An Office Romance

by Catherine Doherty

What does office work mean to God? In what way does it lead us up the paths of sanctity toward union with God, the goal of our life?

For example, in Madonna House the office gathers and correlates all the information we need to do more efficiently the job that God has given us, to implement his holy will.

[When we do office work] all our faculties need to be totally alive, alert, and awake—concentrated, efficient, loving. We can pulsate with life and joy as we serve God in this “center” of Madonna House. For in our office lies the key to souls around the world.

You do your job perfectly for Love’s sake—to fall in love with God and with your neighbor.

By doing your job perfectly, and by understanding why you do it, you carry out that which all the baptized are called to do: restore all things to Christ, by the grace of God and with the help of Our Lady. This is what you do in the office.

May you begin each day’s work with the sign of the cross, under the patronage of Mary and Joseph, and your own patron saint and guardian angel. Offer your work, with its problems, difficulties, joys, and pains to the Lord.

He has many uses for your offerings, in order to restore the world of souls to himself. And let your heart sing an Alleluia of joy.

Tranquility in a File

Much office work is composed of little things. To do little things well for the love of God is to be surrendered, given to God utterly and completely, without holding anything back.

This begets concentration, accuracy, and discipline. Our work rests firmly on the immense tranquility of God’s order. All our aspirations and visions will fold like a set of cards, or shrivel and die as apple blossoms in a frost, unless the hidden, humble mainspring tasks are done well.

Let us look at filing. We have different types of files—paper files and computer files. God’s order is translated into them when you can locate quickly what someone needs or is searching for.

But if files are not in order, whatever depends on that order will partake of diabolical confusion. Satan loves to dwell in such files, for he thrives on confusion—it is a chink through which he can enter a soul. People with imagination can see his ever-changing face lurking in the files.

Files can be kept in order only if a person completely forgets himself, and motivated by love, so concentrates on the work at hand so that the self ceases to exist.

Filing feeds humility. Those who consider themselves smart and well-educated might despise homely little files—the repetitive work needed to keep them in order bores them to death.

How far removed is such a one from the Incarnate Word, who spent his day doing the most repetitive tasks. What could be more monotonous than planing a board up and down for hours every day? Yet Jesus the Word did it for us.

You are not robots performing a job; you are people in love with God. Everything well filed makes an incense of prayer that rises to God, as your heart, your mind, your soul abide in the tranquility of God’s order and his peace.

But maybe you dream of hours spent in the chapel in contemplation.

You are ready to endure cold and hunger, live on bread and water, even to be a martyr.

Stop. You are daydreaming. In none of these things will you find God. You will only find the shadowy outlines of the one whose laughter is heard across the world, Satan himself.

God waits for you in the humble tasks of every day, in small picayune duties. Your contemplation is concentration on where this should go, where that should be entered.

Your asceticism is to not forget the thousand little details. Your sacrifices are your daily tasks, especially on those days when work is most difficult. Such work is exacting, full of minutiae that can sometimes become a crown of thorns.

Sanctity is found in the files. Keep them in order, use them well and intelligently. You are responsible to God for all that he puts before you.

Office Machines

A computer is a machine with symbols called letters and numbers. Those symbols speak all languages ever heard on earth. The Lord has given us the ability to capture a tiny part of his intelligence in a machine; an infinitely small part, yet for mankind immense.

Everything we touch and use is for the love and glory of God. A part of God is in the machine. To use it is to share in the divine life, for those who created the machine received their intelligence from God.

Be reverent before this creature. Bless it carefully with holy water, so that you may be doubly blessed by touching a creature of the Lord—made of the things he created, born of the intelligence he gave.

You are greater than the machine, the master of it. It cannot frighten you, nor stop you, nor anger you, nor frustrate you. It is neutral, simply meant to remind you of God. Never take out on the machine that which you should take out of your heart.

Praise the Lord for the skill of your fingers. Use the keys lovingly to transmit their symbols into words, words that come from the Word who is God. Know that your fingers pray as you work.

Remember the great tranquility of God’s order. Your work should always be neat and legible, your touch always even. For you want to be part of that tranquility.

Never cease perfecting yourself, for love is never satisfied—it always wants to be better, do better, love more.

The machine you use is but a stairway to your union with God. If you listen well, you may hear his voice in the rhythmical song of the keys.

Letters

In Madonna House, letter writing is a special activity, which we learn in charity.

We are grateful to the people who write us letters, and to God who inspires them. We feel a deep obligation that reaches to the very bottom of our souls to answer those letters.

The clothes on our backs, the food we eat, come to us through the hands of other people.

The chairs we sit on, the paper on which we write, the toiletries we use, the sheets between which we sleep and the quilts that keep us warm at night, the tools we work with, the chapel we worship in, the farm that feeds us—there is not one thing here that you do not owe to those people to whom you are writing.

How is your heart, your mind, your soul directed as you answer? Speak to people from your heart. Thank them for what you have—the medicine that made you well when you had a little sickness; the gas that filled the car and took you where you had to go.

Your heart swells with gratitude, and you express it with your whole soul, your whole heart, your whole mind. Do you realize that you are thanking people for your life? It is nothing more than that.

You will become an apostle of letters. People will tell you their problems, their miseries, their difficulties, their joys. There are people who are desperate at the other end, who often do not know where to turn. Their letter cannot be neglected; it has to be answered. We are like a beacon of light in the darkness of the world.

Letters can bring someone happiness. Letters can bring comfort. Letters can bring hope. Letters bring our gratitude—the only thing we really have to give.

Letter-writing is an art inasmuch as love is an art. And what is love? Love is God. Where God is, there love is. Or where love is, there is God. It is as if God writes your letters, when you love him.

Why Bookkeeping?

Bookkeeping records the income and expenditures of a family, a business, or any group, and eventually balances the two.

For a family, this helps bring peace and security into their lives, as they ascertain whether or not they live within their income. It might also be said that the family needs budgeting for the sake of their growth in sanctity.

Order in any part of family living, especially finances, gives the tranquility in family life that helps parents to better pursue the road of sanctity.

In Madonna House, without money we could not do the works of the Lord. So those who do our bookkeeping are really sanctifying and restoring one of the most powerful, and potentially evil (when it is misused), creatures in the world—money.

By the responsible way we use money and account for every penny, by thanking our benefactors as well as by processing everything correctly, we are sacramentalizing an ordinary creature of God, and using it for his glory and in aid of our fellow man.

Excerpted and adapted from The People of the Towel and the Water, (2010), pp. 135 – 141, available from MH Publications