We have a tradition at our home, whenever we have a dinner party, to ask a question of those at the table. The questions vary, but we frequently ask “where is your ancestral home?” People are allowed to interpret that however they wish, and the answers often circle around places where formative experiences happened. Summers on a family farm, time with grandparents, finding a birth parent or visiting the country where your people have come from.
I have always thought that I could feel at home anywhere, that home was wherever I could be myself and those I love would always feel comfortable and be embraced. I hope that definition remains true through whatever vagaries of life are ahead of me, but it is also true that I haven’t tested my definition in a long time. I have lived in the same house longer now than anywhere else in my adult life, and my home away from home – St. Alban’s Parish – has been my workplace for 17 years now. So in fact I don’t really know anymore if I could feel at home ANYwhere.
Easy then to wonder if I’m stuck in a rut. Complacent? Unadventurous? Tired? Just plain lazy? But none of those things feels true. I realize that in the same way my ancestral homes have shaped me, so too am I formed by my current homes – those places where I feel safe to be myself and that embrace me and those I love. These are homes where I can retreat from life’s difficulties, rest and be soothed, healed and restored. They are places where I can explore and experiment, regroup and grow. Home is where I am challenged to live in community – whether with family or co-workers – and where the need for compromise and sacrifice are learned. They are places that do not hold me back, but from which I can move forward.
My musing about home grew out of listening to a brief work by Anton Bruckner, his Locus iste. “This place was made by God”, the text begins. “An inestimable holy place, without blame”. Simple and spare, this three-part piece begins warmly and invites us in to this holy place. The middle section is somewhat more dramatic with points of imitation and then the piece returns home in the third section.
May your homes – family and spiritual homes – be places of retreat, recuperation, regeneration and places from which you return to the world renewed.