“It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.”
I first read those words by St. Frances of Rome back on March 9, her feast day. Depending on how you feel about such things — housewifery, God, vocations — I suppose her words could either be adopted as a rally cry or summarily dismissed as antiquated. Had I read those words ten years ago, they probably would have provoked a good chuckle from me.
But I’m in a different place today — spiritually, emotionally, physically — and the Holy Spirit shared those words at a time when I was most receptive to hearing them. I’ve pondered St. Frances’ quote several times since first reading it a month ago. At first her words reminded me of some advice Joel and I received when we were first married. A wise friend said, “You must guard against too much church.” His point wasn’t that we should skip Mass and do away with building community at our parish. Rather, he was cautioning us that while it’s laudable and important to be active and in service to our church community, it can’t come at the expense of the higher, and often mundane, calling right within our home. My friend’s “too much church” comment has been some of the best marriage advice we have received, yet I often struggle to live it out well.
Exhibit A: Holy Week.
Holy Week is a very special time in our Church with its prayerful liturgies packed with powerful meaning, beautiful music, and family traditions to make anew once again. It’s probably my favorite time in the Church’s liturgical season, and if I had to pick a favorite Mass of the entire year, it is The Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.
This year was different given it was the first Holy Week since Joel’s diaconate ordination. “Deacon Joel” had a more defined role to play at the Basilica. His presence was required there, rightfully so. Given our kids are young, ages six, three, and one, and the Basilica’s liturgies are beautifully long, lasting well past their normal bedtime, I opted to stay at home. No Holy Thursday. No Good Friday. No Easter Vigil.
But it all left me feeling too sorry for myself, a little lonely, and if we’re being completely honest here, a little resentful that Joel had a front-row seat for all the action while I was left behind to feed, bathe, and put the kids to bed.
“Sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.”
At some point last week, St. Frances of Rome’s quote kicked in. The Holy Spirit planted her wise words on my heart several weeks ago for good reason: to pull me out of my pity party. The persecuted Christians in the Middle East came to mind, where millions don’t even have a safe haven to worship and receive the Eucharist. So I lit candles that were blessed back on Candlemas and prayed hard for peace and unity throughout the world.
Then inspired by my friend Kathryn’s beautiful post about love being in the details, I poured my heart into my housekeeping. I had time, energy, and the desire to pay attention to the details here in our home, that they may in be order and that I might create something special for my family this Easter. Little details, but important ones. I’m reminded of a thought so often repeated by Benedictine spirituality: beauty and order are contagious in their effect.
So I arranged flowers, prettied up our prayer table, made homemade Easter egg dyes, crafted egg holders out of duct tape (oh yes I did!), created table decorations (thanks to Kathryn’s easy tutorial here), arranged Easter baskets for the kids, lit candles, and prayed. And because photography brings me joy, I took lots of photos and now share some below.
I have a lot of growing to do in this deacon’s wife role. I have struggled much this past year and have battled bouts of spiritual dryness and isolation. All I can do is turn it over to God and then trust in Him and His love for me. And I can, I really can, see God writing straight with the very crooked lines of my heart and in my home. Thank you, God, for entering into those spaces that are in most need of Your grace.