Dear Friends of Joseph House:
The stay-at-home orders we’ve experienced may have brought a renewed emphasis on your home life and its attendant joys—and tensions. Surprisingly enough, helpful guidance can be found in the tradition of monastic spirituality, which might sound otherworldly but is actually very practical and down to earth. After all, monks have spent a long time learning how to live and work together in a way that is peaceful and harmonious.
Here’s one example. During his first week-long visit to an abbey, Wil Derkse, a lay Benedictine oblate, learned the importance of “simple but effective care for little things in your environment.” In his book, The Rule of Benedict for Beginners, he shares this anecdote about one of the monks, Father Schretlen:
“One of his functions was the care of the flowers in the chapel and elsewhere in the monastery. He was often seen paying attention to aspects of this task: removing a few wilted leaves, cleaning up some fallen leaves of trees, rearranging a bouquet, replacing a candle, straightening out a few chairs. This was not at all an obsession or a sign of obsessive-compulsive neurosis. Father Schretlen simply was careful in noting little things in his area which needed a bit of attention.
“Since I try to keep my own (strongly modified) version of a daily order which I have copied from the abbey, my daily scheme also contains an FSE, that means the ‘Father Schretlen effect.’ That simply means that every day I at least keep in mind how I might follow his example, at home, at work, and wherever I am: replacing a broken light bulb, filling the water containers of the radiators, turning off the reading light when I leave the train compartment. I know that this hardly represents anything, yet I am ashamed at nighttime when I notice that I did not mark off my FSE.”
Outside the monastery, Catherine Doherty, founder of the Madonna House lay apostolate, also extolled the virtues of a household in wholesome order:
“Have we experienced the utter joy of scrubbing a floor? Do we know how to make it a prayer, a song of love and gladness? Have we recited the litany of dusting and sweeping whose goal is a home bedecked with cleanliness? Or are these humble tasks irritatingly monotonous to us? Have we experienced the creativeness in cooking a meal or making a loaf of bread to eat? Do we understand the sublimity of service—humble, daily, constantly repeated? . . . The desire to straighten things up, not to leave a mess behind—these are tokens of love. When the house is in order, it’s at peace, and charity blossoms in that order (Nazareth Family Spirituality).”
This attitude of applying careful attention to things has roots in the Rule of St. Benedict, in a directive addressed to the cellarer of the monastery (the facilities manager), but which is applicable to everyone: “Let him regard all the utensils of the monastery and its whole property as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar.”
Taken to heart, this will transform how we live. A spirit of reverence is not just for Church on Sundays: daily life is also the abode of God. The spaces we live in, the common, ordinary things we use, the hours that make up our days . . . grace can be hidden anywhere. A reverential touch is never out of place.
As St. Teresa of Avila told the nuns in her convent, “Know that even when you are in the kitchen, Our Lord is moving among the pots and pans.”
There’s another step to take: can we regard other people as bearers of the divine image, temples of the Holy Spirit, and heirs to the kingdom of heaven? Not “as if” they are, but in truth?
Lining up our behavior with our beliefs is the key to integrity. Actions speak louder than words, and through our work at the Joseph House we let people know about their dignity.
Your support gives life to this mission. Thank you for your fidelity.
This is a dangerous time for people working to provide essential goods and services for the rest of us! Maribeth, 38, and her husband both worked at a chicken plant. He contracted COVID-19 and died from it. Maribeth is on temporary leave from her job. She has two children, ages 5 and 2, and doesn’t know what to do regarding child care when she goes back to work. She and her husband had taken different shifts so someone was always home. We helped Maribeth with $250 for her electric bill. Her electricity won’t be cut off—for now—but overdue bills will have to be paid.
Ivy, 27, has two young children. There were outbreaks of COVID-19 at the chicken plant where she worked, so Ivy quit her job—she was afraid of spreading the disease to her children. Ivy is worried that she will lose the used car she recently purchased. Her stimulus check helped but it didn’t last long. We paid $300 toward her electric bill.
Shelley, 20, lives with her parents and four younger siblings. She works at a restaurant that started doing only carry-out because of COVID-19, so her hours were cut to part-time. Her father does yard work, but people have been hesitant to hire him. With their income drying up, this family was in a financial squeeze. We paid $300 toward their back rent and supplied an abundance of food.
Judith, 84, came to see us on behalf of her 60-year-old brother, who was being discharged from a long-term care facility. The electricity in his home had been turned off because of unpaid bills. His health is not good and Judith is concerned about him. We contributed $350 to get the power back on.
On May 27 the Vatican advanced the cause of Charles de Foucauld for canonization. The spiritual father of the Joseph House and the Little Sisters is going to be an official saint! We hope more people will be inspired by Br. Charles: the example of his life has many points of relevance to our times.
We pray that our bonds of sister- and brotherhood may prevail to bring an end to racism, hatred, and violence. Creating a truly just society, one that fosters peace in our communities, requires determination and our best efforts. This is soul-searching work. May God be with us all.
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
The Joseph House depends on free-will offerings. Learn how you can help: Donate.
Please send us your prayer requests and we will lift them up to the Lord: Contact Form.
“I have not forgotten you and the people that you serve…Please take care of yourselves and stay well.”
“I have just received one of those stimulus checks that are being distributed to help people cope with the coronavirus shutdown…I would like to donate my check to the Joseph House so that those that really need help will benefit.”
“God has really blessed us with such good friends. They buy us groceries and make us homemade food all the time! We, therefore, need to be generous to others.”
“We are in difficult times with the COVID-19, it has also come with a renewed spiritual strength in God for our precious lives and hope.”
“Today I pondered about the lives of my and my husband’s parents. They too went through uncertainty…the Depression, wars. My grandmother gave birth to an uncle during the 1918 flu. She survived as no nurse on the floor would let the baby die…I am so blessed that I am making this donation to ‘their memories.’ They survived and we will too!”
“Dad contributed small amounts to many charities, and was sympathetic to the needs and hurts of many who were unfortunate, whether by birth or circumstance. But he always had a special draw to your work…It is an ethic that has been handed down to me and which I faithfully undertake.”
“I can sympathize with your efforts to help those in need. As I child I was raised in a Children’s Home after my father died at a young age…My expenses have fallen having to stay home so I’m using the enclosed funds to help Joseph House during these very trying times.”
“The world has certainly changed in the last few weeks and we realize that the church collections and donations that you rely on may been impacted by our current pandemic ‘shelter in place’ recommendations. Please accept the enclosed donation to use in your social ministry to help the underserved and vulnerable.”
We appreciate your letters very much. Every show of support and word of encouragement means a great deal to us, especially now when the struggles people are facing have been turned up a notch. You help us to believe that positive change is possible for our world—and is in fact occurring.