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The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day Hardcover – April 23, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


These astonishing diaries are a major contribution to Christian spirituality. Robert Ellsberg, a close associate of Dorothy Day, has done an enormous service to Catholics, Christians, and all believers--as well as everyone who cares about social justice, peace and compassion--by carefully assembling the daily writings and meditations of one of the most important persons of our age. This is indispensable reading for anyone who cares deeply about God, about the world, or about humanity--in other words for anyone who wishes to learn how to love. --James Martin, SJ, author of My Life with the Saints

About the Author

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher of Orbis Books. For five years (1975-80) he was part of the Catholic Worker community in New York City, serving for two years as managing editor of The Catholic Worker newspaper. He has edited Dorothy Day: Selected Writings and Fritz Eichenberg:Works of Mercy, and has also co-edited A Penny a Copy: Readings from the The Catholic Worker. His own books include
All Saints, The Saints Guide to Happiness, and Blessed Among All Women.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 700 pages
  • Publisher: Marquette University Press; 1st edition (April 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874620236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874620238
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,113,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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There are few people who have done more to keep Dorothy Day's words before the public than Robert Ellsberg. As both editor of her writings (By Little and By Little, 1983; Dorothy Day: Selected Writings, 1992; A Penny a Copy, 1995) and publisher (Orbis) of books by and about her, Ellsberg continues to remind us of Dorothy's vision of a Christianity that is orthodox in theology and radical (in the deepest sense of the word, as a return to roots) in social activism. His credentials are good: he knew Dorothy for the final five years of her life, and served as managing editor of "The Catholic Worker" for two of them.

Now, in The Duty of Delight, Ellsberg continues to enrich us with an edition of the diaries Dorothy maintained from 1934 to a few days before her death in November 1980. The manuscript of the diaries, housed at Marquette University (my alma mater, by the way) and sealed until 25 years after Dorothy's passing, is over a thousand single-spaced pages. Ellsberg has reduced the material by half by whittling away unessentials. Providentially, Dorothy's diary entries for the final year of her life, missing from the Marquette archives, was discovered after Ellsberg took on the editorship.

Ellsberg's Introduction to the diaries provides a nice overview of their content. Arranged by decades, the entries from the '50s through the '70s make up the bulk of the work. I began reading in the '70s section, since this is the decade in which I first became aware of the Catholic Workers, and gradually worked my way backwards.

Three things especially strike me about Dorothy's diaries.
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Format: Hardcover
This unique tome is worth every penny because it can connect us with Dorothy Day more intimately than I ever imagined possible. She is no longer inaccessible to me. In fact I had been a little afraid of her in the sense I had been afraid like the whiskey priest in one of Dorothy's favorite novels, "The Power and the Glory" by Graham Greene. I had always been afraid to end up like him, despairing over missing the boat. Here is the scene on the night before he was executed by a Mexican Communist firing squad:

"What an impossible fellow I am, he thought, and how useless. I have done nothing for anybody. I might just as well have never lived..It seemed to him at that moment that it would have been quite easy to have been a saint. It would have needed a little self-restraint and a little courage. He felt like someone who has missed happiness by seconds at an appointed place. He knew now that in the end there was only one thing that counted - to be a saint."

Well now after reading 700 pages of "Duty of Delight" I am no longer afraid. Dorothy makes it look possible to be a saint. I believe without a doubt that she is now with God in heaven. What she did to get there, I can do. Reading her diary showed she slogged it out just like the rest of us with doubts, setbacks and sorrows. Through it all she remained faithful to daily prayer and the sacraments, including frequent Confession. She knew that it was in the little things that we find God, something she learned from one of her favorite saints, Therese of Lisieux.

Dorothy didn't always "suffer fools gladly." No matter. She was quick to apologize and always harsher in judging herself than she was other people.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very inward look at the life and daily thoughts of the great social and peace activist Dorothy Day. It gives one the realization of just how human this woman was and how very faith filled her thought processes were to keeping her love for the poor and homeless always at the forefront of her existence. How even through the clouded glasses of the hierarchy, the badgering and belittling of those who wanted to sterotype her and her followers as being socialist or communist, she never compromised her principles and her love of God. She became lonely and yes sometimes depressed. Her health suffered greatly. She put up with just about every
humiliation imaginable from being in jail to wiping up the most foul of human excrement. She washed and cooked and cleaned, she spent endless hours on cold trains and stuffy buses carrying the message of those less fortunate, of those succumbed to the wrath of alcohol and despair. And now for many of us, she has become the "kindred spirit", the model we follow in trying to live out her example of true love for all people. A card found in her final journal reads, " O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power and idle talk. But give to thy servant rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love. Yea Lord and King, grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother, for Thou art blessed from all ages to ages. Amen" (St. Ephraim) I highly recommend this volume for anyone striving to get into the heart mind and soul of a true and humble servant of God.
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