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The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,781 ratings  ·  241 reviews
The bestselling author of The Cloister Walk reflects on the sanctifying possibilities of everyday work and how God is present in worship and liturgy as well as in ordinary life. Definitely not "for women only."
Paperback, Madeleva Lecture in Spirituality, 104 pages
Published January 1st 1998 by Paulist Press
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Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a rich tapestry of humble reflections on the ways in which our ordinary lives, with all their rapid variations in mood, contain seeds of the Divine.

I know of no other current writer who so expertly captures the movement of our everyday thoughts!

Kathleen Norris' book on mundane magic was one of my first on my Kindle.

At first, her many incredible segues into apparently unrelated reverie put me off. I guess I was still conditioned by the rigid bureaucratic protocol of my long time
2018 -- Re-reading this book. Still worthwhile.... glad I re-read it.

2010 -- This is actually the first book I read by Kathleen Norris, because I found the title intriguing. It is the text of a lecture the author gave in 1998 that was sponsored by the Center for Spirituality at Saint Mary's College at Notre Dame.

"Quotidian means occurring every day, belonging to every day; commonplace, ordinary."

The author finds that, like Therese of Lisieux,
It's hard for me to rate such a simple and thought-provoking book. Mostly because my brain just isn't wired (lately, anyway) to absorb as much as possible from Norris's contemplative narrative. It was a simultaneous case of being chock-full truth nuggets and meandering narrative full of images and prose. In short, I think I'm too dense for this book.

Truly, I want to be deep and philosophical enough to understand the nuances of this book and to be able to translate it in a review. However, that
Dec 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Kathleen Norris' little book about "laundry, liturgy and 'women's work'" is a must read for anyone who struggles to see the value in repetitive tasks. Quotidian is a word from the Latin meaning daily or ordinary, and in our society where we feel measured by our output, these everyday things like laundry, cooking and dishes can be very discouraging to those who do them day in and day out. It might also be a good read for a spouse who has trouble understanding exactly what their partner does day ...more
Tabitha McDuffee
Beautiful nuggets of truth and beauty are sprinkled throughout this small volume. An excellent introduction to Norris if you have not read her before.
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it
A few good things to think about but I found a few things off-putting 1) analyzing and explaining her own poetry 2) lots of explaining why she doesn't have kids, just not sure how this relates and seemed defensive 3) I don't begrudge her not having children, but it's hard to feel that someone who doesn't cook (yes she bakes bread), only does laundry for 2, and is a freelance writer is much of an "authority" on domestic drudgery. Only people like she and Barbara Brown Taylor (another with no ...more
Aug 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I really, really wanted to love this slim volume about something which is so close to my heart (how everyday tasks can be worship), and although there were several passages that stood out to me, overall I only liked it. I wasn't really into the analysis of her own poetry, which seemed odd to me, and the language was a bit flowery for my taste. But it was a quick and immersive read, and I would recommend it for contemplation.
Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
This is a very short little book, but I had a hard time keeping my attention on the flow of thought. The author doesn't say anything wrong really... actually, she makes some good points. But I'm not much for poetic ramblings and I found myself skimming through whole pages of that stuff. I think it came down to not appreciating the writing style much.
Skylar Burris
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, christianity
This book is basically an expanded, poetic expression of the more concise thought we find in the epistles: Whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not as unto men. Now Ive long been familiar with that Bible verse. Ive thought about it, and Ive tried to apply it, but Ive never succeeded. Yet thinking of work particularly the repetitive work that is never finished because it must be done anew every day as a kind of liturgy has been quite helpful to me. Before reading this book, I ...more
Amy Edwards
Jun 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: devotional
I give this three and a half stars. Parts of it I really loved--and other parts I really disliked. However, the main theme of the book resonates with me, and I will approach my daily living with a different perspective now.

Contemporary life leaves little time for contemplation, and contemplation is little valued. Yet I am valuing it more than ever. I appreciated this book's encouragement to approach the daily tasks of life as liturgy and time to contemplate the grace of God in my life's
Kyle McManamy
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Such a rich (and short) exploration of the spiritual value of ordinary things. Like Brother Lawrence's work, but taken from a different vantage point, Norris' 1998 Madeleva lecture points the way to how we can have the wonder of children and the blessing of sages while putting another load in the wash.

A special thanks to Drew Norris whose love of this book led to my reading of it.
Gypsy Madre
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Once again - Kathleen delivers! A quickish read that refreshed my viewpoint. She restates, in her subterranean, poetic way all the things I know (or at least suspect) and I always walk away lighter, believing life is a a little more beautiful. We don't agree on every theological tittle but I can handle it.
A gem.
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Lots of great things to ponder about keeping a home. I love how she saw the priests cleaning up after communion as "doing the dishes."
Amy Kannel
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this short little book. Lots of lovely food for thought and inspiration for the ordinariness of daily work and life.
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the homeschooling ladies I follow on Instagram at one point mentioned this book on a day when I was particularly grumbling about housework and how it is NEVER done!

I decided to purchase this 88 page book written off of a lecture Norris did. I am very glad I did. It has helped me in so many ways change the way I feel about the every day tasks that have to be done and redone every day and the gift in that. Very thankful.

I believe she is Catholic?!? So there were parts of prayers or types
Jordan Carlson
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
...what we think we are only getting through has the power to change us...

Maybe I should rate this 5 stars.

Norris is maybe not someone I would go to church with, but I found myself so moved by this 88-page wonder. I may just restart it today. She reminds me a bit of Madeleine lEngle, bringing her considerable intellect and imagination to bear on some of lifes most precious and troubling issues, and she does so with intimate memoir-musings, theological thoughts, and more.

