The present moment; take it with joy

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.

May 8, 1937
What with being sick this week, felt very low tonight. Read, prayed, wept, and then thought -- why do we expect any happiness? God wills for us the present moment. We must take it with a joyful will at least. Never let our moods affect others. Hide any sadness. We are suffering sadness and fatigue just because our will is painfully struggling. Our Lord must teach me, I cannot learn by myself to give up my will completely, to accept the present moment, to live in the presence of God. I should be happy that this struggle is going on, that I am not content. A paradox. I was just reading over the last pages herein for my help. It serves to convince me that nothing depends on me, I can do nothing. Moods, discouragement, bickerings pass and the work proceeds, the influence is far-reaching.

August 6, 1937
The attributes of the soul are, according to St. Teresa, memory, understanding, and will. If you use these three, you can bring to life again your love for your husband, your memory of your first love for him, your understanding of his difficulties and the troubles that have come between you; your will to love him now. If only for self preservation you must use the will as you cannot go on in this state of unhappiness and friction. Love is a matter of the will anyway, when it isn’t just a biological urge that beclouds every other issue. If you will to love someone (even the most repulsive and wicked), and try to serve him as an expression of that love, -- then you soon come to feel love. And God will hear your prayers. “Enlarge Thou my heart that Thou mayest enter in!” You can pray the same way, that your heart may be enlarged to love again. ...

The union between man and woman is the closest analogy in this mortal life to the union between God and man. One cannot properly be said to understand the love of God without understanding the deepest fleshly as well as spiritual love between man and woman. The two should go hand in hand. You cannot separate the soul from the body. Even throughout the psalms you find the union of the two. “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” “The love of God should quicken the body as well as the soul.”

June 29, 1938.
Meditation on the bus. Rainy and cold. Thinking gloomily of the sins and shortcomings of others, 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.

[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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