Most, if not all of us, are mothers. Our professional work is the care of our family and the home. I dare say this is one of the noblest professions.
I will tell you what unity of life is in our professional work by telling you what it is not first:
I know I’m not living unity of life when I’m nice to people I meet at church, at the shops or in school then I become cranky or moody towards my children when they spill milk on the floor or wake up the toddler or talk at the same time.
It is not having a double life. You are tolerant with other people outside your close family circle then you turn into a momster at home.
It is not a life of faith divorced from daily work like some publicly known Catholic Christians who support gay marriages, contraception or divorce.
Having unity of life in our work at home means turning every opportunity into prayer whether that be waking up on a cold morning to prepare breakfast for the family, ironing the work clothes of your husband or the uniform of your kids, rushing the kids to school, cleaning again the living room which you just cleaned an hour ago, taking care of a sick child in the middle of the night. It is in these little realities of life that we will encounter God that we will seek and find him.
St Josemaria, the founder of Opus Dei said “There is no other way, my daughters: either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life or we shall never find him”.
Unity of life is like the string that connects the beads of the rosary. Our spiritual/interior life has to run through and touch every aspect of our lives – social, professional, family lives. Only then will our lives turn into a beautiful prayer.
How do we effectively live this unity of life?
Let me tell you three stories to illustrate better.
1.Let me begin with the engagement period story (Right intention)
I’ve always thought the happiest part of our married life was before we got married. That time when you see each other as the perfect person God has ever made. Of course we know better now. But at that time, our every thought leads to that one and only guy. You can’t stop talking about him to your friends. You get out of your way or inconvenience yourself even to great lengths just to do something for him. You can’t wait for the day to finish so you can talk to him. You can’t wait for the week to end so you can go out on a date with him. You can’t wait for that moment when you will finally tie the knot.
Simply put, you can’t wait to be with him. Loving him is being with him, forever. You try your best to work on your dominant defects because it displeases him. You make yourself worthy of the man who will become your husband.
Unity of life is the same. Only this time, we do things out of love not for our husband but for a greater one, who is God. Our intention should be to give glory to God and not out of ambition or other forms of selfishness or personal satisfaction.
St Josemaria taught us that “When a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God”.
If you want to please God, you will work in an orderly and intense manner even if it’s unpaid or no one is watching or appreciating what you are doing. Because we know that God sees everything. God is our boss, no less. We also try to see the good in everything instead of dwelling on what is difficult.
Okay, I have five young kids with me and I’m pregnant. Thank you God that they are all healthy and well provided for. Never mind the noise and chaos. Children are meant to be that way. If they don’t fight, they will never learn to apologize then to forgive. If they don’t mess up, you will never have the chance to instill the virtue of order in them.
If we fail and discover other motives for doing our work that are less noble, we have to purify our intentions. “To rectify. A little each day”. To strengthen our resolve to do everything no less than for love of God, we need to constantly seek God’s presence in our work.
Talk to God. Avoid having a dialogue with yourself.
“Oh Lord, these children are so annoying. I’ve told them 10 x to clean up their but they don’t seem to hear a word”.
“I don’t want to get up Lord. The baby kept on waking me up last night”.
“I can’t stand these noisy children anymore Lord. They fight more than they breathe”.
“Lord, my husband spends more time with his phone than with me”.
Then you might hear Him reply “These little ones are your little crosses. Without them, how can you become closer to Me, how will I shower you with more graces?”
We have to fall in love with God every day, every moment. Live for love. Live your engagement period with God with greater intensity each day.
2. Just because everybody is doing it doesn’t make it right. (Right reason)
When I was working back then in Singapore, none of my colleagues went home before the boss leaves her desk. I assume it is still the same now. It doesn’t matter whether the boss leave at 8 pm or 10 pm or 3 am. Staying behind, pretending to finish something, has become the norm, the standard. It doesn’t matter whether your husband is waiting for you to have dinner, it doesn’t matter whether you have a sick child waiting for you at the end of the day, and your family doesn’t matter during the work week.
So working late becomes right.
Most mothers work too. Double income family is the accepted way of life. Children are normally cared for by grandparents or helpers or placed in childcare.
Working to earn more so you can augment the family’s income, so you can put your children in the best school, bring them to overseas holidays, send them to tuition classes became an obligation and not a choice.
Working mothers who had to work long hours, travel for business, climb up the corporate ladder became the ultimate ambition for most women.
In life, we can fall into doing and believing so many things because most of our friends are doing it, we don’t want to go against the grain.
What is wrong with working long hours to earn more money, what is wrong with wealth as the measure of success, what is wrong with contraception, what is wrong with living-in, what is wrong with same-sex marriages?
Everybody else accepts it.
To achieve unity of life, it is important to have our reasons for doing things not only right but it should be enlightened by a living faith, our principles which should guide our life should be Christian principles not only human ones.
We cannot always rely on our intuition to be right. That is why we need continuous formation, doctrine classes, and spiritual direction. We all need help. We all need guidance.
“Father, do you think I should go back to work?”
“My daughter, your children need you. It is better for you to move to a smaller house and simplify your lifestyle than to leave your children behind.”
“Father, should we have another child? Only my husband is working.”
“Pope Francis said: not to have children is a selfish choice”.
Pope Francis emphasized in his General Audience on 11 Feb 2015 that most of Europe is living in a depressed society. Why? Because they do not want children. They are not having children.
Life is rejuvenated and acquires energy by multiplying: it is enriched, not impoverished! Children learn to assume responsibility for their family. They mature in sharing its hardship. They grow in the appreciation of its gifts. The happy experience of brotherhood inspires respect and care for parents, to whom our recognition is due.
Lord, may I have due measure for everything except in love. – St Josemaria
When I quit working for good, I heard so many hurtful comments like “Your house is the most expensive childcare” or “You’ve wasted your hard-earned education” or “You could have been very rich by now”.
But you know what? I have never been more fulfilled and happier in my life than now. When you are doing God’s will, when you are living your life’s purpose, you are rewarded with that ever elusive contentment and joy.
3. Blissful Madness (Daring and apostolate)
Let’s face it. A mother with her children always has problems, always has work. It never ends.
Pope Francis in his General Audience on 7 January 2015 said that “We must be ready to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honour…. Giving one’s life does not only mean being killed; giving one’s life, having the spirit of a martyr, it is in giving in duty, in silence, in prayer, in honest fulfilment of his duty; in that silence of daily life; giving one’s life little by little. Yes, like it is given by a mother, who without fear and with the simplicity of the martyrdom of motherhood, conceives a child in her womb, gives birth to him, nurses him, helps them grow and cares for them with affection. She gives her life.
Motherhood is martyrdom. It is beautiful.
If there is unity of life, it is only natural that those around us notice it. We have to have “the courage always to act in public in accordance with our holy faith”. Jesus promised himself “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”
We cannot be afraid to speak of God. Our lives will be the most effective sermon.
People often tell me “Is this your sixth child? You are crazy!”
I often tell them: “Children are blessings. I love my husband so naturally I want to bear his children. We are open to life.”
We have to aspire to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength.
Unity of life is a gift from God and at the same time a challenge that demands personal struggle. It is important to always have the right intention, right reason illumined by faith and as consequence of both, that daringness to let others see that we are in love with God.