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“A Catholic, without prayer? It is the same as a soldier without arms.” So says St. Josemaría Escrivá. But prayer can be hard. Time is short and demands are many; where can we find the time to pray? St. Josemaría has an idea:

“Why don’t you try converting your whole life into the service of God — your work and your rest, your tears and your smiles?” Escrivá asks, then urges, “You can … and you must!”

Sanctifying work

Anything can become a prayer, according to St. Josemaría. “Look for holiness in the middle of the world,” he says. That laundry, those dishes, that teetering tower of paperwork on your desk — these do not have to be obstacles to sanctification. Done with care and competence, daily tasks become the means of sanctification.

This doesn’t mean we should disregard prayer in a more traditional sense. But prayer isn’t something that happens outside of daily life. It is the thread that ties all we do together, into one life of service to God. Prayer doesn’t stop when work begins.

Our work — fulfilling our daily responsibilities — becomes an expression of our faith. “You should maintain throughout the day a constant conversation with Our Lord, a conversation fed even by the things that happen in your professional work,” Escrivá writes.

It is a mistake, he cautions, to reduce the Christian life to “a few pious practices.”

“You and I are Christians, but at the same time … we are citizens and workers with clear obligations, which we have to fulfill in an exemplary manner if we really want to become saints,” he writes.

“Add a supernatural motive to your ordinary work and you will have sanctified it.”

Always better, always more

Escrivá suggests we must be as serious about our work as we are about Mass: “It is no good offering to God something that is less perfect than our poor human limitations permit. The work that we offer must be without blemish and it must be done as carefully as possible … for God will not accept shoddy workmanship.”

St. Josemaría encourages us to develop competence in our professions and in our faith. Whatever our obligations at home, school or work, we should strive each day to improve in some way. It is a theme he repeats often, sometimes sternly: “You pray, you deny yourself, you work in a thousand apostolic activities, but you don’t study. You are useless then unless you change. Study — professional training of whatever type it be — is a grave obligation.”

This constant improvement should not be geared toward self-satisfaction. Our goal should always be to serve God and others to the best of our ability (and to always improve upon that ability!).

We should view each role in our lives as an opportunity to offer something to the Lord. St. Josemaría says we should try to be “a good brother, a good companion, a good friend, a good colleague.” We should fulfill our family obligations with joy and be loyal friends.

“The cheerfulness of a man of God, of a woman of God, has to overflow … that it may bring others to follow Christian ways.”

St. Josemaría Escrivá

Divine filiation

For St. Josemaría, the foundation of Christian life is “divine filiation.” We are all children of God. At every moment, we must accept that truth and live in it. No matter the circumstances of our lives, we are called to embrace the truth of our baptism. “You cannot forget that any worthy, noble and honest work at the human level can — and should! — be raised to the supernatural level, becoming a divine task.”

“Children of God! A condition which transforms us into something that goes far beyond our being people who merely put up with each other,” Escrivá says. And, like true children, we, “like him, give our lives for each other, when heroism is needed and throughout our ordinary lives.”

That means the mundane details of life can be important, even divine. Escrivá asks us to be always mindful that everything we do matters, and it matters to God.

“We should make no mistake … God is no shadowy or distant being who created us then abandoned us; nor is he a master who goes away and does not return. Though we do not perceive him with our senses, his existence is far more true than any of the realities which we touch and see. God is here with us, really present, living. He sees and hears us, he guides us and knows our smallest deeds, our most hidden intentions.”

“Why don’t you try converting your whole life into the service of God — your work and your rest, your tears and your smiles?”

St. Josemaría Escrivá

Friendship and cheer

Escrivá has yet another mission in mind when he stresses constant improvement: the conversion of others. By working to be excellent at whatever we do, we draw others to ourselves and to the faith. For Escrivá, this is a key component of missionary discipleship.

Often, this will find expression in acts of service to others. “When you have finished your work, do your brother’s, helping him … so tactfully and so naturally that no one — not even he — will realize that you are doing more than what in justice you ought.This, indeed, is virtue befitting a son of God!”

You may be the only Catholic someone ever meets. For that person, you may be the face of the Church, the face of Christ. “The cheerfulness of a man of God, of a woman of God, has to overflow: it has to be calm, contagious, attractive … [I]n a few words, it has to be so supernatural, and natural, so infectious that it may bring others to follow Christian ways.”

If we work hard, and well, and cheerfully, always conscious of our relationship to the Lord, life itself becomes a beautiful prayer.

Quotes from St. Josemaría Escrivá are taken from his written works, which can be found at http://www.escrivaworks.org/