So today I did my usual thing, went to morning Mass (Happy Feast of Saint Paul of the Cross btw) and then headed to work at the parish office. Since my position there is a mix of pastoral work and other miscellaneous things, I found myself doing my daily morning routine of cleaning the offices and public areas (especially since everyone but Monsignor and I seem to be getting sick). Since it’s Wednesday, it is also the day I scrub all the hard floors (as in “non-carpeted”) in the office (three bathrooms and a vestibule). Yes, I do make up my own “brew” of cleaning supplies in a harvest green “cauldron” of water as hot as my manicured hands can handle. Yes, I am on my hands and knees scrubbing with a brush each of these floors. I love it. It helps me channel obsessive compulsive tendencies and the monotonous rhythm of the back and forth with the scrub brush helps me clear my mind and live in the moment. God and I have a nice chat while the pleasant (though sometimes strong) scent of fresh citrus (why are all cleaning supplies scented like fruit?) wafts through the air with its eau du cleanliness (which is, of course, next to godliness).
I just find it absolutely amusing the reactions I get sometimes from parishioners and such who come into the office during the day. It ranges from the joking eye roll and “Only Ms. Allie” of Monsignor who is clearly amused by how much joy I am deriving from my “menial” task of scrubbing floors that are almost predestined to be sullied soon enough to the “Why are they having *you* do this job? Don’t they pay other people to clean?” from some others. I always love how they add emphasis to “you” as if I were someone special around SJA so much so that I should not be subjecting myself to such “low” tasks. I brush it off and say, “Are you kidding? I love doing this!” Besides, I may as well be multi-purpose, gotta keep my job by being useful not a hubris-filled snob who thinks certain things are below her. Besides, Saint Therese did the lowly tasks around the convent in Lisieux and look at her now being all saintly and whatnot. So long as they are done with great love, there is no problem.
Now, you are probably wondering, “How in the name of all things Catholic does this have to do with you thinking ‘nunny thoughts?'” Everything really. Why? Because another one of those reactions is one of a religious who comes in every once in a while and makes a comment (knowing I am hoping to enter the convent) to the tune of “You were born too late, Allie, they don’t make you do that anymore, thank God.”
I always want to ask why she says that but usually I just do my passive “smile and nod” and continue rocking out to whatever is playing on my iPod at the moment (yes, I have a “house-nunning” mix) and the “scrub scrub” of the coarse bristles of my dear brush. Should we be thanking God for the fact that we have lost humility in a sense in that we longer desire to get down on our knees and scrub the floors that are trampled upon by countless feet everyday? Pah. Man is very prideful. And it never seems to stop growing.
“We don’t do that anymore.” That keeps ringing in my ears. Pah. How many times have I heard that from vocation directors and sisters trying to explain to me why “we don’t do this” or “we don’t do that” anymore. It annoys me to no end how suddenly we have all gone beyond the beautiful and humble practices of our ancestors both in the distant past and the not so distant past.
Frankly, if the Sisters asked me, I would not mind scrubbing floors, cleaning rooms, and just generally doing those things that other would see as “below them.” While I don’t want to make the blanket statement that these changes are all rooted in pride, one must admit that some of it is rooted in this father of all vices.
Pride takes many different forms in one’s life. Pride is that feeling of disgust when you do something you feel is “below” you. Pride is that feeling when you take a time-honored tradition and change/obliterate it in the name of “moving past antiquity.” Pride is not being able to admit when others have it right and you have it wrong.
God only knows how much pride is in me. Tons of it. But for every ounce of pride the Evil One instills in me, I ask God to give me twice as much humility and don’t dilute it like I do with my cleaning solutions. Give it to me straight, like I like my theology. Straight and with a chaser of hope for growth in virtue.
Since when has humility become a bad thing? Since when has lowering oneself been considered undesirable? Umm, duh, since the fall of man. Man is polluted with sin and vice but not in an irreversible sense. Since he is made in the Image and Likeness of the intrinsically good God, he cannot be intrinsically disordered in himself. He’s just wounded and needs to acknowledge it and ask for the grace to move beyond it.
Satan/Lucifer’s prideful “I will not obey,” which earned him a front row seat in the pits of Hell (which does exist) was counteracted (“stepped on,” if you will) by not just the “Quis ut Deus?” of good ol’ Saint Michael but also in the “fiat” uttered by the young Virgin Mother of God. Both Saint Michael and Our Lady play major roles in the story of salvation. Michael is the defender of mankind and the Church from the wiles of the Devil. But Mary holds a singular place in the order of salvation history because through her “fiat” that the Word was made Flesh. Mary, the lowly virgin girl betrothed to a man named Joseph. Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord, who though she did not foresee what was to come for her and her Son, said “yes” to God’s will and “yes” to helping bring about the salvation of mankind.
You know, Mary and Michael, each in their own way, could have said, “Ha! Look at me everyone! Look what I did! Aren’t I amazing?” But did they? Nope. Michael, a member of one of the lowest choirs (though still stupendous) of angels overthrew the great “Light Bearer” himself … a seraph (the highest of the choirs). And what did God do in return for this great act of love of bravery/humility (remember, “Who is like unto God?”)? He made him the head of ALL the heavenly host! Just imagine, your guardian angel reports to Saint Michael (and God, of course). That’s pretty epic, isn’t it? Makes you want to be like Michael, doesn’t it? From great humility comes great strength.
And then look at Our Lady. Holy Mother Church, what can’t be said about Our Lady’s role in salvation history? What can’t be said about her humilty? Mary could have run about proclaiming to the world that she was the Theotokos, the God-bearer. But did she? Nope. She allowed God to use her as His instrument with which He brought about the beginning of man’s salvation. And her humility did not end with her fiat. Nope, it went on throughout her life. One very seldom hears of Mary in the Gospels outside of the “bookend” stories of the Incarnation and the Resurrection. And yet, you know she was there. In the background, doing to cooking, the cleaning, the duties that needed to be done without notice for her Son’s work to be done. And even when she was not with her Son, which was probably most of the time, she just lived her life as a lowly Jewish woman who was the Mother of a great Teacher. But do you think when she was with relatives, friends and others that she tooted her own horn proclaiming that she was the one who gave birth to Him? Pah. No. She stood in the background and let her beloved Son do the Father’s will.
And now where is she? Ha. She’s only the Queen of Creation. That’s all. She was only assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven as a foretaste of that which awaits all of us at the consummation of time. Out of great humility comes greater and truer glory.
I can feel a rant coming on, so I am going to end this post here. Please do post your comments and such below. I love hearing from you all! Until the next post, I entrust you to the care of Our Lady and all the angels and saints!