God's ways are not our ways

by Dorothy Day

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The following entries are from the diaries of Dorothy Day (1878-1980), the founder with Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933.

Feb. March 15, 1940

Bertha says I am gruff and indifferent to people (she means when I come off the platform or am meeting a mass of them at a time.) She rightly points out we are trying to change people’s attitudes, to create understanding, to combat class war. So I must learn to be more cordial to people and overcome that immense sense of weariness and even impatience when people, quite sincerely, tell me how they enjoy my books, how interested they are in my work. Miss Jordan told me I look at people as tho they were going to steal 5 minutes of my time! It makes me unhappy to give such an impression, I feel as tho I had failed people again and again, not only on trips, but at Mott St. I must do better, guard myself rigidly, control my fatigue, not mention it. But oh, it is so hard, I’ll just have to work every day at it.

These hours on trains or bus are so precious -- to be alone for a short while, it is a complete relaxation, a joy. I am a weak and faulty vessel to be freighted with so valuable a message as cargo. I am an unprofitable servant and must begin over again right now to change myself. God help me.

Maryfarm, Aug 27, 1940

Cold and steady rain since Sunday. Temperature lowest in 70 years. I am sitting down in the cabin with Tamar, and we are wearing wool dresses and have an oil stove lit. Outside it is windless but every now and then it starts drizzling again. If this weather keeps up it will be terrible. Tamar and I are snug enough down in the little cabin and there is privacy and peace down there.

It always makes me feel selfish but I must confess my weakness that I cannot do without. Always when I come down to the farm there are so many problems, so much unrest which seems to center around me since everyone wishes me to settle something, that I need some time alone for prayer and reading so that I can attain some proper perspective and peace of spirit to deal with myself and others. I need to overcome a sense of my own impotence, my own failure, and an impatience at others that goes with it. I must remember not to judge myself, as St. Paul says. Such a sense of defeat comes from expecting too much of one’s self, also from a sense of pride. More and more I realize how good God is to me to send me discouragements, failures, antagonisms.

The only way to proceed is to remember that God’s ways are not our ways. To bear our own burdens, do our own work as best we can, and not fret because we cannot do more or do another’s work. To be in that state of mind is to get nothing done.

Feb 1944

One of the troubles with the rigorous retreat we make each year is that it sets the retreatants to criticizing everyone, including themselves of course ... What I must do is cultivate a joyful silence and not criticize others for criticizing; to confess my sins in confession and not to explain or justify myself. Let others accuse, criticize as they will, I must maintain a cheerful silence.

I feel sick? I must keep silent.
I am sad? I must keep silent.
I have had bad news? I must keep silent.

[These diary entries come from The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg (Marquette University Press). The selections were made by Robert Ellsberg.]

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