It is no coincidence that the Catholic unschooling book, the one to which I am a contributor, is called A Little Way of Homeschooling.
No coincidence at all.
Because our lives as wives and mothers, as Christians, are often made up of that little way. Serving God in little ways. And often without recognition. Often, too, with disapproval and criticism.
And homeschooling, unschooling, trusting in the child and his learning, in the rich home environment, in the Holy Spirit can appear to be the most little way of all.
Living a vocation and giving our all to Our Lord. With love and trust.
And it comes with a cost.
And with love.
St Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church, wrote of assisting an arthritic nun in the community:
"Finally we reached the refectory without mishap; and here other difficulties arose. I had to seat Sister St Pierre and I had to act skilfully in order not to hurt her; then I had to turn back her sleeves (again in a certain way), and afterward I was free to leave. With her poor cripple's hands she was trying to manage with her bread as well as she could. I soon noticed this, and, each evening, I did not leave her until after I had rendered her this little service. As she had not asked for this, she was very much touched by my attention, and it was by this means that I gained her entire good graces.."
This is not a sentimental love, a love that says words but is based on self. This is love enacted, by paying attention to a person, honouring that person, honouring that God loves that person.This is the way God loves us.
And how can we show our love for God and others? We can offer up all that we have and do. We can make small sacrifices for the sake of others...we wives and mothers can offer sacrifices and do penance for our family , for their souls, for their vocations, their chastity, their lives.
Those little things. That little way.
St Therese said again.."Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."
Every little sacrifice.
How does that work?
Penance has not only have a sanctifying effect on us as individuals ( to restrain the inordinate inclinations of self-love, as St Alphonsus Liguori wrote), but also on the Church as a whole. The more our life is patterned after the life of our Our Lord and Saviour, whose act of redemption entailed the greatest sacrifice, well, the more we will make up what is lacking in the body of Christ. As Saint Paul tells us ( Colossians 1:24).
But you know it is sometimes those little sacrifices that loom the biggest. That appear to be most hard.
I can get a rosy , aren't I so good, feeling from a big sacrifice...but the little every day sacrifices can seem so hard.
A penance, a sacrifice, offered in love for another can appear to be seemingly small...like giving up milk in one's cup of tea. And praying for the other.
Yet who knew that one would crave a cup of tea with milk. Who knew that one would find this sacrifice so hard, that it would be a true penance and a true occasion for prayer...and for learning about one's weakness.
Makes one think of St Therese and her little way. Only it doesn't seem to be so little any more.
The little way of loving and serving Our Lord and thus our families.