June 9, 2014

Beautiful Monotony - a guest post from Katherine Friedman

A very dear friend of mine is a religious sister with an order of Franciscans here in Ohio.  You may remember seeing me post this amazing video of a song she wrote when she professed her first vows last summer. 
Sr. Agnes Therese
Pure joy.
Sr. Agnes Therese and I were good friends before she joined the Franciscan Sisters TOR.  We were in several classes together at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and we shared both a common homeland (the beautiful Northeast) and a common love (visiting the elderly), but I'd say our friendship has grown since she left and became a sister. We write letters back and forth (at an ants pace, averaging once/month or so!), exchanging prayers and prayer requests, updates on life, and small reflections on our walks with Christ.

One of the things I love best about my relationship with Sr. Agnes Therese is the way in which she makes me think about my vocation as wife and mother differently.  In fact, she helps to orient me to thinking about them monastically.  She sees my everyday monotony as a beautiful working of love for my family.  When I look at my life through her eyes, I am encouraged and strengthened.

I had a similar experience (way back) when I discussed my possible future of getting married to Steven with our dear friend Fr. Gregory. He was so excited, and asked, "so, you think God's calling you to marriage? to each other?!"  He showed me that I should view my vocation to marriage and motherhood just like he viewed his to monasticism and the priesthood: as a beautiful commitment to loving God in the living out of life on a certain path. 

In reality, we can all look at our life's work through these eyes, and we should.  When we glumly trudge along washing the dishes again, washing/drying/folding/putting away the Laundry Mountain again, we are missing out on something.  

Kneeling down to gather up the toys, we are praying for our children always to have joy.  Preparing bowl after bowl of oatmeal in just the right way, remembering which child doesn't like peanut butter, and which only uses a particular cup for milk, we are feeding the hungry.  Our everyday and boring activities of life are the very works of mercy Christ calls for in the Sermon on the Mount--if we'd only let them be so. 

Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen described how Christ Himself lived out this "beautiful monotony":
There was a beautiful monotony in the story of Christ’s life; thirty years obeying – not one year; three years teaching – not one year; three hours redeeming – not one hour. And as He lived He taught, and all His wisdom could be summed up in the words, ‘do it again.’ There was the monotony of sacrifice – ‘take up your cross daily, and follow me’; the monotony of kindness – ‘if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other’; the monotony of mercy – ‘how often should we forgive? Till seven times? Aye, till seventy times seven times’; the monotony of sacrificial thoughtfulness – ‘do this in commemoration of me’; the monotony of prayer – ‘and He prayed for the third time.’ Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Manifestations of Christ)

In this world there is a terrible need for monasticism, but not all of it is manifest within the walls and works of our dear brothers and sisters in the religious life.  We need more holy men and women to become nuns, and monks, and priests: the world needs more holiness, and needs it to be normal, like motherhood is normal. But the world also needs normal wives and mothers to adopt the same radical monasticism, to begin to look at life with new eyes, eyes that see each day as one filled with opportunities to love more deeply, to have more mercy, to create more peace. 

 Katherine Friedman is a wife, momma to two little boys (3.5 &2), a visiting nurse and a farmer-ette in training.  She enjoys writing letters, baking cookies, and seeing old friends.  She wishes she were the type of mom who ran marathons, but she'll settle for getting all the laundry done...someday.  Follow her @ The Hopeful Starfish.


  1. Great article!! One of my best friends is also in the same community (Sr. Rita Clare:)...I love visiting this community, their joy and happiness just makes me happy being around them:)

    1. They are wonderful...you are right, their joy is contagious!

  2. O how I wish I had a friend who was a religious sister! How much I would like someone who "gets" what I'm trying to do here at home, and writes to reflect on it, and encourage me, which would probably ease so many of my doubts of the worthiness of this life.
    And how I would love to share how I see her life: how much I value what religious sisters do, and are: in their praying, their charity, their devotion to God, their chastity and generosity. Wow.
    Maybe I should pray God sends me a sister!

  3. Ah...what I thought was tedium in the guise of therapy is actually monasticism. My plain piece of pie is now a la mode.