Small victories

Annie-Rose Keith



As a full-time mother and #churchlady, I’m confident in saying that I do not enjoy watching my son dip his hand into the holy water bowl. He reaches up on the tips of his toes and proudly places his tiny two-and-a-half-year-old hand into the fount; and just when I think he’s about to nail the Sign of the Cross, he shoves his fingers into his mouth, fully consuming the holiest water at Resurrection Parish. Mind you, he’s never gotten sick! But the thought is always there.

I never fully understood the tiny rituals in our church (like holy water) until I was grown and living on my own. A question about something like holy water was always answered with, “I dunno; it’s holy water. It blesses us as we go in and out of church. So what?” I never, until recently, fully grasped the rippling effects (pun intended) of a seemingly unnoticeable ritual like holy water.

I was raised Catholic in Southern Illinois. Under the banner and around the fires at Camp Ondessonk, my faith became my own when I was 11 and decided to sneak into the chapel for some air conditioning. This small, sweet gesture (Thanks, Becky Sievers!) of leaving the air conditioner on at a Camp that prides itself on being beautifully rustic was exactly what I needed after having a very difficult time with the friend who came to camp with me. I was able to enter into the peace I needed at that moment because someone decided to lift their hand to toggle the thermostat.

There’s a theme to this article, I promise; bear with me. A few months ago, I was cleaning our holy water bowls at Resurrection; it occurred to me that this was another such unnoticeable task that carried so much weight. I thought, “How many people have done this before me? Did they pray for their congregation as they did this? How many people who thought they were insignificant were convinced otherwise by a loving Father and found their meaning in the significance of this task and this particular sacramental?” I also wondered how many people were healed because of the care and attention given to having squeaky clean bowls, enabling the holy water to be more appealing for Mass-goers.

These musings on small gestures of love aren’t revolutionary. Saints across our cannon like St. Therésè and St. Teresa of Calcutta have encouraged such an approach to living well. During a casual perusal of Catholic Instagram, I came across a dish towel that touted St. Teresa of Calcutta’s famous quote, “Wash the dishes not because it is dirty or because you are told to wash them, but because you love the person who will use them next.” How many washed dishes, swept floors, made beds, cleaned laundry, retrieved medicine, vacuumed sanctuaries, clean holy water bowls or filled bellies got you to where you are now, in this moment?

I propose the following for you to think about, friends. Holiness is given freely through our sacraments and through our liturgy. And that holiness is built upon through the actions of not only our parents and loved ones, but also the people we do not know who care about us – often through small and unnoticeable tasks.

I’m so looking forward to unpacking this topic more in future installments of this column. As someone who thrives on dramatic, quick-moving plots and flowery syntax, I’m grateful for the opportunity to slow down and hopefully add some food for thought to your overflowing schedule.

Annie-Rose Keith is the Director of Faith Formation for Resurrection Parish in Evansville. A native of Southern Illinois, Annie-Rose enjoys dabbling in various creative outlets like painting, music, crochet & graphic design, and spending time with her husband Joe and children, Juliana and Theo.