See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Cleaning Lady.



An adoration story.
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Several weeks ago, I entered my parish church for my afternoon of adoration.  After doing this for so long I'm afraid I sometimes approach my scheduled time rather routinely.  That day I noticed an older woman parishioner polishing the black marble communion rail.  While the Blessed Sacrament was exposed.  Two other women I know were just finishing up their hour and I called one of the ladies over to ask her about the cleaning lady.
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Actually, she wasn't a cleaning lady at all, but a long time parishioner.  An elderly lady who dressed very young; capri pants with an un-tucked shirt and rolled-up sleeves over a modest t-shirt, nicely cut and colored hair, light make-up - she could pass for a much younger woman.  I'd noticed her before, sometimes during Mass, moving about the church, and I wondered if she had some sort of mental problem.  I asked my adoration friend that very question - "Is she nuts?  I don't think it is appropriate to be cleaning during adoration, passing back and forth before the Blessed Sacrament like that."
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"Oh no!"  My friend laughed.  "She's just fine - why would you think she is crazy?  Anyway, she's been here for better part of an hour and we just let her do it.  I suppose it isn't the right thing to do, but I'm sure she'll be finished soon."
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Nevertheless I felt rather indignant and considered saying something to the woman.  I tried to pray but was distracted watching everything she was doing.  She applied polish, and then buffed it to a bright shine, leaving a section and moving on to repeat the same procedure.  At times she would step back and admire her work.  Each time she crossed in front of the monstrance she bowed reverently and proceeded with her job.  I was slightly relieved after she left for a bit, imagining she was finished - although I noticed she hadn't returned some things she had moved back to their proper place.
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I tried to pray but remained distracted, and of course, that particular day, the thought of spending an afternoon in adoration felt burdensome, and I was already cranky anyway.  The lady returned with her buffing equipment and really threw herself into finishing the job, and so I decided to join my prayer to her work and began offering what she was doing to our Lord, thanking him for her devotion - I suddenly regained my peace!  It seemed that in very little time she was finally finished, returning everything to its proper place as well.  After the equipment was put away, she knelt on the bare floor for what seemed to be a very long time, in devout, attentive prayer before the Eucharist. 
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I was so edified, my hair sort of stood on end and I was suddenly deeply humbled at the sight of this woman praying, oblivious to anything around her.  I somehow understood how pleasing she was to Our Lord.  She came in and anointed his feet as it were... she did what she did out of love and with great faith.  I on the other hand - the only other person in the church at the time - had wanted to rebuke her.  In my heart I had condemned her and scoffed at her.  I came to adoration without charity...  only doing my duty... and did it begrudgingly, routinely.  Yet the 'cleaning lady' gave everything she had - and with great love.
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Love is repaid by love alone.
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Art:  Jesus Anointed at Bethany, Donald D. Krause




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(Later it occurred to me that the woman may have been unable to sit still for very long due to some physical disability.  Regardless, it wasn't any of my business.)

26 comments:

  1. Or maybe she has a hope the rail will be used again and wants to keep it ready. :-)

    It would've distracted me and made me cranky too but I give you kudos for talking yourself thru it and getting over it.

    Did she miss a spot? (lol)

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  2. LOL! She is rather amusing when she walks across the front of the church during Fr.'s homily to light a candle at the BVM's altar.

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  3. LOL. I'll admit that Eucharistic people who practice deep mystical prayer can be wound a little too tight when things like this happen.

    I'm sure she is pleasing to Our Lord. Just the same, doing things like she did at inappropriate times when others have gathered to connect with Christ, He loses out on intimacy and so do you and others distracted. I would invite you to contemplate whether it would have been more pleasing had she polished the marble prior to adoration or after so that everyone who came for the intimacy could cast their nets into the deep, including herself.

    Adoration is a worship service and though we might contemplate how lovely somebody who comes in voluntarily to vacuum the carpets during Mass may be pleasing to our Lord, I'm afraid there is something else going on there that would need a bit of pastoral assistance from the shepherd.

    :O)

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  4. p.s. There is a moment in Christ's ministry when some people go before him saying something like 'this is the Son of God, He's come to take our sins away' and for many years when I read it, I couldn't understand why Christ's reaction was to it was... exorcism. On it's face,it seemed innocuous and they were certainly proclaiming the truth. But they were distracting from the purpose of the gathering and it turns out it needed a little help from a physician of souls.

    Go easy on yourself there cowboy. Sometimes your instincts are more on target than you may think.

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  5. Was this perhaps a Mary/Martha moment?

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  6. Happy New Year, Terry!

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  7. I think you'll like this quote: "The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective."
    G.K. Chesterton ♥

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  8. Seems like every parish has a few little old ladies, sometimes they're men; I think of them as Annas and Simeons. We used to have a very elderly lady in our parish who would straighten the missalettes and dust the pews after Mass; she was frequently at adoration also. She would pray in Polish in a not-quite whisper. Used to drive me crazy on Holy Thursday evening when we had the altar of repose in a little room in the church basement. Too small of a space for noisy pray-ers!
    She died a couple of years ago at age 98, "...now let your servant go in peace..."
    I miss her.

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  9. Sometimes, when people do things during Adoration that I find annoying and distracting, I am convinced they have been sent by God at that particular moment to give me some idea of what my prayers must sound like to Him. I may think I'm praying the Rosary, but what God may be hearing is my concern about something that happened at work, that I forgot to defrost something for dinner, etc. At least that is the case for me. It amazes me how easy it is to say an Our Father or Hail Mary while simultaneously thinking other thoughts or even recalling a conversation I had with someone. I can't keep it all straight when there are external distractions, but I trust that God can and does.

