The following article is part of our ongoing series on the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life. To learn more, join our Facebook discussion group: CatholicHŌM (Households on Mission)–Family Discipleship.
One of the most important ways families celebrate the Rite of Christian Relationships in the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life is by “responding promptly, generously, consistently, and cheerfully” to each other’s needs. That said, a recent poll of Catholic HŌM members found that this was one the most difficult practices in the Rite of Christian Relationships (which also includes “extravagant” affection, and “Discipleship Discipline”).
In the follow-up discussion, the most popular reason members gave for struggling with “meeting each other’s needs promptly, generously, consistently, and cheerfully was, “it’s easier to do everything myself than to ask for help.” Not surprisingly, the second most common concerned expressed was, “feeling overwhelmed.”
The Rite Way to Work
The Liturgy of Christian Relationships is intended to challenge the selfish and sinful ways families to treat each other and, instead, learn to care for each other with the love that comes from God’s heart. A big part of this relates to the way families must work together and learn to function as a team. Not surprisingly, the secular world and Christians have very different attitudes toward work–especially the work involved in maintaining your domestic church.
Generally speaking, the following attitudes reflect a more worldly vision of work.
–Work is just about “getting stuff done.” The best way to draw “meaning” from work…is to finish it.
–Because work is just about “getting stuff done,” the most efficient way to get something done is always the best way.
–You get a gold star (i.e., approval, certain rights and privileges) for getting stuff done yourself (even if it makes you grumpy and resentful).
–“Running away from everyone and everything” is the just reward we earn for “doing everything ourselves” (especially if that makes us grumpy and resentful).
Contrast this with a Christian attitude toward work. (see Catechism 2427 and following)
–Work is a way to praise God for the blessings we’ve been given and to say, “I love you” to the people God entrusts to our care. Cultivating these attitudes makes household work a “little way of holiness” by enabling us to do small things with great love.
–Even if it is less efficient, the “best way” to get things done is to work side-by-side, caring for each other. The “stuff we have to do” is, in a sense, just an excuse to get people who love each other in the same room together so they can strengthen on their relationships and build community. Viewing work this way is how Christian families “choose the better part” (Lk 10:42).
–“It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). We aren’t meant to work alone. In general, the more we work alone the more resentful we become. Working side-by-side–especially with the people who love us– builds intimacy and “mutual self-giving” (see Theology of the Body). It also creates a discipleship relationship with our kids. Having our kids work alongside us teaches them that doing work and chores promptly, generously, consistently, and cheerfully is one of the most important ways we can say, “I love you.” Love isn’t just words. It’s working for the good of the people you love.
–The reward for doing work in a rightly-ordered way is the permission to pace yourself so you don’t burn-out, and the opportunity to create closer, more loving relationships with the people you’re working side-by-side with. Working in a rightly-ordered way actually makes us want to spend more time with the people we love. Doing everything by ourselves makes us feel like we have to run away from the people we love to save ourselves from being sucked dry.
When we consciously reject the lie that it’s “just easier to do things ourselves” we…
- use household chores to create a close, loving, supportive family team
- help our kids develop more loving, communal, humane, Christian attitudes toward work.
- remind ourselves to praise God for all the blessings we have been given and to feel grateful for those blessings.
- cultivate the peace, joy and gratitude that comes from being part of a group of people that work hard to look out for each other all day long.
It takes a pretty big mental shift to move away from the more worldly “it’s easier to do everything myself so I can just get stuff done and reward myself by running away” mindset and embrace the more Christian, “I want to look for ways I can work side-by-side with the people I love so we can take better care of each other, build a stronger sense of team, and feel more grateful to God for the blessings we’ve been given.”
You can start today by creating some simple “family work-together rituals” that allow you to…well, work together. Choose one of the jobs around the house that tends to make you feel burned out/bored. Ask yourself, “How could we do this job together as a family in a way that feels like we’re saying ‘I love you’ while we do it?” In other words, if you didn’t just focus on “just getting things done” but rather “using the work that has to be done as an opportunity to build relationships” how would you approach the job differently?
Then, sit down with your kids and spouse. Talk about wanting to change the way you approach work in your family. Explain how “working well together” is an important way families say, “I love you.” Elicit ideas from the family about the jobs you’d like to do together and how to do them in a way that would make you all feel taken care of.
Just having these conversations can create an important change in your family dynamic. Use these conversations to create Family Work Rituals that help you cultivate a Christian attitude toward household chores.
Let the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life free you from the tyranny of having to do everything yourself and feeling so alone while you do it. Let the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life help you heal the selfish and sinful ways your family relates around work and chores and empower you to create a stronger, more loving team.