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On the Importance of Little Things

I have found that one of my favorite quotes from St. Augustine is not all that well known. Here it is in Latin, followed by my own translation:

Quod minimum, minimum est,
Sed in minimo fidelem esse,
magnum est
.

What is a little thing, is (just) a little thing,
But to be faithful in a little thing,
is a great thing.

(De Doctrina Christiana, IV,35)

I first saw this quote on the frontispiece of a book by Adrian Fortescue. Fortescue applied it to the intricate details of celebrating the Old Latin Mass. That form of the Mass has an enormous amount of detail to learn: how exactly to hold the hands, when and how to bow, what tone of voice to use when, what fingers should be used to pick up the host, and so on. Some might see these details as picky and overwhelming, but Fortescue apparently wanted us to think about the fact that love is often shown through attention to the little things.

It’s so easy to become lazy, even about sacred things like saying Mass. I often have to remind myself about little things. Are my shoes in good condition? Are my vestments clean? Have the altar linens been properly cared for? Am I bowing and pausing during Mass when I should? Am I using the proper tone of voice? Am I walking reverently in the sanctuary? Am I pronouncing the sacred words of the liturgy with care and a prayerful spirit? Some may find such questions tedious or even too scrupulous, but when you love, little things are often important.

Married couples may also struggle to remember the little things that show love: a kind remark, a thank you, flowers brought home for no particular reason, a caring look, the gift of listening attentively, cleaning up after yourself in the kitchen, a reassurance like “I’m glad I married you” or “You’re such a great father to our children,” a quick phone call saying “I love you and was thinking about you.”

Read more at Archdiocese of Washington. 

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