Kathleen Norris on the transformative power of perfunctory work

This morning I'm revisiting this Kathleen Norris classic, thinking about it in terms of quotidian work that includes more than vacuuming a floor but also many manner of tasks. Sitting at a computer, for one.


"It is a paradox of human life that in worship, as in human love, it is in the routine and the everyday that we find the possibilities for the greatest transformation. Both worship and housework often seem perfunctory. And both, by the grace of God, may be anything but. At its Latin root, perfunctory means "to get through with," and we can easily see how liturgy, laundry and what has traditionally been conceived of as "women's work" can be done in that indifferent spirit. But the joke is on us: what we think we are only "getting through" has the power to change us, just as we have the power to transform what seems meaningless–the endless repetitions of a litany or the motions of vacuuming a floor. What we dread as mindless activity can free us, mind and heart, for the workings of the Holy Spirit, and repetitive  motions are conducive to devotions such as the Jesus Prayer or the rosary. Anything is fair game for prayer, anything or anyone who pops into the mind can be included."

–Kathleen Norris, from The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work"


[Photo: taken of my backyard ferns in their lush early summer phase.]