I fail people daily

The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, ed. Robert Ellsberg (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2008; abridged paperback: New York: Doubleday, 2011).

August 8, 1952
I fail people daily, God help me, when they come to me for aid and sympathy. There are too many of them, whichever way I turn. Mike K. again tonight. It is not that I can do anything. I must always disappoint them and arouse their bitterness, especially when it is material things they want. But I deny them the Christ in me when I do not show them tenderness, love. God forgive me, and make up to them for it.

August 1952
Dear God -- I’ll try as an exercise, to write my meditations since I am sidetracked in your presence. I find myself saying over and over with my lips -- Oh God, O Lord, make haste to help me. O Lord Jesus, have mercy, with every breath I draw. But how much of it is surface, and how much is deep? You know. Only You. Fr. Buckley told us how important it was to direct our intention (a Roman Catholic expression which becomes a cliché). But what I am sure he meant was for us to be very direct, and say to You, I believe You are a personal God, and hear me when I speak, even my trivial petty speech. So I will tell You personally over and over I love You, I adore You, I worship you. Make me mean it in my life. Make me show it by my choices. Make me show it from my waking thought to my sleeping...

I am quite content, tho it makes me feel low at times, to see so many failures in our work. A humiliation too, for us all, to see one outside the Sacraments, without their help, do the things we should be doing, what we write about...

Dear God, forgive me, my failures, my lack of prayer. I have not begun to learn how. You will have to teach me, draw me, and I will run after the odor of Thy garments...

I do not want to be presumptuous. I did not want so many children, but You sent them. So you must care for them. My very weakness, I will try not to worry so much about. I accept my backaches, headaches, torment of mind as penance for my sins.

Help me to be patient...

When I say, Lord, that I am too sensitive, it is truly that -- my senses, exterior and interior are too thin-skinned. I am tormented by people’s moods, their unhappiness. I must live more in my own heart, with Thee. Then when I go forth I have at least serenity. I believe, Dear God. I hope, I love. Teach me.

September 9, 1954
Little Flower begged God to let her always see reality. Things as they really were, so her love would be true and real.

Bad angels can attack us thru our imagination. But they cannot reach our will -- our intellect.

June 13, 1958
Opportunities to grow in spiritual life -- parakeet screaming while symphony is on radio. Mice; coughing; fragments of food; cockroaches; chatter.

December 16, 1958
Yesterday morning woke with the most certain understanding that all in this life is surely a preparation for the next, a practice, a study, to pass our exams. Also a sense of the real work of that hour of prayer. That feat of endurance, that hour in the desert, that hour of suffering that the Little Sisters make that our Lord can transform so easily into joy.

[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. The paperback edition will be available in October.]

SIGN UP NOW to receive an e-email alert each week directing you to NCR's Spiritual Reflections column. Throughout 2011, we are offering reflections from a variety of voices.

Want to know more about the Catholic Worker Movement? This Web site is a good place to start.

Visit Marquette University Press to order The Duty of Delight.


Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here

Advertisement