If you are discouraged

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.

October 25, 1934
I suppose it is a grace not to be able to have time to take or derive satisfaction in the work we are doing. What time I have my impulse is to self-criticism and examination of conscience, and I am constantly humiliated at my own imperfections and at my halting progress. Perhaps I deceive myself here too and excuse my lack of recollection. But I do know how small I am and how little I can do and I beg You, Lord, to help me for I cannot help myself. Touch my heart and help me to be ever mindful of Thee.

Feb 19, 1935
It is just after midnight and I have been sitting in the outer office alone with two mad creatures with God in their hearts. All three of us tormented in our various ways, all three of us alone, so completely alone too ...

As I sit I am weeping -- I have been torn recently by people, by things that happen. Surely we are, here in our community, made up of poor lost ones, the abandoned ones, the sick, the crazed and the solitary human beings whom Christ so loved and in whom I see, with a terrible anguish, the body of this death. And out in the streets, wandering somewhere, is Mr. Minas, solitary among a multitude, surrounded by us all day long, but not one of us save in his humanity, denying, not knowing -- yet clinging to some dream, some ideal of beauty which he tries to express in his poetry which no one but he can read.

Catherine is tossing in her bed, unable to sleep what with the wailing of cats in the backyard who act as though all the devils were in them -- Catherine, too, with the misery of her illness hanging over her, with the uncertainty, the pain and nerve-racking treatments she undergoes.

I have seen too much of suffering recently what with visiting the girl who is in Woonsocket that Father Michael sent me to visit, who suffers in her skeleton body the torments Christ suffered. I cannot write about her -- it is impossible to talk about these supernatural manifestations which are beyond my comprehension.

December 31, 1935
If you are discouraged, everyone would relapse into a state of discouragement and hopeless anger at circumstances and everyone else. And if you are not discouraged everyone tries to make you be and are angry because you are not. It is hard to know what tack to take. The only thing is to be oblivious, as Peter [Maurin] is, and go right on and on.

I am going to keep a notebook faithfully this year for my own encouragement. For one thing, I am always able to get rid of depression by writing it all out. For another thing, I forget things so easily -- people I meet, suggestions that are made, information I am given. I shall try to keep it up completely.

[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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