Annette Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Vocations

Sanctifying the Ordinary

Sanctifying the Ordinary

I have been changing diapers for the last 14 years of my life- a task that I first approached with a mix of apprehension and excitement as a new mom. It wasn’t long though before it evolved into a task I often dreaded, and I’m not ashamed to admit I sometimes begged my husband to complete for me. It always seemed that the baby in question would need changing at the most inopportune moments – when I was about to leave to work, in the middle of Mass, while I was helping an older sibling with homework, and it sometimes involved me changing outfits as I was heading out the door, or changing the baby again after I had already done so. It was a task that, I’m ashamed to admit, I would fulfill begrudgingly, because I had to, because I was the mom. There seemed to be no end in sight. I have five children, and right when one was getting out of diapers, another baby was arriving.

A priest once told me that there is sanctity in our ordinariness. God calls us to holiness right where we are, even in the midst of changing diapers. Going about my daily duties as a mother gave me a myriad of opportunities to serve the Body of Christ, beginning with my family. I had never really realized how all the “chores” I have to do on a daily basis serve a higher purpose. Every day, God gives me the opportunity to perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. I feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, several times a day, sometimes all day with so many kids in the house. I instruct the ignorant as I homeschool my children and help them understand what happens in the world. I counsel the doubtful when I answer their questions or boost their confidence. I admonish sinners when I warn them about the consequences of their actions. I attempt to bear wrongs patiently, something that is often challenging for me. I forgive offenses willingly and comfort the afflicted every time that I break up an argument and deal with the “he did this, and he did that.” We pray together as a family, for each other, for our world, for our friends and relatives, for our leaders, for the living and the dead.

Tasks Can Transform Us

Changing diapers, a task I loathe, is a task that has the power to transform me, to strengthen my spiritual journey. St. Therese of Lisieux reminds me of this. In her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, St. Therese details how she regularly performed tasks that she did not necessarily enjoy, like peeling potatoes or doing laundry while another Sister splashed dirty water on her. Instead of complaining or acting annoyed, like I sometimes do, St. Therese would thank God and embrace the “treasure” that God had bestowed on her. My vocations as a wife and mother, and all the sacrifices and tasks that they entail, are truly treasures God has given me. They are my road to sanctity, and through the little everyday challenges, I have the opportunity to grow closer to our Lord and experience the joy that comes from fulfilling God’s will. I begin my day with this Morning Prayer written by St. Therese:

Morning Prayer by St. Therese of Lisieux

O my God! I offer Thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest
works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting
them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love.

O my God! I ask of Thee for myself and for those whom I hold dear, the grace to fulfill perfectly
Thy Holy Will, to accept for love of Thee the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that we may
one day be united together in heaven for all Eternity.

Sometimes it’s easy to believe the lie that you have to do something extraordinary to serve God or become a saint. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25:40 that “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Every diaper I change, every right I wrong, every mouth I feed, every tear I wipe is a chance to serve Jesus. What a different attitude I would serve my family with if I remembered His words. For now, I’ll welcome every opportunity that God gives me to serve, whether it be in little ways or big ways, and pray that the Holy Spirit may guide me in finding joy in all things.

Annette Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Shaped in His Image

O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

If you’ve ever seen a potter in action, plopping the clay onto the potter’s wheel, it’s easy to see that there is a plan. The potter owns the clay, commands the wheel, and the vision belongs to him alone. The potter sees what the lump of clay in his hands can become after he has thrown, fired, glazed and refined it. His intention is to create a work of art.

The same is true with us. God, as the Master Potter, beholds us as lumps of clay, but He has vision. He sees what we will become in time, after we have gone through the firing, glazing, and refining process – even when we cannot.

God creates us with a purpose, with a plan in mind. We are as God intended for us to be, even when we ourselves feel that we are imperfect or weak. God sees beyond that, and as his daughters, we need to trust in God’s plan for our lives and that he is molding us, in his time. The process of making pottery involves several steps. The first step is Centering. A vessel is only as true and strong as its center; our center is the cross. We need to be centered in order to do God’s will, and as Catholics, that center is the cross of Jesus. The cross is a constant reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus made and how we too, as Christians, are called to carry our crosses and follow him. Our tiny, daily sacrifices united to Christ’s have infinite strength and possibility to change our circumstances in life, our perspective, and save many souls. But in order to do that, we must remain centered and model our lives after the Savior himself – with love, courage, sacrifice and humility.

The second step is Opening. Once the lump of clay is centered on the wheel, the potter begins to open it, which requires hands-on, individual attention. God spends his time on us, making us unique. God didn’t assemble us in a mass production line. Not everyone is the same, and we all have a different purpose in life and our own way to achieve holiness. Just look at the saints. St. Therese of Lisieux had “the little way.” St. Francis of Assisi renounced his riches and began an order. St. Vincent de Paul served the poor. Our path to holiness may very well be through our marriages and families, our jobs, or any state of life to which God has called us.

Throughout the shaping process, the clay must be kept moist or it will lose its elasticity. In extreme cases, the entire vessel may break apart. God shapes us, even as he uses us to help shape people. Jesus once compared the Holy Spirit to water. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 4, verse 14, Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” We need to be pliable to the Holy Spirit’s work in us, to the graces that God so lovingly wants to bestow on us. We often interfere with the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, either because we don’t ask for the graces or we are afraid or reluctant. But if we are going to let the Master Potter work on us, we need to make sure that we, the clay, remain moveable, moldable, and allow Him to work.

Then comes the most challenging stage in the process: Firing. Once the vessel has taken the shape the potter intends for it, fire begins to roar in the kiln. The potter uses the kiln to remove impurities from the clay. The fire makes the vessel even more beautiful than before. As we spend time in the fire with our Lord beside us, we mature. The firing process is very difficult for us.

When life gets tough, our first tendency is often to jump out of the kiln, to settle for less than being like Christ in our hearts, minds and character. However, God has promised to be with us in our trials and troubles. He tells us in Isaiah 43: 2-3:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; The flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

These promises have power. As we spend time in the fire with our Lord beside us, we mature. We grow stronger in faith and more suitable for the service into which God places us. But to do this, we must first go “through” the fire. We don’t stay there, and we often lose sight of this. Our Master Potter is our Savior – the one who uses even the fire to shape us for his service.