Many years ago, when my husband and I were in Germany, we were given a…
“His will for us was the twenty-four hours of each day: the people, the places, the circumstances he set before in that time . . . These things, the twenty-four hours of this day, were his will; we had to learn to look at our daily lives, at everything that crossed our path each day, with the eyes of God . . . striving always to do that will – his will – every hour of every day in the situations in which he had placed us . . . For what other reason had he so arranged it that we should be here, now, this hour, among these people?” – Servant of God Fr. Walter Ciszek
I was recently visiting with a dear friend, Sr. Regina. We were on mission together with Con-solatio ten years ago in Brooklyn. She is now living in France but had come back to New York for a two-week whirlwind visit of the community and friends. Over a delicious chile and cornbread dinner, a mutual friend, Elizabeth, and I were listening intently as Sr. Regina shared with us about her daily life in France, and most especially the art of living the Gospel through cleaning and cooking! We were all ears as Sr. Regina explained, “When we clean, it is an act of love, we are honoring and loving the dignity of the person who is coming to our home. When we set the table, there is a way to do it, we are thinking of each person who will be sitting at each place, we are making an act of love for each one, to feel comfortable, to feel thought of. We are loving in the details. When we dust and vacuum, when we clean the bathroom, it is out of love for the others, so that they feel comfortable, at ease, at home. When I cook, it is a gift of love for my community, for our guests, so that they are nourished and delighted, fed with love. Love is at the center. In this way, there is Gospel meaning in the little, mundane gestures of life.
We repeat so many small movements in a day, and we have lost the significance of them. Laundering clothes, folding the clothes, putting them away. These small actions are actions of love, for the dignity of the other, for the dignity of our own being.” Elizabeth and I exclaimed, “Sister! You have to give a retreat on this!! Gospel cleaning!” We were enthralled. Our hearts were burning within us as Sr. Regina spoke to us and opened the Gospel of daily living and loving to us. Our hope was revived as such a high calling and mission was restored to our everyday humdrum tasks. It’s not that Elizabeth and I hadn’t heard of the little way before or St. Teresa of Avila’s “God walks amid the pots and pans”, but we needed the living reminder handed to us personally and afresh. God is with us and is calling us to great love in the ordinary, concrete scrubbing and sautéing of these twenty-four hours for these specific beloved ones. This is living in His Will, His call to communion and intimacy with Him. This moment, this dish. Him, you, me. Together let us be one.
“Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next,” said St. Teresa of Kolkata.