As we settled into classes here in Rome I had a “déjà vu” experience. Or, more properly, a brother reminded me that we were both having one. Once again, I was in charge of cleaning the bathrooms each day he was my sidekick. It was déjà vu because 9 years ago we cleaned a different bathroom together with me in charge, which I vaguely remembered but I didn’t relate it to our current situation.
We always have about half an hour a day to help keep the house clean and orderly. In the 9 intervening years, I had swept a hallway every day, been computer network administrator, run the sacristy, worked in purchasing, kept our “attic” (officially called the supply room) in order, installed insulation, and painted half the walls in our Cheshire novitiate. The scope is broad, showing that I guess I wasn’t so good at any one thing.
I think such work teaches two lessons. First, a vocation is who we are not what we do. By religious profession and obedience our acts are made supernatural means of grace, automatically, even if what we are doing seems of menial importance. Whatever any Christian does, if it be God’s will, is building up grace in heaven. This applies to all vocations: when you have a nice family meal or work hard for your family, the fruits are eternal.
Second, I think it is a joy to serve others. In the Gospel, Christ identifies himself with each and every human being. Serving them I serve Christ. Sometimes others may seem hard to serve but that is when they really are Christ most clearly.
Despite my previous good experience serving others by keeping clean bathrooms, I no longer do that. I was asked to take over the house library, a little bit of a task for a house of 350 Legionaries studying. Someone is here asking me for a book so I have to go…