The Vocation of Dusting (+ a birthday giveaway!)

“Dusting is important for saving the world.”

~ Leila Lawler & Elizabeth Foss



That was the quote from the Chapter 3 Summer in the Little Oratory podcast that most caught my attention. And it also brought back to mind a story filed away in my to-blog-about-one-day folder. Finally, a reason to talk about DUSTING! The story goes a little like this…

One Saturday morning a few weeks back I headed across town to Des Moines’ Southside and attended morning Mass and confession at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. St. Anthony’s is a 100+ year-old parish, initially founded in 1906 to serve the ever-growing influx of Italian immigrants in the south-side of Des Moines. The parish truly serves as a Catholic social institution for the greater Des Moines area, and the church continues to recognize and celebrate its Italian identity, especially through its sacred art, devotions, and celebrations.

Just take a look at its altar and sanctuary.


After Mass that Saturday morning, several Mass-goers made way to the line for confession. At the same time, a group of women congregated near the altar — well, it was mostly women, but I think a man or two might have joined in — and they collectively began to clean the church. Some vacuumed, some polished, others organized. Then there was the woman with the dusting cloth and feather duster who caught my attention.

The confession line was long, a good “problem” I suppose, and I was holding up the end of it. As I waited and watched the woman with her dusting cloth and duster, I was calmed by her reverent approach to a rather mundane task. She approached the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue and carefully wiped down its surfaces, lovingly touching up Jesus’s face and head with the duster. Then she moved to the candles, carefully picking up each one, wiping down the glass holder, and then putting back just so. As she made her way across the sanctuary and crossed the altar, she stopped and made a profound bow. A visual reminder that no matter if we’re dusting or worshipping, a sacred space is always a sacred space. Then she headed toward Mary and took proper care of her, then St. Anthony of Padua, and onto many other icons and sacramentals located throughout the church.

I wondered if she prayed while she worked. Did she offer a “Sacred Heart of Jesus, in your mercy, hear my prayer,” when polishing Jesus’s Sacred Heart? Was the Hail Mary whispered on her lips as she tended to Mary? Maybe she prayed for the return of something lost as she looked into St. Anthony’s eyes?

As I waited and waited (that line was long!), I began to wonder why I didn’t approach dusting in the same fashion. Is it because I dread dusting? Maybe it’s because the stuff in my house doesn’t have as much meaning as the “stuff” inside that church. Or is it I’m just lazy? Ungrateful for the material possessions in my home?The Vocation of Dusting

Enter Chapter 3 of The Little Oratory. The authors talk a bit about care and maintenance of not only the items of the little oratory but general upkeep of the entire home.

“A lot of people don’t understand what dusting is, as funny as that seems; they may have the idea that dusting is the vague flicking of particles into the air with a feather duster, and consequently their decorating, holy and otherwise, suffers.”

The book continues on and shares a routine of sorts for dusting and polishing items within your little oratory and beyond. Leila talked more about this thought in the podcast.

“I think it’s interesting that today we have all sorts of routines and details for things like working out at the gym … little ways of doing things that don’t relate to the home, and we’re very on top of all the details that go into those things. But when it comes to the home, there’s a whole body of knowledge we’ve just lost. And so consequently, when it comes time to doing those things, we just can’t see ourselves doing them.”

I’m wondering, though … is it that we don’t know how to dust, as Leila suggests? In part, probably. But I think at the heart of this reality, at least for me, is that homes are filled with so much stuff. Much of that stuff having no significance other than maybe we bought it simply because it was cheap at Ikea. I recently heard a quote that from 1970 to 2000, the average size of a new house in America has almost doubled even while the average family size has gotten smaller. So what are we putting in all that extra space if not for people? Stuff and more stuff. And maybe a couple of dogs and their stuff.

I’ve somewhat seriously suggested to Joel time and again that I wouldn’t mind starting fresh, to downsize on purpose. Consider it a forced decluttering of sorts, to consciously break the cycle of putting more stuff into our home. It would certainly help us be selective about the stuff we surround ourselves with, what we have out on display, and what we have away in storage for holidays and the like.

While a forced decluttering might not be in the works (God willing), we can take earnest steps toward that goal by simply removing and donating stuff that we truly don’t need. If we do this well, our entire home then becomes an extension of our little oratory. If we can make that happen, shoot, I might just begin to enjoy dusting. So as for dusting changing the world, well, I don’t know about the whole world, but doing all this will surely change ours.

