Dorothy Day: The Duty of Delight


The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg. ISBN-13: 978-0-87462-023-8 & ISBN-10: 0-87462-023-6. Cloth. 703 pp. $42

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, has been called “the most significant, interesting, and influential person in the history of American Catholicism.” For almost fifty years, through her tireless service of the poor and her courageous witness for peace, she offered an extraordinary example of the gospel in action. Now the publication of her diaries, previously sealed for twenty-five years after her death, offers a uniquely intimate portrait of her daily struggles and concerns. Beginning in 1934, soon after the founding of the Catholic Worker, and ending in 1980, just days before her death, these diaries reflect her response to the vast changes in America, the church, and the wider world. From the Depression-era labor struggles and her lonely pacifist witness during World War II, to the Cold War, Civil Rights, Vietnam, and the activism of the 1960s and 70s, Day was a witness to most of the great social movements of her time. And yet most of her life was spent in the everyday business of living: in the chores and demands of her extended Catholic Worker family; in her struggles to be more patient and charitable; in the discipline of prayer and worship that structured her days; and in her efforts to find God in all the tasks and encounters of daily life. The record of this pilgrimage displays a rare balance between radicalism and tradition, action and contemplation, the transcendent and the everyday. Ultimately it challenges readers to imagine what it would be like to live as if the gospel were true.

Robert EllsbergRobert 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.

The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day has won two First Place book awards from the Catholic Press Association:

First Place: Spirituality (hardcover): "These diaries, and the splendid work of the editor, are a gift to each of us. Instead of simply talking about justice, peace, the poor, the reader is invited to encounter the reality of each situation, event, and person with a mentor and a guide who can be trusted to shine the necessary light which illumines: Dorothy Day. The ordinariness of her life speaks to the extraordinary power of grace in action."
First Place: Biography: "Robert Ellsberg has done a magnificent job in editing this classic work. His is a great gift to the Catholic community, truly in a class by instead in this competition. He has arranged the complete diaries (1934-1980) of this saintly woman into 654 pages with a lovely introduction, exquisite editing, and frequent notes, plus index. Scholars and lay readers will benefit from this close-up and personal walk with one of the 20th century's great Catholic figures."


Marquette University Press

Founded in 1916, the Marquette University Press, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, publishes scholarly works in philosophy, theology, history, and other selected humanities. Read more.