So, how is doing the dishes well, or any other mundane task for that matter, virtuous? Well, let’s answer that question by first defining virtue:
“A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself.” 1
If you strive to always give your best to every task performed, even something so mundane as doing the dishes, then your action can be virtuous.
I remember, as a child, having the chore of doing the dinner dishes with my two sisters. The oldest sister always needed to go to the bathroom immediately after dinner. How convenient for her! She always got out of doing the dishes, unbeknownst to my mother. That left my middle sister and me, the youngest, to clear the table, wash and dry the dishes. (Yes, I am old! This was in the day before every household had an automatic dishwasher. But I digress.) My middle sister and I always fought over who would do what, and with me being the youngest, I always lost the fight. I had to clear EVERYTHING off of the table and set it up for my middle sister to wash the dishes. Then I got the job of drying and putting away ALL of the dishes. As I dried the dishes, Heaven help me, if I pointed out that my sister missed a spot! You would think that World War III was breaking out! (But again, I digress).
Finding Virtue in the Mundane
The moral of this story is that my two sisters and I were given numerous golden opportunities to act virtuously, and we blew it! The oldest sister could have participated in the process more often. The middle sister could have exhibited more tolerance and patience, and I could have complained less. I could have been more like St. Therese of Liseiux, who had a similar dishwashing experience that she noted in her book, Autobiography of a Soul. St. Therese would take opportunities like this and offer up her suffering to the Lord. She would refrain from complaining, considering it her “little way.”
So, where in your life could you be acting more virtuously? Where can you find virtue in the mundane? Look for ways and times where, by doing good acts, you can bring more peace to your home and workplace. Be like St. Therese and offer up your acts to the Lord. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a kitchen to clean up.
1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., Vaticana: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Print, 1997. n. 1803