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I long to be a lazybones. By Sister Teresa

Blog | By Sister Teresa | Jun 20, 2024

Pillow by Clark Walter Appleton, 1905

An early morning scene: Father (from the bottom of the stairs):

‘Come on, Tommy – time you were up and off to school.’

Tommy (from upstairs): ‘I’m not going to school today.’

Father: ‘Why not?’

Tommy: ‘Because the teachers ignore me, the children bully me and I hate the place. So why should I go to school?’

Father: ‘Because you’re the headmaster.’

I wonder how on earth the school governors ever came to appoint Tommy as headmaster. Unfortunately, I know I have something of Tommy in me. Itispossibleforallofustobeina muddle about responsibilities and relationships with the people with whom we work and live. We are under an obligation to be at the disposal of others, irrespective of what their attitudes towards us may be. Easier said than observed, this basic Christian value shows signs of being underrated these days.

We can be after a life of slothful ease, free from all forms of controversy and disagreement. This is hardly a life as lived by the average responsible adult, but it is incredibly tempting to some of us, me included.

Fortunately, the Carmelite lifestyle, which I follow, never allows this to happen. A Carmelite never retires and is kept at work doing seemingly insignificant but essential jobs such as sorting the clean laundry and the lighter forms of washing-up, more or less until her last gasp.

To take the easy option of wriggling out of ever doing things that one doesn’t want to do leads ultimately to misery, and to the danger of becoming what my

old novice mistress used to call ‘a half-person’, by whom God is most certainly not glorified. Nor is it in line with the taming of the ego, which is one of the objectives of any life, including the contemplative life.

A prominent Old Testament value is also a thoroughly modern concept. It consists in placing teachers under the obligation to educate and form those under their care in a full and rounded way. This will include intellectual and emotional development as well as – equally importantly – the capacity for recreation: ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ (James Howell’s Proverbs, 1659).

In the New Testament, Jesus’s teaching includes some very practical tasks: rowing a boat, handing out food, getting hold of a donkey. These go side by side with his more profound demands for love of God and love of neighbour.

In the Christian life, everything is worth doing well and thoughtfully. There is no waste, and there is nothing trivial about any of it – even drying the teacups.