As seminarians, we are encouraged to spend some time everyday in what we call spiritual reading. The purpose of this is to lift up our minds and our hearts to God by reflecting on the writings of saints, popes, well renowned catholic authors, etc. We do not use this time to read what is assigned for classes. My Spiritual director insisted I read a book called Amid Passing Things by Fr. Jeremiah Shryock CFR. In this book, Fr. Jeremiah tells many short stories about his experiences of the priesthood and what events made his priesthood stronger.
Chapter 17 of this book talks about a day in which Fr. Jeremiah walks into a church to pray and he noticed a woman knitting at the foot of the sanctuary. Frustrated, Fr. Jeremiah went outside on the church grounds to pray. He describes that as he was walking in silence, the Holy Spirit hit him with the words, “If you love me the way that woman does, you would not hesitate to knit in front of me.” Fr. Jeremiah describes that he had a misinterpretation of what prayer really is. He describes that, regardless if its meditation, spiritual reading, or contemplation, all types of prayer are activities. However, this woman was able to make an ordinary activity of knitting a sweater into a prayer. He says that she was able to see the “deeper dimension of prayer” by not separating her ordinary life from her prayer life. Fr. Jeremiah describes that there is only one life to be lived, not a prayer life, a home life, or a work life, just one life. Fr. Jeremiah describes that is the trap is to separate the spiritual life from the ordinary life, which shouldn’t be the case.
What strikes me is how many times we do activities in our lives and don’t acknowledge God. I find myself doing many “worldly” activities or chores just as a means to an end. The reality is I can take what I am obliged to do and make it a prayer. In other words, I can make something ordinary extraordinary. That is what the phrase “offering something up” means. By offering something up, we do an activity or chore in the name of Christ for a special intention. That special intention could be for a loved one, someone who is suffering, a soul in purgatory etc. Sometimes we are so caught up in the external that we forget that some much more good can come out if we internalize it in prayer. We can experience fruitful prayer in the small things that are asked of us each and everyday.