This book has been sitting on my shelf for years, and now with the library closed due to the pandemic, I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. If you haven’t heard of Dorothy Day, she was a Catholic convert, born in 1897, who started The Catholic Worker newspaper and established a number of Hospitality Houses for the poor. She led an interesting and productive life which challenges all of us to live out our particular Christian vocation not just in word, but deed.
Her diaries begin in 1934 and continue until shortly before her death in 1980 — so the book is long. A diary is also not always easy reading. She mentions many people and events (both personal and historic) without completely explaining who they are or exactly what is going on at the time. The work is annotated, but it can still be hard to keep track of who’s who. Some (many) entries are short, some are spaced far apart (months or more), so it can seem choppy. If you haven’t read anything yet about Dorothy, I would recommend you start with one of her autobiographical works (The Long Loneliness or Loaves and Fishes). There is also a section about her in another book I reviewed recently, Streams of Living Water by Richard J. Foster–Book Review.
Here are some things that stood out to me about Dorothy’s life:
- Her pacifism. She was completely against war, helped conscientious objectors, demonstrated and was jailed, and refused to pay income tax because she would not contribute to war in any way.
- Although she lived out her Christian principals in ways most of us would find radical, she was always conscious of her own failings. She often wrote about her need to be kinder, more patient, to tame her tongue and so on. She had the same struggles we all face.
- Her care for her family. With all her work and travels, she remained deeply devoted to her daughter, Tamar, her grandchildren, her sister and other family members.
- She was a voracious reader. You will find many titles in her diary that you may want to seek out and read for yourself.
- Love was her overarching theme. Some of her favorite quotes were:
“You love God as much as the one you love the least”
“Where there is no love put love and you will find love.”
- She strove always “to make the kind of society where it is easier to be good.”
VERDICT: 4 STARS. Anything by or about Dorothy Day will challenge and inspire the reader.
For more posts on Dorothy Day see: