A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘spring cleaning

This past weekend, after weeks of preparation, my parish church got a thorough cleaning. And I got a lesson in trust.

I mentioned in an April post that some parishioners had noticed cobwebs and dust that needed taking care of—and that led us to wonder what else needed doing. I asked my husband to bring this to our Pastoral Council, and the Council approved a clean-up day. Which I ended up organizing and preparing for.

Secretly, I’m sure my husband and my son were grateful I wasn’t organizing and preparing for a clean-up of our garage or basement storage areas.

In any case, I thought I had things under control. I e-mailed lots of people about cleaning out closets in the parish hall. I put notices in the announcements and in the bulletin for several weeks and posted sign-up sheets.

The closets didn’t get cleaned out. Only seven people signed up to help. And then two of those people couldn’t come owing to other commitments.

I spent weeks stressed out, making repeated trips to the church to sort, purge and clean, and I wondered how I’d get everything done. At the same time, I was stressed out by being on the receiving end of some harsh e-mails about a church project.

I should have known better and had a little faith in God’s timing and plans. Because, in the end, it did all come together.

On Saturday morning, I arrived at the church early to set up. I realized that just clearing up some of the storage spaces in the parish hall made the clean-up a success. But I still wondered how many people would show up.

Thanks to my husband’s update on the project to Pastoral Council and an e-mail sent by a parishioner who supported me throughout the process, I found myself with nine helpers. And together, we accomplished more than I could have hoped. In just five hours, we demolished dust bunny colonies in nooks and crannies of the church, vacuumed rugs, washed floors, polished pews, and changed light bulbs.

dusty piano

My love of dusting shines through…

Back at home, refreshed after a good shower to wash away the dust and fortified by a simple but tasty lunch, I realized three things:

  • First, I should have trusted that God would provide what was needed—in this case, people power—if this was something he wanted to happen. As Mother Teresa said, “God hasn’t called me to be successful. He’s called me to be faithful.”
  • Second, I should have leaned on God and prayed more for his help instead of trying to make it all happen in my own strength.

The LORD is my strength and my shield;

in him my heart trusts;

so I am helped, and my heart exults,

and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalm 28:7*)

  • And third, no one can add stress to my life. I create my own stress by the way I respond to events and the things others say, and I need to remember this verse:

With the LORD on my side I do not fear.

What can man do to me?

The LORD is on my side to help me. . . .

The LORD is my strength and my song;

he has become my salvation. (Psalm 118:6-7a, 14)

May we remember to pray that our plans line up with God’s plans, to ask him to meet our needs, and to lean on him before stress gets the better of us.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

dusty TV

My love of dusting shines through…

This is my piano on a need-to-dust day. But it could just as easily be a piano in a parish church.

At my church, a number of parishioners noticed cobwebs and dust on a couple of tables in the sanctuary. We started thinking about all the things that appeal to us visually in our church—the crucifix, the statues of Mary and Joseph, the tabernacle, the table the votive candles sit on—and wondered when these were last dusted carefully.

And when the carpet was last vacuumed well.

And when the cupboard under the stairs was last opened. (And what’s in there, anyway?)

Does this sound familiar?

If our parish church is only a few years old, these questions may not strike a chord. But if it’s 10, 20, or maybe 100 years old, something may be hiding in plain sight. And I don’t mean the cupboard under the stairs. I’m talking about dust and accumulated clutter.

We clean our homes regularly. We take extra time to clean and air them out in the spring. To purge clothes, toys and household items we no longer need or use and find a new home for them if they’re in good shape. But do we take the same care in our parish church?

With the arrival of warmer weather, maybe now is the time to blow the cobwebs out (literally) and give the sanctuary and church hall a thorough cleaning. The kitchen, too, if it’s been a while. Even if we need to be fortified with a double double or a few Timbits to brave the dusty corners. We may find those missing shepherds’ costumes for the Christmas pageant, extra seasonal decorations, or previous editions of hymnals that another parish could use. We may even discover our church has a lot of unused vases or dishes that need replacing. And we might identify minor maintenance issues that need a handy parishioner’s touch, and possibly a surprising amount of storage space for things that matter, like altar server vestments, a parish library or an emergency food cupboard.

I pray that we would give our parish church—God’s house—the same kind of loving care we give our own homes.

pets enjoying sunshine

Pixie and Molly enjoying the spring sunshine

At our house, two cats, a bulldog, two zebra finches and a corn snake—our own little zoo—enjoy the extra daylight hours by lounging in the sun.

It’s a far cry from what I was doing this morning: making a long list of chores to carry out before my in-laws arrive for a visit later this week.

I’m worried about cleaning glass doors and kitchen cupboard fronts, dusting, and polishing the stainless-steel appliance fronts. The spring cleaning needs to be done, I tell myself. But my real concern is making a good impression. Never mind that my husband’s parents are coming for my son’s confirmation next weekend and not for a home inspection.

Sometimes we put too much stock in how things look to other people: whether our lawn looks as good as the neighbours’, whether we’re as thin as our friends, or even whether other parishioners notice how involved we are in the life of the parish.

We can lose sight of what really matters: the true state of things on the inside. Are we busy with family activities, and so the lawn isn’t high on our priority list? Are we working on becoming healthier so we can be active with our children and have more energy for work and community activities? Are we using our time and talents as God calls us to, even if our work is less visible to others in the parish?

Even more important, what is the state of our hearts? Do we strive to follow Jesus’ teachings and become more like him? Do we regularly receive Communion for strength in our faith and the sacrament of reconciliation for forgiveness of our sins? Or do we give lip service to our faith while our hearts are far from God (see Matthew 15:1-20*)?

Rather than focus on looking as though we have everything under control—an illusion at best—I pray that we would focus on strengthening our relationships with others and with God.

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

~John 4:23-24

(*Scripture reference and quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Spring arrived yesterday—even in the National Capital Region, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at this week’s fresh snow.

There are certain rites we associate with this season, like spring cleaning. In my house, this will include a toy cleanup and purge, since my son will soon turn 13 and doesn’t play with many of his toys anymore.

Maybe spring cleaning should go beyond dusting for cobwebs and cleaning out junk drawers to taking a closer look at our spiritual life.

Our culture tells us many things can make us happy: food, alcohol, money, power, the “right” house or car, and even plastic surgery. But even if these things could make us happy, let’s face it—happiness is fleeting. What lasts is joy.

My parish church recently held a mission. As the Redemptorist priest speaking during the mission reminded the congregation, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11*). The priest noted that many people attend Mass regularly and try to follow Jesus’ teachings yet don’t seem to know what joy is.

It’s often said that Christians are an Easter people. So shouldn’t we be filled with the joy that comes from knowing our Saviour who loves us and died to save us from our sins, who sent us the Holy Spirit as a counsellor, and who gives us strength to “do all things” (see Philippians 4:13)? And shouldn’t this joy be something others can notice?

There are people in my parish—fellow parishioners as well as priests—who seem calm even when life is busy and stressful, who naturally put other people at ease, who live out their faith without trying to call attention to themselves, who just seem content. They share not only their treasure but also their time and talents with the parish and clearly enjoy serving the Church and the Lord. They just radiate joy. Read the rest of this entry »

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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