Doing the duty of the moment means focusing our whole person—heart, soul, body, emotions, intellect, memory, imagination—on the job at hand! The duty of the moment done for God is glamorous, exciting, wondrous.” Catherine Doherty, Grace In Every Season
Many years ago, when I was a much younger mother juggling pregnancies, little children, hospital shifts where I worked as a nurse, and all the other aspects of my daily life, I came across the writing of Catherine Doherty: in particular, her book Grace in Every Season. At the time, I was craving spiritual guidance to ground the different areas of my day, seeking direction to make sense of my very full life. I devoured Catherine’s practical, no-nonsense writing. Her roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-on-with-it approach resonated with me. Even in the midst of breast-feeding, meal preparation, and the professional demands of an acute-care unit, I sought out stolen moments where I could read a page or two that would give me clarity and motivation to keep going.
Catherine wrote extensively about the duty of the moment and for a busy, tired mom, her words were powerful. She reminded me that God’s Will placed me in my bustling home with my husband and children and on the hospital unit where I worked part-time. It was in my ordinary life that He wanted me to live the Gospel without compromise, by attending to the duty of the moment. He called me to do each task well because it was in paying attention to the little details wholeheartedly that I served him best. Among the diapers, potty training, homework, and housework, I was called to serve. In the indescribable surge of maternal love as I held my newborns for the first time and never wanted to let them go, I lived His Will for me. Loving my husband passionately and being his helpmate served the Lord. In my professional, compassionate approach to suffering patients and distraught families, I served God.
Life moves on. As my children become older and start to venture out on their own, the events of family life change and the duty of the moment evolves. What is required of me changes as my children become young adults. I am present to them in a different way than when they were babies, toddlers, young children, and teenagers. As a working mom, everything from the care I give my patients right down to the mundane paper work call me to continuous Gospel living in the duties of my work.
For many people, the duty of the moment can be difficult to accept. I spoke with someone who is experiencing personal difficulties. For this person, spending many hours praying in different churches has become an escape from the duties of parenting and earning a living. “Life is too hard,” said this single parent. “It’s beautiful just to sit and pray.”
“It may be tough sometimes,” I explained, “but the duty of the moment is what will lead us to holiness.” God calls us to sanctity right where He has placed us, with the duties of our state in life, and He will give us the graces we need to live each moment well. We just have to say “yes.”
The duty of the moment, that which God expects of us in our present state of life, is different for everyone: the priest and the single lay person, the older widow and the little child, the father of a family and the single parent. But for all of us, living God’s Will is central. Holy Mass, the Blessed Sacrament, and prayer are the roots from which our lives unfold. In whatever our day consists and wherever we find ourselves, happiness and holiness will only come when we embrace the Will of God in each moment.