The Vacuum Hymn

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Diaper Day

Whenever I take out the vacuum – which is often in these days of little hands, small pieces of food, and lesser fine motor skills – Christopher crawls behind me and shouts at the same cadence as the hum of our little handvac. It’s the same shout he made one morning at daily Mass when he figured out his voice echoed against the church’s classical style marble. “He’s singing to the Lord” one of the older daily communicants said, assuaging my guilt that the short 7:30am Mass had suddenly become a choral one thanks to my ten-month-old.

Despite my aversion to true squalor, I am a terrible housekeeper. I would say I’m still learning – after all, I’ve only been married for less than two years – but I think it gives me too much credit. This Lenten time of eliminating distraction has shown me that it’s not a matter of not having enough time or that cleaning our tiny one bedroom apartment is too much to handle. Laundry, mopping, the bathroom, laundry again: like Bartleby, I simply would prefer not to.

At the first women’s retreat I attended weeks after our entrance into the Church, the priest leading the reflections mentioned a story about one of Mother Teresa’s visits to a community of the Missionaries of Charity. She toured the whole place and when she got to the bathrooms, they were immaculate. Mother Teresa turned to the people around her and said, “The Sister who cleaned these toilets must love Jesus very much.” It’s a sentimental little story, I know, but I think of it often.

I want to love Christ and He has provided the way for me, not only through my time in prayer or spiritual reading or doing special “Christian” things, but through the responsibilities entrusted to me in my vocation. The hum of the vacuum is a song to the Lord. Putting dinner on the table is an image of the supper of the Lamb. I miss out on these opportunities when I neglect this aspect of my vocation.

I don’t think our apartment has to be museum-quality every minute of every day, especially since a twister named Christopher comes through daily, and I truly don’t think Martha-like busy-ness is a virtue. But I hope with a mingling of duty and grace, I can make our home a less chaotic place where we can be like Mary and sit at Jesus’ feet in peace. My singing shadow reminds me of this as he sings to the Lord for me while I vacuum up the crushed Cheerios under his high chair. I hope that in forming these habits, I, too, can learn to love Jesus very much.

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