A Parent’s Perspective
I’ve already seen the first pictures of snowdrops posted on Facebook and am beginning to notice the ‘grand stretch in the evenings’ and the first hopeful signs of spring. Of course, after last year’s experience we can’t rule out a late fall of snow and I’m sure a few wise people have already stockpiled their pan loaves just in case.
I’m being optimistic and am excited at the prospect of my favourite season of the year. I’ve already started a very sluggish Spring clean, getting stuck into sorting out mounds of clutter. I have to admit to posting a few memes in my time along the lines of “there will be years for cleaning and cooking, but children grow up while we’re not looking”.
I totally subscribe to the view that the needs and requirements of small children have to come first but now that my youngest is eight years old, I’m developing a more nuanced approach. With a 12-year-old, a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old at home, I’m pushing the charitable aspects of a clean, well-ordered home having found some unlikely role models in two lively, fun guys who also happen to be Catholic priests.
Catholic Stuff You Should Know is a podcast concept that was developed on a road trip to Banff in Canada during 2010. Fr Nathan Goebel, Fr John Nepil, Fr Michael O’Loughlin and Fr Mike Ripp are all members of the organisation ‘The Companions of Christ’ which was founded in Denver in 2007.
The organisation has a big focus on evangelisation and, for the last nine years, this has involved a weekly podcast production which the priests describe as “lighthearted explorations into various prominent and obscure Catholic topics”.
My 22-year-old nephew had the honour of meeting Fr John and Fr Nathan while attending the Seek 2019 student conference recently in Chicago, Illinois. Already a fan of the weekly podcasts, it was one of the high points of the event for him. Listening to these two personable priests’ podcast ‘Cleanliness is Next to Godliness’ got me hooked too and I finally have some spiritual allies in the quest for a tidy, chaos-free household.
Quoting from St Thomas Aquinas, Fr Nepil discusses with Fr Goebel the topic of caring for items and goods that are not our own personal belongings but are owned in common with others. There are many examples in religious life and the point was made that items or living spaces, owned by several people and looked after carefully by us, can demonstrate charity towards those we live with.
It’s easy enough to be careful and protective of our own belongings. I think many parents have witnessed how well mobiles phones and various electronic gadgets and gizmos are looked after but there’s a much more casual, offhand attitude to items that are used by everyone.
I think we’ve all been guilty of having a meltdown if some precious personal item is lost or damaged.
The podcast suggests that looking after our own goods is an extension of our love for ourselves whereas caring for the things everyone uses is a true expression of love. Even something as simple as doing the dishes after a meal is an expression of common love.
The two priests chatted in relation to living in community with other brothers in a religious order. In that situation, they questioned what something like leaving dishes in a sink communicates and agreed that it really gives the message that “I don’t care about you”. Aquinas suggested that doing chores and living a life of cleanliness isn’t just for your own benefit but demonstrates a communal care and respect.
Of all the approaches to a well-kept and well-organised home, these Denver priests’ approach impressed me the most. A comfortable, tidy house is not just a personal preference or pointless perfectionism. Fr. Nathan quoted Mother Teresa who said: “Wash the dish not because the dish needs to be washed but because of the person who will use it next.” The same applies to all areas in our common homes and gardens.
Listening to the priests’ spontaneous and natural dialogue, it struck me that, in encouraging, nagging or generally harping on about wanting all hands on deck in the care and maintenance of a busy house, we’ve got the angle all wrong. It shouldn’t have to be about a harried mother or father imposing an impossible standard. It’s just another extension of the charity that should be evident in any Christian home.
A mother watering flowers in a garden, cutting the grass and removing weeds isn’t seeking adulation but is acting out of love for her family. Planting bulbs and shrubs isn’t an attempt to outdo the neighbours but may be a way of showing care for our neighbour by improving our gardens and green spaces. The charity that begins in the home has ripple effects that spreads joy and the brightness of faith and love.
My sister and nephew introduced me to Catholic Stuff You Should Know. The fact that a 22-year-old guy gets a whole new philosophical insight into the positives of tidying the house has to be a top class recommendation. It certainly has given me a whole new exciting angle and I plan to pop on more of these lively priests’ podcasts while driving around with the children in the car.