Most of our lives are spent carrying out necessary routines: eating, doing dishes, washing, cleaning, driving, and (hopefully) exercising. If we work, our job might be quite ordinary, menial, or boring. Day follows day, and we don’t expect to ever appear on the evening news for an act of heroism. Neither do we expect to be canonized. Take heart! While researching the lives of saints, I found that several of them bear witness to and teach that holiness can come from simply living a normal life faithfully.
In fact, Jesus teaches this lesson by how he chose to live on earth. He spent thirty of his thirty-three years (90% of his life) quietly as a common laborer. Fr. Ron Rohlheiser noted, “The God of the incarnation is more domestic than monastic”! And Mary, the Mother of God, never worked a single miracle, as far as we know. Hers were the chores of any mother and housewife of her time: fetching water from the well, laundering clothes in a stream, grinding grain for bread.
So, who are the other saints that witness to the potential of the humdrum? The most familiar one is St. Therese of Lisieux, the young Carmelite who promoted “The Little Way.” She described this way as a commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives. Everything she did, no matter how slight, was done for love of God—even picking up a pin. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (St. Therese’s namesake) admits: “We cannot do great things. We can only do little things with great love.”
Then there is St. Benildus, who was a teacher all his life. At his canonization, Pope Paul VI explained that he had attained sanctity by enduring “the terrible daily grind.” So holiness is within reach of anyone who is bogged down by the tedium or stresses of each day. Holy Brother Lawrence advocated practicing the presence of God amidst the pots and pans. That reminds me of one of my favorite quotations, words of the Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my (pick) shovel, my paint brush, my (sewing) needle – and my heart and thoughts.”
That’s one key to not growing weary with work or life but staying enthusiastic. (By the way, the etymology of the word “enthusiasm” is that it originally meant “in God” or “possessed by God.”)
St. David’s exhortation “Do ye the little things” is a popular expression among the Welsh. Even Vincent van Gogh observed, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
Jesus taught, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). When we perform each chore gracefully, it becomes a source of grace.
The secret of holiness then is to do ordinary things extraordinarily well…and with a dash of love. Remember, every moment of our lives is blessed.
How do you find meaning in your work?