Working as an engineer in Roanoke, Virginia, I was trying to make my work prayerful, but I was not able to do this, and the work was becoming too much of a burden. I was also seriously discerning whether or not I had a religious vocation.
In October 2009, a year after I became a Catholic, I requested and was allowed to work only part-time at my company, and I spent more time in discernment and prayer.
After a year of working three days a week, I contacted Fr. Tom Zoeller at Madonna House requesting to participate in the Spiritual Formation Program. The program was full, and I agreed to consider participating in 2011.
Since I now had a back-up plan, I quit my job and spent the next year in prayer, study, and visiting different religious communities. I was hoping to know my vocation before I went to Madonna House, but that did not happen.
As the year went on, I came to realize that it was God’s will for me to go to Madonna House. Knowing this was a grace that allowed me to give myself to the life there. I knew I could be obedient to it because God had brought me there.
My first day at Madonna House, I was sent to the farm to help make sauerkraut. The operation was well planned and orderly. Each person was clear on how to perform his or her task, and the group was united in the common objective of making sauerkraut out of love for the rest of the community. There was so much harmony that day.
Then when the work was finished, I stepped out into the beautiful farm surroundings and felt the peace of God. I gave thanks to the Lord for allowing me to see that it was possible for work to truly be a prayer.
There were so many signs of God’s love at Madonna House: from the decorations in the dining room, to the nutritious meals prepared with fresh vegetables from the garden, to my clothing returned from the laundry clean and folded or ironed (shirts came back ironed that I hadn’t ironed in over three years!) to songs prepared for the liturgy and other events, to the well-maintained ice skating rink on the side of the river, to pure maple syrup for dessert on Saturday nights.
These ever present acts of charity enabled me to know God’s love through my brothers and sisters.
And my own work of routine chores became satisfying when I stopped trying to just finish the job but made the extra effort to do it well. I found that when I listened to the reminders to sweep behind the boots and scrape the snow off the floor of the outdoor jons and sweep in front of the wood box after filling it, I did not lose time but gained it.
The extra effort was like a sacrifice offered to God, an effort he accepted and gave back to me a hundredfold. And I felt fulfilled at the end of the day.
After a while, I began seeing little extra things I could do that did not take much extra effort but which added to the quality of the work. At the end of the day, my body was tired but my spirit was at rest.
My experience in the Spiritual Formation Program has given me a new hope that it is possible to work as a Christian in the world. I now know if I practice the virtues while working in the world, I will be able to enter into prayer no matter what I am doing. Through practicing the virtues, I know I can truly give myself in my work and offer every moment for the glory of God.
I am so grateful for my time in Madonna House, for now I have seen and know that work can truly be prayer.