Chances are the majority of us will never do such things as negotiate a peace treaty, live a life of travel adventure or occupy a powerful CEO position. In fact, in describing our own lives we might be inclined to say they are pretty ordinary. If you are like me, most days are filled with endless “to do” lists and humbling household tasks like tackling an ongoing flow of laundry or cleaning the cat litter box. However, if we examine what we consider “mundane” in our lives from a spiritual vantage point, we eventually will find that all such chores and to-do’s are, in fact, rich opportunities to grow in holiness and to glorify God.
Saint Josemaría Escrivá (1902 – 1975), the founder of Opus Dei, an organization of laypeople and priests, emphasized that everyone is called to holiness through our daily work and duties. Saint Josemaría explained that when we utilize our God-given talents for God’s greater glory, we transform them into a powerful form of prayer. We can do this by offering up each day for the glory of God in reparation for our own sins and those of others including the poor souls in purgatory. Aside from fulfilling our duties for duty sake alone, we can transform them and make them holy through peaceful resignation and love – all the while, sanctifying ourselves in the process. Saint Therese of Lisieux showed the world how to do this through her “little way” of doing small, everyday things with great love. Her central teaching is that God exists in the simple, ordinary details of our daily lives and it is in offering up the small, little things that can have a big impact. It’s smiling at a stranger, offering an encouraging word, doing an unnoticed task, offering prayers for the conversion of others while doing the dishes, or offering words of praise and thanksgiving to God during rush hour. According to St. Therese, “even the smallest actions done with great love are far more important than great deeds done for personal glory, gratifications or simply out of obedience.”
Saint Josemaría also explained that, “our work too must become personal prayer; that it become a real conversation with Our Father in heaven…You cannot allow your cares and concerns to become impersonal and routine, because if you were to do so, the divine incentive that inspires your daily tasks will straightaway wither and die” (Friends of God, 64). Escriva went on to say, “Ordinary citizens can lead full Christian lives without changing our normal days of labor and duties” and that “in God’s service there are no unimportant jobs: all are of great importance” (The Forge, 618).
One way I try to do this is by beginning each day with a simple prayer in which I offer my works, joys, and sufferings to God through the Morning Offering prayer as follows: O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.
At a time in our history when tragic headlines have become the norm, one may ask, “What can I possibly do to make a difference – to have an impact?” In pondering this, does it not make sense to decide to offer up everything we do in our day as a prayer offering? Saint Francis once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” St. Francis makes it clear to us that our individual actions, even the most mundane and insignificant among them, can and should reflect the Gospel message to those around us. So the next time you load the dishwasher, sweep the same floor for the thousandth time, or have a mind-numbing work project dropped in your lap, think about these tasks differently. Each duty done well, with love, and offered up to God for specific intentions can become a special way to communicate our love to Him. In this way, our daily work and mundane responsibilities become a prayer of reparation not only for our souls but for all souls, thereby transforming the ordinary in our lives into something truly extraordinary and holy.