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

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,684 ratings  ·  228 reviews
In this insightful and deeply personal work, Kathleen Norris, an award-winning poet and author of both Dakota: A Spiritual Geography and The Cloister Walk, draws on her life experiences, her poetry and her love of the Benedictine tradition to discuss the mysterious way that the daily or "quotidian" can open us to the transforming presence of God. This volume is the text of ...more
Paperback, Madeleva Lecture in Spirituality, 89 pages
Published January 1st 1998 by Paulist Press
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3.98  · 
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 ·  1,684 ratings  ·  228 reviews

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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 off
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, Chri
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 f
Jun 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: before-2009
Quote from the book:

"...when human beings try to "do everything at once and for all and be through with it," we court acedia, self-destruction and death. Such power is reserved for God, who alone can turn what is "already done" into something that is ongoing and ever present. It is a quotidian mystery.

Modern psychology does not always know what to make of mystery, but it is in agreement with the psychology of the ancient desert monastics in recognizing that depression is often the flip side of a
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 i ...more
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 I’ve long been familiar with that Bible verse. I’ve thought about it, and I’ve tried to apply it, but I’ve 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 ...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.
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 kids ...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 circums
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 o
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 didn’t mean it this way, but I’m very wary of anything that speaks in absolut ...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.
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 didn’t find her writing engaging enough to make it easy to get to those and keep going.
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.
Elsa K
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Some interesting parts, but I got bored at times. I don't think poetical writing is my cup of tea.
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 p
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, white-wash
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 dail
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 sm ...more
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: autobiographical
It had some interesting thoughts to ponder that I enjoyed, but it was really just a woman's ramblings. I may just have not been in the mood for her philosophical thinking. I found this book from a blog article that was sent to me by a friend. I think I enjoyed the blog article because it took the book and summed up the main ideas in one concise article. You might enjoy it more than I did, but it was ok.
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.
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
There is that moment while reading anything that is touching me that I start to think about flipping back to the beginning and starting over. I have to content myself with a promise to reread it some day. That happened several times while I read this little book. I can imagine I'll return to it over and over.
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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 grad
“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. ” 16 likes
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