“God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, material, and secular activities of human life … understand this well: There is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.” — St. Josemaría Escrivá
I am in the magical and messy thick of young family life. Our children are 4, 2 and an infant, born in January. A new baby … is there anything quite like holding a silky, soft newborn in your arms? It’s an absolute wonder. But with the joy also comes a seismic shift in the family dynamic and responsibilities. Through the sleepless haze of new-baby life, it can feel nearly impossible to muster the time for prayer (or, let’s be honest, even snag a shower).
In our new normal with a baby, much is required of us, often causing us to give and stretch beyond what we thought possible. In this season, I find that it is particularly crucial to seek out the “something holy, something divine” in our daily work, because it is too easy to become resentful of the self-gift required in family life. When we offer our parenting — joys and crosses — to God, he sanctifies our work and strengthens us in virtue. I often have to remind myself that, though I am far from sainthood, God remains near to me, his child. Even on the days when I feel like I’m failing, God loves me and helps me grow in holiness right here in my own home.
Hungry Babies: Compassion
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the
kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave
me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink …” (Mt 25:34-35). Yes, this calls our attention to the poor, but it also applies to our own tiny people crying out in hunger every few hours.
In our home, that’s our 4-year-old’s endless requests for snacks, the baby needing to nurse every few hours and our 2-year-old shouting at 3 a.m., “Mommy, Daddy! I’m hungwee AND firsty!” In this daily work, Christ says we are blessed; when I give food and drink to them, I am feeding Christ in them.
Prayer for Compassion:Father, give me eyes to see you in my hungry children. No matter how many times they come to me begging, may my heart hear you calling out to me. I offer to you all the effort it takes to feed my children. Help me respond with compassionate love.
Dirty Diapers: Tenderness
In the first three months of a new baby’s life, you change about 700 diapers. (Yes, 700!) It may seem that a blowout diaper doesn’t meet the mark for holy and divine; however, God sanctifies even the dirty diapers, because God Incarnate came down from heaven and belonged to a family. Imagine … Jesus, fully God and fully man, needed Mother Mary and St. Joseph to change and dress him. Thus, the changing table becomes sacred ground when we do our work out of love, taking the opportunity to show tenderness to a vulnerable child.
Prayer for Tenderness: Jesus, thank you for entrusting this little person’s body and soul to my care. Help me to tenderly perform the duty of changing and dressing my child. I offer this work to you for my own sanctification, that my heart may be softened toward all vulnerable people.
Sleepless Nights: Fortitude
People always joke with new parents about how little sleep they’ll get once the baby arrives, but you never really understand until it happens. In those wee hours, I try to offer up my tired prayers for others. I find it helpful to keep a list of a handful of prayer intentions at the ready. Often on my list: other moms awake at that hour, families in crisis situations and any specific prayer requests for my family and friends. Interceding for others doesn’t help me feel rested, but I try to remember that even my exhaustion can be offered for the good of the kingdom and my own soul.
Prayer for Fortitude: Father, I am tired, and I ask you to grant me fortitude to endure these long nights. I offer this time awake for__________________.
Piles of Laundry: Gratitude
St. Teresa of Avila said, “Know that even when you are in the kitchen, our Lord moves amidst the pots and pans.” God walks among the mountains of laundry, too. With a newborn, the laundry multiplies exponentially. Before I finish putting away the clean clothes, there awaits another full hamper. In his book, Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace, Scott Hahn puts it well: “Even the smallest tasks can take on infinite value when we offer them to God, when we carry them out as works of God.” I try, then, to carry out this work well and to find the joy in the blessings: We have a family to love, clothes to wear and a place to wash our clothes.
Prayer for Gratitude: Father, I am grateful for your love, for your presence, that you care even for all my little works. I offer this endless work of laundry to you, that I may become the parent my children need me to be. Help me find joy right here in this moment.
Getting Interrupted: Patience
As a parent, everything gets interrupted. (In fact, I just employed my children to smash ice outside with toy hammers so I can write!) It is difficult to respond in a spirit of love when you are trying to check an item off your long task list or you finally grab a rare moment of free time. For patience, I pray the words of St. Josemaría Escrivá, below.
Prayer for Patience: “How beautiful to act out such a role for Love, with a spirit of sacrifice, not seeking any personal satisfaction, but just to please Our Father God … Turn to Our Lord with confidence and say to him: ‘I don’t feel like doing this at all, but I will offer it up for you.’ And then put your heart into the job you are doing, even though you think you are just play acting. Blessed play acting! I assure you it isn’t hypocrisy, because hypocrites need a public for their pantomimes, whereas the spectators of our play, let me repeat, are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Most Holy Virgin, St. Joseph and all the Angels and Saints in Heaven” (Friends of God).
Saying Yes to Help: Humility
When you have a new baby, you might get a lot of offers for help. With our first, I desperately wanted help but felt guilty accepting. This time around, all I had to say was a resounding “YES!” And something beautiful happened. While I served my family by taking care of the new baby, my family and parish community were Christ to me. God came into my home to love me in the form of a cooked meal and helping hands.
Prayer for humility: Father, grant me humility to accept help and bless all the people assisting my family at this time. May our family of faith grow stronger and closer.
Participating in the Holy Mass: Faithfulness
Yes, the Mass is extraordinary, but we still bring our ordinary humanity to worship. Mass can feel like the longesthour of the week if you’re holding a crying, grumpy baby. If someone hasn’t told you this, let me reassure you: You belongat Mass. The sound of children at Mass means the church is full of new life, a healthy family. My husband and I struggle with that feeling of not getting “filled up” because we are always juggling the needs of little ones during Mass. We try to remind each other that God will bless our faithfulness and that, even if we don’t hear one word of the homily, Christ fills us when we receive him in the Eucharist!
Prayer for Faithfulness: Dearest Father, here I am. As I come to worship you, I offer any setbacks and frustrations as a prayer for my children’s salvation. May our family always seek you, know you, love you and remain faithful for generations to come.
Maybe you think finding God in these ordinary places seems forced. Some days when I’m pushed to the limits of my energy and patience, when I feel like there isn’t enough of me to go around, I have my doubts. I’m tempted to believe I must find holiness and a deep relationship with God somewhere, anywhere, else. When doubts come, I look at the lives of the saints to remind myself that, “Everything done out of love acquires greatness and beauty” (The Way).
May we have eyes to see the holy and divine in our homes today and have open hearts to meet God in the most ordinary places.