Every kind of work can become prayer.
– St. Josemaria Escriva
One of my spiritual practices now is offering up the work I do as prayer. File this one under Things I Love Now That I’m Catholic But Had No Idea About Before. (Confession, saints, Natural Family Planning, relics, and feast days are just a few others in that category). I’m still learning about this practice, but as a way of understanding work and prayer, it has formed a new way for me to relate to God. Similar to the monastic bell idea, and this is kind of a part two to that post. After Evange was born, I was added to a Facebook group of moms in the campus ministry organization I worked for. I remember different threads popping up around the question – As a mom with a newborn, I can’t find space have a quiet time anymore. What do your prayer lives look like with babies? At the same time, I joined a Catholic mom Facebook group focused on Advent reflections. Through that (and this blog that I’d been following for a while because she’s also a convert, and loves Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter – the best!) I started to see that Catholics seemed to have an understanding of prayer that extended beyond the “quiet time” in a very helpful way for a sleep deprived new mom.
I’m a big fangirl of this lady, and she wrote a reflection that stuck with me. She was talking about this idea of offering up the small, every day tasks. That we have the choice to whine or complain about the little things that just need to get done, every day – feeding our bodies and others’, cleaning up after feeding those bodies, cleaning the mess of non-toilet trained others – or, we can offer up those tasks as prayers. From what I gather (again, baby Catholic here) there are formal prayers, like the Morning Offering, to offer up the day ahead, all the work, prayers, joys, and sufferings, that will come, to Jesus, for however He wants to use them. But I think you can also just pray throughout the day. When I hit the end of my energy or patience, I try to quickly, mentally, pray – Help me do this well, as a prayer for ___. (Quick side note – I usually like to pray for the pregnant women in my life, but right now there are SO MANY I can’t keep track of them all. We’re definitely not in the Bay Area anymore).
I don’t know if that’s really what offering it up is, but that’s what I do. This understanding of prayer is also deeply linked to a Catholic understanding of suffering – that we can link our suffering to Jesus’s. I think I first heard about this in relation to labor pains – that women would ask for prayer requests before labor, and offer those intentions up. Zelie’s due date was Good Friday and I was excited about the idea of being in labor on that day – Dang! I’ll be suffering as Jesus is dying! How cool is that?? But then I had to ask Chris, “So, how does offering up someone or something in prayer work, exactly? Do I have to keep them in mind while I’m in labor? Cuz that is not happening.” And he said no, I can pray before labor, to offer up my suffering as a prayer, for whatever. And I was like, ok cool. But she was born four days early. And I got an epidural because I didn’t want another 50 hour labor. So, obviously not ready for Good Friday levels of suffering over here. But everything can become prayer, and that’s something I wish I had known sooner and want to keep leaning into.
Turn it into love, my friend. Turn it into love.