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  10. omgosh sounds like *little way* and i pray the rosary exactly the same way. glad to know i'm not alone.

    terry, while reading your post, i was thinking 'well when else will she get this done' because my parish has 24/7 Adoration in our chapel. but i guess your parish does not? anyway, i love the way you brought things to a peaceful close in your mind/heart and reminded me of my own uncharitable thoughts of those who display what i think are inappropriate behaviors in church.

    you're my online conscience.

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  11. Thanks for this post, Terry.
    I really have a tizzy fit when they vacuum our perpetual adoration chapel. Will keep this and "Little Way's" comments in mind next time...

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  12. "Terry, Terry", He said, "You worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed, only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her." [Luke 10:41-2]

    [Later] "Yes Lord", Terry said, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world." [Luke 11:25]

    Scripture is instructional

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  13. Love this post. There was a little Portuguse man behind me at Adoration one day. He was driving.me.insane. "whispering" the Rosary. I was ready to snap and rolled my eyes at the monstrance containing our Lord. Rolled my eyes. Immediately I was ashamed. Now I just sit in a far off corner so I don't disturb anyone, especially our Lord, when I go.

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  14. Terry,
    Excellent post..Luke 7:38 filled my thoughts after reading. As always thanks for the "pause" moment.

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  15. Great story! Had me in stitches. You really should write a book, Mr Ter.

    Happy New Year~!!!

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  16. I have no idea what I was going to say because I was so taken by LittleWay's comment. I'll leave it at that.

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  17. I don't get to attend Adoration very often, but when I do I like to take the opportunity after my prayers to make cord rosaries....I really try to make an effort to be seated in the back so I am not a distraction to others..it's not like I have a big huge table all strung out with a bunch of noisy stuff..

    These cord rosaries often go to the missions or the local Newman Center...it is so nice to make these up in the presence of Our Lord. I do hope that if I'm a major distraction that someone would let me know.

    God Bless everyone and Happy New Year!!

    Sara

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  18. P.S. Brigham Young University has an exhibition of the works of Carl Bloch...I will try to get down there to see them....especially now that I have abit more critical eye as to what I'm looking at :)

    Hopefullly these won't be draped like the Rodin's were...

    Sara

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  19. Thanks for this, Terry, and some of the commenters as well.

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  20. I must confess that I am puzzled by so many who aspire to distracted prayer as the best they can offer to God in the hopes that He is pleased with the distracted conversation. Has it really become politically incorrect to strive for the remedy?

    I have had more than my share of conversations with my children when my mind was worrying about something else. I don't pat myself on the back about them or say I hope they understand. Sometimes, my children have recognized my distraction and their feelings have been hurt. I strive to really connect with them when I speak and when they are speaking to me.

    Distracted prayer happens to all of us. I believe the right action is to overcome our lack of discipline, remove the barriers to immersing ourselves into deep and mystical prayer.

    I don't understand, and I never have understood Catholic lay people or Catholic priests who don't want to tune into what may be happening spiritually to themselves or to their brothers and sisters. To me, it is like glorifying doctors and nurses ignoring bleeding people walk around for weeks because they don't have the wherewithall to check in at the front desk. Instead of approaching them and showing them how to get help, they watch them wander thinking about how cute they are.

    It could be this particular woman has something mentally wrong with her and as a community, it's our job to pony up and learn the discipline that Terry has applied. But somebody has already said there is nothing wrong the woman. Therefore, she may have a spiritual affliction or she may need her community to help her set boundaries.

    I know I am new here, but it seems to me like Terry has his feet planted in the world of the spiritual. Those with a keen sense of the spiritual may actually be onto something when they approach someone in the community and ask the reasons a woman is wandering about at inappropriate times during a worship service.

    I hope that this post is taken in the spirit it is given - out of concern for the woman and with the hopes of heightening awareness of the spiritual.

    Happy New Year!

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  21. St. Therese of Lisiuex was constantly distracted in prayer. She just offered up what she could. Even the saints get distracted.

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  22. wow carol that's harsh.

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  23. The housekeeping needs to be done in God's house. If that woman didn't clean someone would be in the priest's face complaining that the chapel was dusty. I've prayed while the housekeeper at my parish was buffing the santuary. Tat housekeeper serves the Lord so I had no problem with it.

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  24. No one is suggesting we should just accept that we get distracted and leave it at that. We're just admitting to our own weakness and figuring out what to do about it, as well as those whose behaviors cause us to be distracted. Kudos to those who have overcome this weakness. Please pray for the rest of us who have not. Peace to all.

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  25. Zaccheus, what are you doing in that tree?

    At least she doesn't go to Mass armed to the teeth like the Boondock Saints.

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  26. Doughboy, My comment is driven by authentic compassion for the woman, for Christ, for the people praying for for the people being prayed for. If it is reading to you as 'harsh', I'm not sure what to say, other than being present to the emotion it is emanating from, it is love for all concerned.

    Little Way, I beg your pardon, as I somehow misunderstood. Believe me, loud whisperers every week in Adoration and have offered it up or tried to discipline myself. And the Rosary is a meditation where I have to place myself at the mystery and focus or else I frequently check out. I was trying to convey there's a line in the sand as to what constitutes 'doing nothing' because the behavior is 'unbalanced' and/or the worship space is being hijacked to the point where the prayers lose their efficacy and intimacy. We wouldn't let somebody do a jig in the middle of a Mass - etc. This woman's conduct seems to call for a different response from the community and the pastor who is responsible for the worship space and all members of his flock.

    We intervene for the person who may be in trouble, for the people praying and for the beneficiaries of the prayer who will lose the benefit. To me, this is compassionate for everyone concerned.

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