Duty of Delight (the Diaries of Dorothy Day) edited by Robert Ellsberg –Book Review

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:

Dorothy Day on Giving

A Quote by Dorothy Day

Entertaining Angels– Movie Review





Little Children, Love One Another

“I have given them the glory that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.  I am in them, and you are in me, so that they may be completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”  John 17:22-23

This is from what is called the high priestly prayer of Jesus, a prayer which He prayed shortly before his death.  It’s from the gospel of John, and reminds me of a story about the apostle.  He lived to be very old, and it’s said that when he became unable to stand and preach, he would be carried into the church where his entire sermon was simply, “Little Children, love one another.”  Love is the major theme in John’s writing, and in his life.  He knew that as Christians, we are called to be one body, to love one another and to love others. That is what the world should see when they look at us.

However, John’s simple message is easier said than done.  I’m currently reading the diaries of Dorothy Day, which I’ll probably finish and review later this month.  Dorothy was a Catholic who started a number of “hospitality houses” for the needy and homeless.  She welcomed and loved the kinds of people who were pretty unlovable — alcoholics, those who were mentally ill, some who were simply dirty and/or disagreeable.  She was criticized by many in the church for her “extreme” methods.  It was a constant struggle for her to love, yet she knew that was her calling as a child of God.  Like the apostle, John, love was her theme.

We too must deal with people every day that we have trouble loving.  Some are our neighbors!  Some are our fellow church members!  Some are family! Often people behave in ways that upset or annoy us.  We feel used.  We feel disrespected.  Face it, we feel angry.  We want to tell them off or walk away.  However, the words of Scripture are clear.  We are to love others.  We are especially to seek unity in the church.  We cannot allow our personal feelings to get the better of us. If we do, we’re disobeying the words of Christ.

So, here’s my point. Struggle, but don’t give up.  Remember your own sins and how you have been forgiven.  Let love be your theme.


Yes, But How?

Well, we all seem to agree that witnessing is something every Christian should do.  Now we come to the important question Nancy raised, which I call YBH–Yes, but how?  I’m going to start with a quote I like from Dorothy Day.  In case you don’t know who she was, Dorothy, after living a completely unchristian life for many years, converted to Catholicism and founded a number of hospitality houses (rescue missions) where she tried to live and work in a very simple way, not owning much more than her “guests.”

“Works of mercy are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, ransoming the prisoner, and burying the dead.  The spiritual works of mercy are instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, rebuking the sinner, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving all injuries and praying for the living and the dead.  Works of mercy are the most direct form of(I would add here apostolic)  action there is.

from Loaves and Fishes by Dorothy Day

When we imitate Christ by doing His work on earth, things like the ones Dorothy lists, we are most truly his witnesses. Of course, it is also important that the folks we are witnessing to know who (or maybe I should say whose) we are.  That comes from building an ongoing relationship with them.  (probably a topic for another post).

Going back to Nancy’s comment citing St. Francis of Assisi, I recently read a story about him in the Max Lucado Study Bible.  It is said he once asked a young monk to go with him to a nearby village to preach.  They arrived and St. Francis began to visit people:  the butcher, the cobbler, the teacher, a new widow.  This went on all morning until Francis told his follower, “It’s time to return to the abbey.”  “But we came to preach” protested the young man, “and we haven’t preached a sermon.”  “Haven’t we?” responded Francis.  “People have watched us, listened to us, responded to us.  Every word we have spoken, every deed we have done has been a sermon.  We have preached all morning.”

So what do you think readers and Lutheran Ladies?  Do we witness through our actions?  How do you witness?  I want to hear your stories.