Part 10 – Praying with the Work of our Hands


Catherine saw ordinary life and work as part of a much wider reality she called “the vision of the whole.” She spent her life passing this vision on to her spiritual children at Madonna House and those reading her books, describing it thus:

“It is important to understand that the ordinariness of routine daily life is the warp and woof of living the Gospel without compromise. No part of the Gospel is abstract. Each part demands, cries out for, an incarnation. Spirituality must be incarnate, as Jesus Christ was incarnate. Unless it is, it isn’t true spirituality.

First and foremost is the love for God. Scripture tells us that we must love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind and strength (Mark 12:30). And so we should. But this doesn’t mean that we must spend our whole day in formal prayer. It means that we go about our Father’s business. And what is our Father’s business? It is the duty of the moment. We also pray with the work of our hands.


It never occurs to me that I can possibly separate anything from love,” she said. “For example, I will speak of washing dishes. If I have the attitude that this is a beautiful ‘little thing’ that I can give to God, then washing a cup becomes an adventure! Do you get the picture? Every little thing should be done perfectly, completely, connected with God. Otherwise, it ceases to be interesting. It has no sense and no being. Doing little things with our whole hearts is our vocation.”

As people joined her, Catherine taught them to work so their love and energies could be more fully focused on the task at hand. She wrote outlines of how people working in each department of Madonna House (such as the kitchen or the repair shop) could best live the Gospel. These outlines were a source of inspiration, helping many people find beauty and joy in what often seems like drudgery. Later, these department outlines were compiled into her book People of the Towel and Water for the benefit of working people outside of Madonna House. It is from this book that the meditations in this tour have been taken.