I found an unexpected
Mar 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
I was hoping for a book truly connecting the unending nature of laundry and dishes to worship. However, this book missed the mark for me. It mostly contained the various ramblings of the author many of which were not fully developed and abruptly jumped from one to another. I also really struggled with a part when the author seemingly wrote off therapy completely and said the focus should be on spiritual work. Maybe she didnt mean it this way, but Im very wary of anything that speaks in ...more
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reflections on incarnational Christianity and what that means for our daily, repetitive tasks like laundry and prayer. Reminded me of some of my favorite parts of Wise Child -- the grounding, meditative good of keeping house & hearth. Both Furlong and Norris would argue that this is necessary spiritual work for humans and not "women's work," of course.
Jessie Crosby
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is (to steal the phrase) a "heart" book for me. A book that resonates so deeply with my soul that the moment I finish it I want to start over again. It recognizes the importance and power of our everyday simple tasks and how powerful those mundane things are to the core of our being. I loved it.
Janessa Miller
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There's so much in this book that I want to grasp as holy. So much that I'm terrible at doing well currently. I will definitely be reading it again, and I'm guessing there will be an overboard amount of highlighting.
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a beautiful little meditation, almost like a devotional. I checked it out from the library, but I might buy a copy to reread in the future.
Geneva Woodmansee
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. This is a very short read, but it took me considerably longer than anticipated to push myself through it. It was not a page turner. That said, I do think the author had some really beautiful things to say and some really good take aways. I just didnt find her writing engaging enough to make it easy to get to those and keep going. ...more
Jena Lee Nardella
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An important and alternative perspective for the woman who is trying to make meaning of the often tedious responsibilities of home life.

An important and alternative perspective for the woman who is trying to make meaning of the often tedious responsibilities of home life. Grateful for poetry and prose that is grounding yet also transcendent.
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I probably wouldn't have finished this book except that it was a) short and b) an inter-library loan. I guess I feel obligated to read it if our librarians went to the trouble of tracking it down for me.

I thought this book would give me a new perspective on the never-ending drudgery of housework, but I had a hard time relating to this author so it didn't quite work. I didn't understand most of the references to Catholicism and felt like a lot of what the author was saying went over my head (it
Dianne Oliver
Apr 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
A lot of similarity to Acedia. I wish she had fleshed out the bones of these ideas into something more practical, but it has a beauty to it, as her writing does. A good reminder that the quotidian tasks (everyday, practical things) we do, if done for God, are worship-filled. I loved this quote of St Ignatius Loyola, (having been raised in the Protestant work ethic that taught me this, I suppose) :
It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam,
Juli Burnham
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
I heard about this book from the podcast What Should I Read Next that this book juxtaposed housework with worship and I was interested in the idea. I struggle to keep a clean house - despite having been well trained by my mother - and thought maybe this connection would help. Although Norris does talk about this, I felt the metaphor was lost in her rambling stream of conscience writing. I was disappointed because most of her ideas were not fully developed or very briefly mentioned and then moved ...more
Geri Degruy
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Quotidian. Daily. Over and over. Ritual. Liturgy.

Kathleen Norris celebrates the things we do daily, the things we do to care for ourselves and our loved ones and the earth. We often think of these things as menial. "Menial derives from a Latin word meaning "to remain" or "to dwell in a household." It is thus a word about connections, about family and household ties." (p. 5) And she emphasizes that it is in the daily tasks that we reconnect with God as well and experience God's presence. The
Carol Bakker
Nov 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
I love 4/5ths of what Kathleen Norris writes. I'm willing to overlook where I think she's over the line because the good stuff is, well, really good. One of my take-aways from Kathleen Norris comes to my mind daily. Her mom told her that making your bed is an act of hospitality to yourself. Now I make my bed daily, but there were long swaths of time in which I didn't. As I bend over and plump the pillows the phrase "hospitality toward yourself" runs through my mind and sometimes out my mouth.

Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I can't recommend this book highly enough. I plan to read it annually. For any woman who has wondered "What's the point?" when folding her hundredth load of laundry, or cooking a meal that her children will reject, or wiping down that same countertop one more time, this book will be a source of encouragement. Kathleen Norris unpacks the spiritual significance of physical labor, opening our eyes to the dignity and meaning inherent in meeting the basic needs of other human beings, no matter how ...more
Jul 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
As a nonreligious person, I'm likely not the target audience for this little book. I've greatly enjoyed other books with religious themes though and I was drawn in by the idea of this one. However, it's just not for me. I'm not faulting it for its religiosity. What I was not fond of was the flowery language, meandering thoughts, and frequent critical analysis of the author's own poetry within the text.
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Kathleen Norris was born on July 27, 1947 in Washington, D.C. She grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, as well as on her maternal grandparents farm in Lemmon, South Dakota.

Her sheltered upbringing left her unprepared for the world she encountered when she began attending Bennington College in Vermont. At first shocked by the unconventionality surrounding her, Norris took refuge in poetry.

After she

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31 likes · 3 comments
“Laundry, liturgy and women's work all serve to ground us in the world, and they need not grind us down. Our daily tasks, whether we perceive them as drudgery or essential, life-supporting work, do not define who we are as women or as human beings.” 20 likes
“The Bible is full of evidence that God's attention is indeed fixed on the little things. But this is not because God is a great cosmic cop, eager to catch us in minor transgressions, but simply because God loves us--loves us so much that we the divine presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life. It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us to recognize that the creation is indeed refreshed like dew-laden grass that is "renewed in the morning" or to put it in more personal and also theological terms, "our inner nature is being renewed everyday". Seen in this light, what strikes many modern readers as the ludicrous details in Leviticus involving God in the minuitae of daily life might be revisioned as the very love of God. ” 18 likes
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