by Mary McEntee McGill
I thought we could move this month's gathering prayer in a slightly different direction, in the spirit of Lentwhich begins on March 9 (Ash Wednesday) this year.
I thought we could move this month’s gathering prayer in a slightly different direction, in the spirit of Lent—which begins on March 9 (Ash Wednesday) this year.
As you know, prayer doesn’t have to be done with our heads bowed and hands folded. Prayer does not demand a silent room, a burning candle, or an open Bible. Prayer comes from our hearts wherever we are and in whatever we are doing.
I thought that this month we could put our prayer into a time to work—maybe a little spring cleaning.
Commentary: As children grow up, we teach them to take on certain age-appropriate responsibilities because work is part of life. We have them put away their toys, clean their rooms, help set the table for meals. God even gave Adam work to do: “The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15).
In many Jewish households today, women clean their homes thoroughly in the spring as they prepare for the Passover. All leaven (flour, grain, cereal) is removed from the house in anticipation for the Feast of the Unleavened Bread—the Seder Meal. This cleaning task is an act of prayer and preparation because, through the effort, those involved remember God’s gift of freedom and a new beginning at Passover. There is strong and even ancient tradition in this work-related prayer.
In high school, a Protestant girlfriend of mine looked forward to Holy Thursday, when she and her mother and other women in the faith community cleaned their church. It was a tradition. My friend and her mother cleaned the altar as her grandmother had done before them. Everyone had a task. They prayed as a group before their work, and they shared lunch together after the cleaning was finished.
Could your group do something like this? Could you work as a group to clean and organize the religious education office or the classrooms? Perhaps you could clean the church or the parish hall.
Think about it! You could choose a Saturday and invite your catechists and aides. Explain the tasks of the day and assign areas of work. Be sure to have cleaning supplies on hand: brooms, mops, dust cloths, trash bags, and boxes.
Assign your work according to the tasks at hand and the abilities and energies of the individuals on your team. You might be able to box and store things or give things away. Some things need nothing more than a good dusting and polish; some things simply need to be put in their proper places.
Place cleaning supplies around a lit candle to begin the day with a prayer.
Prayer: Lord, we come together today to work in the spirit of Lent as we clean this area. Through the generations, our parents and grandparents, workers and saints—even Mary, our Blessed Mother—have worked to prepare for holy times. We ask that they join us in our prayerful labor today as we clean this area—and our hearts. Bless us all, Lord, as we work together for you today.
When your work is finished, gather again for prayer and maybe you could share a pot of soup. Have a Happy Easter and may God bless you.
Mary is the Pastoral Associate for Religious Education and Liturgical Education for Holy Trinity Parish in Dallas, TX. She is the author of Stories to Invite Faith Sharing (Resource Publications).
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