ("Thinking gloomily of the sins and shortcomings of others," she writes, "it suddenly came to me to remember my own offenses, just as heinous as those of others. If I concern myself with my own sins and lament them, if I remember my own failures and lapses, I will not be resentful of others. This was most cheering and lifted the load of gloom from my mind. It makes one unhappy to judge people and happy to love them.") And so we are reminded too that holiness is not a state of perfection, but a faithful striving that lasts a lifetime. It is expressed primarily in small ways, day after day, through the practice of forgiveness, patience, self-sacrifice, and compassion.

This will be a good and inspiring read, I can tell already.
[Order a copy of The Duty of Delight by clicking on the Amazon.com thumbnail to the right and below. Your purchase will benefit Central Dallas Ministries!]

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Quite a remarkable woman.

Gretchen said...

This sounds terrific. I just finished Dorothy Day's biography of St. Therese and am eager to read more -- I just ordered a copy. Thanks for the wonderful suggestion.