Man cannot live long without joy

Dorothy Day in 1916

Dorothy Day was an influential American journalist and social activist who co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement in the 1930s. Driven by her deep spiritual convictions, Day was a relentless advocate for social justice, and in the late 1930s and early 1940s her work took on a new urgency as the world plunged into World War II. As debates raged in the United States over the nation’s possible entry into the war, Day was an outspoken proponent for peace and conscientious objection, and on 28th September 1940, with the country on the brink of joining the conflict, she wrote the following entry in her diary.

The Diary Entry

September 28 [1940]

Last night the Boston group held a meeting. There was a good crowd and a friendly one. I spoke on peace and conscientious objection, and as I spoke I was thinking what a duty it was for all of us to speak and write now while there is no declared war. There are so many who hate war and peacetime conscription, who do not know what they can do, who have no sense of united effort, and who will sit back and accept with resignation the evils which are imposed upon us. This is not working for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. It is the pie in the sky attitude.

Books in Wartime: Labyrinthine Ways. To the End of the World. Kristin Lavransdatter. Master of Hestviken. Jeremiah. 1 Kings.

People live, eat, sleep, love, worship, marry, have children, and somehow live in the midst of war, in the midst of anguish. The sun continues to shine, the leaves aunt their vivid color, there is a serene warmth in the day and an invigorating cold at night.

Turn off your radio. Put away your daily paper. Read one review of events a week and spend some time reading such books as the above. They tell too of days of striving and of strife. They are of other centuries and also of our own. They make us realize that all times are perilous, that men live in a dangerous world, in peril constantly of losing or maiming soul and body.

We get some sense of perspective reading such books. Renewed courage and faith and even joy to live. And man cannot live long without joy, without some vestige of happiness to light up his days.

Further Reading

Dorothy Day’s diaries are held in the Dorothy Day–Catholic Worker Collection at Marquette University’s Raynor Memorial Libraries in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg, was first published in April 2008 by the Marquette University Press.


Diary entry excerpted from The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day. Edited by Robert Ellsberg. Marquette University Press ©2008. Used by permission.

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