The Extraordinariness of the Ordinary

Today we return to the liturgy’s Ordinary Time. That has always seemed to me something of a misnomer. To anyone who lives in a monastery the ordinary is really extraordinary, every moment of every day freighted with meaning and grace, leading us deeper and deeper into the paschal mystery. Even the words we say again and again or the gestures we routinely perform are transformed into runways into God. A deep bow during the gloria at the end of every psalm reconnects us with our creatureliness as we face the ground, then raises us to our new identity as ‘sons in the Son’ as we stand erect. And to those of us who are, so to say, ‘brands snatched from the burning’, the sense of the preciousness of the ordinary can never be extinguished. The raindrop on the window pane, the weed growing through the asphalt, the feel of the sun or wind on our cheek, these are ordinary things, but they are miracles, too.

A personal thanksgiving
Most of us like to mark anniversaries and the passage of time. Today I have a very personal reason for giving thanks. Six years ago today a letter was sent confirming a diagnosis of metastatic leiomyosarcoma. The cancer had spread to my lungs (already scarred with sarcoidosis), my liver, my hip and various other parts of me. The outlook was not encouraging. I thank God, the many, many people who pray for me, and all those who have worked hard and long to keep me alive — especially when I’ve found things a bit tough and haven’t been my nicest, kindest or sunniest self. I hope my experience will encourage others not to assume the worst when they receive a shattering diagnosis; and to treasure every moment of life as a gift. I know my own life could end at any minute but, as a Benedictine, I take to heart the Rule’s exhortation to ‘keep death daily before one’s eyes’, not as a threat but as an invitation to make the best of things, serving God and others as well as I can, and joyfully, too. Laus Deo.


21 thoughts on “The Extraordinariness of the Ordinary”

  1. What a profoundly positive thing to say in the face of your survival and diagnosis Sr Catherine, that you feel and wish joyfullness and that life is a gift.

    I sometimes am glad that in moments of discomfort I also feel it as a gift, with deep gratitude to God for having shown me there is joy beyond suffering, that every petal, leaf, animal is a cause of celebration and that we are still growing in the face of the eventually inevitable.

  2. Thank you Sister for such an inspiring message which comes at a time of similar circumstances in the life of my own family. John Wesley also referred to that verse from Zechariah. I continue to be an avid reader of your contemplations which always serve to put circumstances in a spiritual perspective.

  3. Good thoughts on the ordinary/extraordinary in life. Thank you for sharing those sister.
    I would also be grateful if you could hold in your heart a dear friend with lung cancer and aspergillosis.

  4. Please dear Sister Catherine include my darling daughter Alison who was diagnosed with cancer last year. Thank you so much for all your encouraging words , God bless you and keep you safe.

  5. I am constantly sharing your journey with others as I recall your encouraging response to my telling you about a friend who had just received a shattering diagnosis .
    I am thankful that you have been an inspiration to others even though you don’t consider it so .
    that you may continue to cope with and live with the illness
    And thanksgiving for your humility and encouragement to others

    • Thank you, Chris. I remember how shattered I felt when I received my diagnosis. I know my ‘stay of execution’ is only temporary, but it is a grace for which I am grateful and pray that others may experience, too..

  6. May the Lord bless and care for you, dear Sister Catherine, through your continued struggle. May He bring you much needed relief from the nausea and discomfort of your sarcoma. We, your followers, are so blessed by your love, guidance and inspiration. Peace and love be with you xx

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