* * *

So now for the good news! I’ve been holding on to a free copy of The Little Oratory for several weeks. Given it’s my birthday, now seems like a great opportunity to launch the giveaway and celebrate by passing along a book that I believe is a must-have reference book for every Catholic home. Added bonus, you’ll learn some great dusting tips to help change the world! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. Cheryl G. says

    Washing dishes! I always save them for the next day because I hate to deal with them after a long day.

  2. Kate says

    Cleaning the bathroom sinks and counters! I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around how quickly they get dirty.

  3. Patrick says

    I would have to say dusting is probably the hardest part of cleaning for me. Flat surfaces that I can wipe in a second are good, it is all of the knick kacks.

  4. says

    I’ve been thinking about you all week – knowing your birthday was today! Happy birthday! I am just so, so thankful that we had the opportunity to work together – and grow together in the time since. Who knew what God would do in and for and through us – 11+ years ago! Have a blessed day – and year. :)

  5. Andrea says

    For me it’s dusting. It doesn’t help that I am allergic to dust and tend to get a few hives when I dust. I try to get the kids to do it. The little ones seem to love permission to take everything off shelves or stand on the couch to reach picture frames.

  6. Deric says

    Washing the carpets is what I have the hardest time with. Six children in the house means that washing the carpets every few months is a must and it also means that it is usually a couple day project.

  7. says

    The task that i have the hardest time with is just get stuff back where it is supposed to go. I just let things go too far until we have just a path–lol!

  8. Cathy Hardekopf says

    Would love to declutter my home….too much stuff in here! If I had a week without children…I am pretty sure that is what I would do!!

  9. says

    Dusting gives me a sense of accomplishment – maybe because there is always a thick coat when I get to it
    :) Laundry, not so much. Love the inspiration thoughts on the plaque in your pic.

  10. says

    Happy birthday, Lisa! Thanks for the chance to win this gem!

    I have a hard time with dinner. I don’t love cooking, but I do it out of necessity … It is hard to be creative and please everyone and cook for such a large crowd of 9. Especially at 4:30-5p, when I’m tired after a long day. Excuses, excuses, I know, but I’m just being honest! :-)

  11. Dana says

    Cleaning in general is hard these days with 4 small children in the house. I feel as if things get dirty again as soon as I clean them!

  12. says

    I really despise doing floors, but a good friend told me to do them on Fridays as part of my pennance, and that has really changed my attitude.

  13. Barbara Abbate says

    I can’t keep up with all the paperwork – bills, newspapers, things the children bring home from school, etc .

  14. says

    Kitchen floors! I always procrastinate, mostly because I have 4 little ones who will probably spill something 12 minutes after I finally scrub them (on my hands and knees, because that’s the only way I can get them to look really clean.) There are other tasks that are a lot more time-consuming, but for some reason I struggle with this one the most.

  15. brunetta says

    would love to declutter my home…too much stuff in there. Dusting not a problem as such but cleaning up with the paperwork of kids, bills etc….

  16. Mary says

    I struggle with cleaning the shower. We rent a home with a huge walk-in shower. It is exhausting to clean.

  17. Joyce Donahue says

    Clutter – it’s real. I hate dusting, ad do it rarely, but it’s always an opportunity to get reacquainted with my stuff.. and to reconnect with why I am keeping it. The value of an object can be simply its beauty, but more often, it’s in the significance and memories they evoke.

  18. says

    Hope you had a great birthday, Lisa! I love this post. Despite wanting to get the book since I first learned about the summer book club series (and the podcasts!), I haven’t gotten a copy yet, but I keep reading the posts and listening the podcasts. I even heard Leila on Catholic Answers Live talking about the book. Moving to a new home is teaching me to be much more deliberate and slow in our decorating process. I’m in no rush to fill the shelves or put up a bunch of art. I want whatever goes out to have meaning. Thanks for hosting such a great giveaway–and a rosary blessed by Pope Francis at his inaugural Papal Mass?! Awesome!

    Hmmm…I’d say the household task I struggle with most is cleaning the bathrooms. It’s not so much that I don’t like it, but it’s tricky to find a time to actually do it with the little ones if Philip isn’t home. It always manages to be the task that brings me the most calm and peace afterward, though. Gotta love a sparkling bathroom!

  19. franciscanmom says

    I embrace cooking with a passion, and I even enjoy laundry. But housecleaning…now that’s my downfall.


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