Many of us live hidden lives of sacrifice to God and in service to others. We go about our days completing the tasks that are required of us. Those tasks may be at work, school, church, or within our families. Our accomplishments are only known by God and the few people who are truly close to us. In a world that prides itself on notoriety and recognition, these sacrifices are seen as minor or, to some, as meaningless.
All members of the Mystical Body share in the royal priesthood of Christ by virtue of our Baptism. This means that we are called to offer our lives in sacrifice to Him and for our neighbor. AsLumen Gentium states:
Christ the Lord, High Priest taken from among men, made the new people “a kingdom and priests to God the Father”. The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian man they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. Therefore all the disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God, should present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Everywhere on earth they must bear witness to Christ and give an answer to those who seek an account of that hope of eternal life which is in them.
To live a holy life is to offer everything to God, consecrating each moment of each day to Him. The menial and mundane tasks of our daily lives—from writing emails to sitting in meetings to washing dishes to folding laundry—are aspects of how we offer ourselves to God.
When these tasks are done with Christ in mind, as an offering of love to Him and as a sacrifice for others, we enter more fully into our participation in the common priesthood we are called to. We are conformed more closely to Christ the High Priest who offers himself fully to the Father.
Oftentimes we go through our days separating our secular tasks from our sacred tasks. We do not think of God in the ordinary parts of our day. We set aside times of prayer, as we must, but we forget that we are called to be a people who ‘prays without ceasing.’ This only becomes possible if we give every part of our day to God.
If we begin our day by offering it to Christ as a sacrifice for Him, and unite it to the needs of our loved ones and those who are suffering, our day will be transformed. When we do so we are participating in the sacrifice Christ makes on the Cross for us to the Father.
Most people do not like to do dishes. It’s not a particularly enjoyable task and in the United States most people have a dishwasher. I do not have a dishwasher; I am the dishwasher. It’s actually not my least favorite task. There is a rhythm to doing the dishes and a connection to making things clean through water. God has given me some of my greatest spiritual insights about my spiritual life while I am washing the dishes.
This task, which I complete multiple times a day, lends itself well to focusing on offering up my day to God for my family and for priests. When I give myself wholly over to it, I become more open to prayer and communing with God. When I no longer view the task with annoyance or frustration, I can empty myself out to God in this small aspect of my day. I am able to take this sacrifice I make to take care of my family and offer it as a sacrifice of love through Christ to the Father.
The ordinary parts of our day take on supernatural dimensions when we unite them to the virtue of charity. When we offer the smallest of sacrifices in love to God, we are allowing Him to transfigure every part of our lives. We can accept the hidden nature of our lives and choose love of God over worldly success or glory. Then, we become less concerned with pleasing others and more concerned with pleasing God.
St. Therese knew this well and she teaches it in her Little Way. Most of us are not called to missions that change the world on a large scale. Instead, we are sanctified in the quiet of our daily lives through taking care of and sacrificing for our families, or for priests, their parishes. This work is great on an eternal scale, but small on a worldly scale. We are made holy through the seemingly ordinary and hidden parts of our day. St. Therese explains:
God let me feel that true glory is the one that will last forever, and that to obtain it, it isn’t necessary to do outstanding works, but to remain hidden and to practice virtue in such a way that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing [Matthew 6:3].
So, when I was reading the tales of the patriotic actions of French heroines, in particular those of the Venerable Joan of Arc, I had a great desire to imitate them. It seemed to me that I felt within me the same burning desire that stirred them, the same heavenly inspiration.
Then I received a grace that I have always regarded as one of the greatest of my life….I thought that I was born for glory, …that my own glory wouldn’t be apparent to mortal eyes, that it would consist in becoming a great saint!
Spiritual Treasures from St. Therese of Lisieux: A Book of Reflections and Prayers, Edited by Cynthia Cavnar, pages 110-111.