From Drudgery to Divine
Have you ever wanted to make a difference in the world, to make it a better place?
I talk to many people who wish they could have a big effect on the world, but feel frustrated and hobbled by the confines of their day to day lives. They day dream about having the resources to build schools for underprivileged children, or being able to dig wells in areas without drinking water. They wish they could join organizations like Doctors without Borders to help heal suffering, or open restaurants that also give meals to the poor. I've been blessed in my life to know a few people who actually make these things happen in their lives. Yet most people I talk to must deal with the constraints of their daily lives and responsibilities, and are left feeling that they can't do big things in the world.
All of these meritorious actions, and more, are categorized in Catholicism as corporal works of Mercy. They include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, giving shelter, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison, and burying the dead. They are a set of guidelines to help us behave as our highest selves in order to treat others as our brothers and sisters created in the image of God.
Years ago, my oldest child was preparing for his First Holy Communion. I was making breakfast for the family as we talked about his lesson reviewing these works of Mercy. As he listed them, he interrupted himself and said, “You do this stuff every day. They should call these the Corporal works of Mommy.” I was about to correct him and start talking about all the times we see Jesus, or great men or women of God, do these things, after all this was a religion lesson right?! But then it dawned on me…he was right!
All of this stuff we moms do all day really matters!
When people dig wells, or build schools, or serve in orphanages, or volunteer to rock and comfort addicted babies, etc. they are doing great works, but they are doing them because someone, or some group fell short of meeting that need for some reason. This isn't a judgement, just a fact.
People who are willing to stand in that gap and help are lauded for doing great things, and they should be. But what about those of us who do the same things every day on a seemingly smaller and more private scale? By doing the daily work of mothering, we endeavor to ensure against the creation of those gaps in the first place.
We are often told, and tell ourselves, that the work we do is mundane and unimportant. Why should it be considered any more important to feed a hundred strangers at a soup kitchen, than it is to feed the souls around our table, or to dig a well for a village than to pay our family's water bill or get our little one a cup of water at night? It shouldn't be. When we do these things we are serving their bodies and nurturing their hearts and souls, filling them with the knowledge that they are loved and showing them how to love others as well.
After my son said that to me, it changed my entire attitude about the work of motherhood. It gave me a deeper sense of God dwelling in my family relationships. Daily tasks became an opportunity to see and cultivate the Divine in my home and manifest the servant love of Christ in my own character.
St. Therese had a very similar revelation, that we can all share in. She had always wanted to be a missionary and do great things for God, but God called her to a cloistered monastery life. Yet she change the world by living her “little way of holiness” showing love to everyone with whom she shared her life through every task and interaction of her day.
However, every mom knows that these repetitive tasks can often be draining and discouraging at times, especially when the people we do them for don’t seem appreciative. Over the next few posts, I invite you to join me in exploring each of the Corporal Works of Mercy, and how we can ease the burden of these tasks while allowing our spiritual lives and our relationships with our children to be elevated by them.
You, my fellow mom, are the most important and powerful person in the world to your child, and you are a huge part in healing a hurting world when you tend the hearts, minds and souls of the children God has placed in your care. Rest in that knowledge and let it give you renewed purpose, energy, and peace.