SummaryWith spring cleaning around the corner in your home, Mary Donellan offers thoughts to inspire you towards the beautiful but often hidden virtue of industry.
Our fallen human nature seems to dictate that, often, we see cleaning as Ye Olde Necessary Evil.
Cleaning. It’s just . . . not fun. We ladies would far rather settle down to a Jane Austen film with some popcorn than settle down to scrubbing the shower with bleach.
Sometimes, if we’re in a fortunately good mood, while gazing down on that dirty toilet, we’re able to see cleaning as a tolerable chore on which we can vent stress the old-fashioned way.
Wiping down the greasy stove, folding towels, mopping the floor leaves us panting a little but satisfied that Hah! I no longer feel as stressed! Take that!
The messy landscape around us
Whether we’re mothers or daughters in our homeschool, a fair amount, if not the majority, of the housework will fall to us on any day. (Boys can be excellent toilet cleaners, but girls are less apt to see it as a game of a toilet-cleaner-war. We girls arm ourselves with the toilet bowl brush and march calmly on.)
Even though, most likely, we don’t exactly relish cleaning, girls and women naturally seem to have a great aptitude for maintaining and organizing the home.
Across the centuries, it has been our traditional role to tidy up the thousand little messes in the home, to cook and clean, and to make things pleasant and orderly for the other members of the family. And, as many Catholic homeschooling families will agree, tradition counts for a lot.
Even though mothers and daughters have a special talent for keeping up the home, it doesn’t mean we naturally embrace it. Embracing this sort of thing takes a little cultivation on our part.
But wouldn’t it be ideal if, especially in our homeschool, we ladies could step past our faulty human nature and look at the messy landscape around us, not with tolerance, but with actual gratitude?
Wouldn’t it be something if we could repress the sighs of having to wipe out the fridge, where spilled juice is becoming congealed, if we could walk into the laundry room that smells of dirty uniforms and see something good there?
I’ve discovered this is precisely where the virtue of industry must make her appearance.
And, as the first step towards cultivating any virtue into our souls is first to discover what it is and why it’s important, let’s discover what this hidden little virtue is all about and how we can better bring it into our hearts and our homeschools!
What is industry?
The wonderful Fr. Lasance once wrote to Catholic ladies:
“Do not take alarm at the mention of work; the word may have a harsh sound, but the thing itself is not so harsh and bitter as it may appear at first sight. You must not, as is too often the case, immediately connect with it the idea of toil, fatigue, and degradation which pertains to a slavish occupation. For everything must, in fact, be won by work, everything which does not grow of itself, like fruit on a tree.”
He says: “Christianity teaches us to regard work as something sacred, honorable, and exalted. Work is your duty . . . You must not only value work very highly, you must also love it. We are taught by daily experience that industrious, active girls who are fond of work are almost without exception virtuous and pure.”
What challenging statements these are! Not only should we regard the opportunities we have every day to work in our home, cooking and tidying and wiping and straightening, with appreciation—we should love to do this work?
Well . . . to be blunt, “loving work” seems possible only with gritted teeth some days, yet the virtue of industry, if we pray for it, can help us to see the proper value of our work.
Industry keeps us at work for the right reasons. Our daily work in the home, if done with as generous and humble an attitude as we can muster, is sanctifying work and pleasing to God.
Simple daily work mortifies our flesh and prevents us from being idle (and idleness, as our mothers have always told us, is the devil’s playground!); it keeps our bodies healthy and our minds refreshed. It keeps us content with simple things, because after a good hour’s work, a glass of water and a book is more than enough to fill us with gratitude!
Work makes us good stewards of the material possessions God has given us and prevents us from discontentedly looking outward to greener pastures . . . instead, work keeps us plowing and fertilizing our own fields!
Most of all, holy work in the home directly cares for our family: the people God has ordained for us to serve first and last every day.
Look to the saints who practiced industry
Having reflected on all this, it’s plain to see how difficult it is to view our mundane work with a grateful heart without the virtue of industry.
But . . . how do we grow in this virtue? Well, one of the best ways to learn any virtue is to look to the saints! Regarding industry, Fr. Lasance wisely directs us to the Holy Family:
“Christ Himself, the incarnate Son of God, worked in St. Joseph’s shop until He was thirty years of age. Mary, His blessed Mother, was no fashionable lady caring only for society and amusements, for dress and novels. We see her, in the peaceful house of Nazareth, industriously pursuing the ordinary avocations of a poor artisan’s wife. From that day forth how different is the aspect of work when viewed by the light of the Catholic faith, by the light of the workshop at Nazareth, where the God-Man, Jesus Christ, diligently helped His foster-father, and handled the saw, axe, and plane.”
Somehow, contemplating the Holy Family, contentedly and quietly working in Nazareth for decades, illuminates our own household tasks with new purpose and grace.
They show us industry can be viewed as a spiritual hoe that (through literal work!) tills the soil of our soul and enables so many other virtues to grow there.
So, let’s ask the Holy Family and all the saints who followed in their footsteps to intercede for us, so we can grow in this virtue and bring the peace of Nazareth into our home!
Pretend your home is a church and you are the sacristan
The faithful Catholic home is one of the most beautiful little churches on earth, and every church needs good sacristans.
The Catholic home is where God bestows new life on a family, where the Sacrament of Matrimony confers special daily graces on the husband and wife, where children are brought up to fear the Lord, and where there are daily opportunities to grow in holiness and love for one another.
So, when the dryer stops again, when the fourth cup of milk gets spilled, or when you find the fourteenth pair of socks under the couch with the dust bunnies, why not remind ourselves, truthfully, we’re cleaning a church and doing it for God’s glory?
Cleaning and filling the toddler’s sippy cup is comparable to cleaning and filling the Chalice, for by satisfying the thirst of a child, we satisfy the thirst of Christ.
Wiping down the windows is comparable to caring for stained glass images; by removing the dirt, we let cleanliness and beauty into our home, which also reveals God’s beauty to our souls and reminds us of the sacred reality of our ordinary lives.
Doing the laundry is little different from caring for altar linens, for our “daily offertory” comprises caring for our families’ needs and offering these actions to God.
Whether we’re mothers or daughters, such a thought is a beautiful motivator for pursuing industry in our home (as opposed to locking ourselves in the closet and crying for a few minutes . . .).
So, let’s all endeavor to pray for the grace to grow in this virtue, embracing the work set before us and remembering these wise words from Fr. Lasance:
“Keep your gaze constantly fixed upon that workshop (Nazareth) and thence learn to be faithful and assiduous in your work, and to regard it as honorable. Whether it be easy or difficult, servile or otherwise, consider it to be a precious remembrance, a priceless relic of the house at Nazareth. Within those walls was work also exalted and sanctified; there did it receive that patent of nobility, which, if you only know how to appreciate it aright, will win for you the favor of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”
God bless you!