I stood in the grocery line and wondered why the cashier was ignoring the customer…
“O God, who brought Saint Louis from the cares of earthly rule to the glory of a heavenly realm, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that, by fulfilling our duties on earth, we may seek out your eternal Kingdom.” (Collect for St. Louis of France)
I have recently read some great GK Chesterton, and given a talk on prayer and falling in love with Christ, and prayed and reflected deeply about St. Bernard’s homily in the office of readings on August 20. It was certainly going to be on one of these things that I would write, I thought. But each time I started to write, nothing would come as I quickly became distracted by the demands around me.
Every month or so my husband and I discuss our family balance. We have a “calibration” talk to ensure that our family life is rightly ordered. As the chair of the reopening committee for a small Catholic college during a global pandemic, I have been pulling long days for several months in service to a mission in which I deeply believe. So as we chatted in the dark on the back porch eating secret dilly bars, my husband said “remember your primary vocation as wife and mother, your work is second, your ministries third.” It stung to hear it, as gently as he said it, because I knew it was true. My days needed to be reordered and I asked for the grace and the opportunity to do so. I had been asking the Lord for months to show me how to rearrange my work and my days so I could do what He had asked me to do. I spent hours in the past months in adoration asking the Lord how to carry the cross of each call well, and sometimes weeping for the weight, and exhaustion, of it all.
I found myself once again asking for His grace as I hastily rearranged my work calendar so I could oversee e-learning for my three children as alternative arrangements fell through. As I tried to settle at the beginning of daily mass, the words of the collect rang in my ear. “O God, who brought Saint Louis from the cares of earthly rule to the glory of a heavenly realm, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that, by fulfilling our duties on earth, we may seek out your eternal Kingdom.”
These words continued to reverberate in my mind as I bounced from floor puzzles to first grade math to fourth grade social studies, while work text and emails were hastily responded to or ignored as the moment dictated. Once again, I felt stretched to my limit, and it was only 10am.
Vocations, the call on our life through which we will best love God, are not made up of only a single response to the initiative call. The response to our vocation is in our response to our small daily calls to fulfill the duties of the vocation. These can look different for each call, and at different stages of life the duties can be more or less demanding. Our virtue is forged in the daily stretching and challenges that our duties demand of us. Our patience is forged in a gentle response to an impatient child or a demanding coworker. Our fortitude is strengthened as we have the hard conversation with the friend, neighbor, or child. Our love grows when we choose to fulfill the demands on us in charity rather than in bitterness or frustration.
This is a hard thing to remember in the midst of the struggle, whatever the struggle may be. It can be hard to remember that the daily demands that make up our lives can point us to eternity when rightly ordered for the Glory of God. We are not left to struggle alone. St. Paul reminds us that “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8) So in humility, but with some confidence, I beg God once again for the grace for today, trusting that He will provide precisely what I need.
Copyright 2020, Monica Markovich