The Missionaries of Charity love Jesus very much. How do I know that? Because they sweep, polish, and wipe down their chapels every morning. The sisters set up their mission houses (convents) in the world’s dirtiest slums, where smoke and dust choke the air, where garbage and human waste pile up outside the convent walls. But inside those walls all is bright and all is clean, especially inside their chapels. Every morning between dawn prayers and Mass at seven, and I mean every morning, the sisters scurry about with brooms, mops, pails, and cloths, joyfully purifying the Lord’s sanctuary. I love to do my holy hour at that time, moving occasionally so sister can get the floor space around me; I love to pray to the soft sound and sweet smell of their swift and silent morning cleansing of the temple.
I am pleased to report that the students at Thomas Aquinas College, who have graciously afforded me a place to live and work and pray, assiduously clean our temple every day as well. First, I should say, they purify it by their prayers. I rarely enter our great marble chapel without the consolation of seeing a few students at prayer. Second, I am delighted to say that three or four students are assigned to keep the chapel spotless. I often do my holy hours as they sweep, mop, and polish. Best of all, they clean silently, reverently, like the Missionaries of Charity. A distraction and a consternation it is to pray in a chapel where the cleaning service is running noisy vacuum cleaners, banging brooms and dustpans, blowing past the tabernacle without so much as a nod. Our TAC students work their dust mops quietly up and down the rows of pews, carefully genuflecting each time they pass the axis of the sacred tabernacle. The sunbeams shaft down from clerestory windows each morning upon their work and their faith, their love and their hope in the world stretching before them, filled with joy and purity.
Their lives are clean, the minds are pure, and their chapel is spotless. Is “cleanliness is next to godliness?” The cleanliness and good order of our chapels, of our homes, of our bedrooms and of our bathrooms, reflect what goes on in our heads and in our hearts. Thank you, dear Lord, for giving me place to live and work and pray that is bright and clean!