The domestic church is like an enclosed garden; a planned space
for the cultivation, nurture and care of the family.
The present is the only chance to build our family as a domestic church.
My husband sometimes refers to me as ‘Island Girl’, because I was born and raised on a Pacific island. My birth family lived in a mountainous region that required an hour and a half drive to reach the closest beach. The expanse of water bounded by the horizon, especially punctuated during sunset, seemed contained in the panorama before my eyes. It wasn’t until I learned Geography in the third grade that I grasped the idea that the beach was part of a sea that was part of the Pacific Ocean. On a globe, in fact, all the oceans connect as to be one big ocean that covers 71% of the earth! I realized then that my beach was just one point in the ocean’s global periphery. Looking out from that point, the water seemed to be an isolated body but in reality it was joined to the greater expanse of water that covered the majority of the planet.
One Fruit of a Novena
In the beginning of February, I started a novena for our daughter, Mary. In the last semester of her high school, she is still discerning where to go to college in the fall and her major of study. In looking for the appropriate novena to pray for her, I chose the Visitation Novena which is based on the scriptures of Mary visiting St. Elizabeth since our daughter is named Mary Elizabeth. I trust that the Lord will answer my petition for our daughter through the intercession of Mary and St. Elizabeth. One fruit of praying the novena for me was the grace of a growing desire to “visit” with people.
I am one of those women who makes a big deal of cleaning the house and preparing to host guests in our house. I take hospitality seriously and it is work. I want my guests to be comfortable in our home, enjoy good food, and be delighted to have spent time with us. And we have had many of these gatherings in our home. Although these events are celebrations of special days and holy days, they are not occasions for true visiting. Visiting is a natural and integral part of life or life in a community that was commonplace only a generation or two ago but seems to have disappeared from our regular life today.
A Church Visit
Edith Stein, a Jewish German scholar and philosopher, observed a woman carrying a shopping basket enter into the Frankfurt Cathedral and kneel for a brief prayer. Edith wrote, "This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited, people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot.” This was a beginning step for Edith Stein on her journey to become a Catholic, and later a Carmelite nun with the name of Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was arrested, transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and martyred. Canonized in 1998, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is a co-patron saint of Europe.
Although the door to repentance is wide open, it is a very tiny door. We have to be very small to find it, and even smaller to enter it. Repentance can only begin with humility.
Instead of setting new externally-focused goals this year, I have decided to delve more deeply into my personal calling from God. Inspired by Simeon and Anna the Prophetess (Luke 2:22-38), who both persevered in their lifetime of waiting for the promised Messiah, I want to recommit to staying the course set by God’s call in my life. Perseverance commonly connotes effort and hard work to complete a goal despite barriers and obstacles. In the Christian sense, however, perseverance is a virtue. Perseverance involves fortitude (which is both a cardinal virtue and a gift of the Holy Spirit) and patience (which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit). Developing the virtue of perseverance requires both grace and personal effort, much like operating a sailboat and harnessing the power of wind to propel the craft. Simeon was not only a “righteous man awaiting the consolation of Israel,” but also “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Anna worshipped God night and day with fasting and prayer. The combination of grace and effort is also reflected in the Catholic Dictionary, perseverance – “remaining in the state of grace until the end of life.” This year, I hope to persevere (and remain in the state of grace) in prayer, in my vocation, and in loving others.
"Oohhh, the red screen of death," the cellphone repairman's resigned pronouncement came down like a guillotine for our teen-age daughter. I observed that day how she had to go through a small death, not so much a threat to her life, but to life as she knew it. Sadness, disorientation, anger inevitably resulted from her loss. Recognizing that she is a teen, when the developmental phase is marked by active social participation, and that she belongs to Generation Z, those born into and living with the reality of smartphones, the small death was real for her and no less painful. I was tempted to challenge her on her attachment to the device but thought it would be as unfair as if someone were to challenge me on my attachment to refrigeration. This is life as we know it and sudden change is not welcome.
All our guests were involved in this unlikely Easter drama. International graduate students and visiting scientists, several of whom have not heard about Jesus, joined our family Easter celebration. As my husband drove into our driveway with some guests in the van, they noticed two cats jump out from our egress window well, obviously startled by the approaching motor. Investigating why those cats were in the window well, they saw a baby bunny in one corner with its head burrowed and its white tail up in the air. There are bushes on either side of the well; we guessed that the hunters and the hunted must have all fallen into the window well while in the midst of a frantic chase.
There's a half-dead bird on the driveway," my daughter came in to tell me.
"What do you mean half-dead?" I asked.
"It is on its back with its legs up but one leg is broken. Its eyes open and close," she described.
"What shall we do about it?" I asked her. (I was going to tell her that it happens that birds get hurt and it is nature's way and that we should let nature take its course.)
"Let's put it on the grass," she replied.
(At that moment, a choice was before me: either tell her there is not much we can do about it and leave it alone, or recognize her kindness for this bird which can die on the grass instead of on the concrete.) "Let's go."
"May I go to Mass with you tomorrow?" - an unexpected request from our next door neighbor who attends the largest evangelical church in town and in which her husband is an elder. "Sure," I replied, "May I ask why you want to come? She mentioned that she and her husband and a group of couples were reading a book about worship and she was curious about the Catholic worship service, the Mass. She included, "The author mentions that some churches even have water at the entrance of their church to remind people of their baptism." I said, "That's us."
We were incredulous that our guest gave us a most unusual gift on Thanksgiving Day. Hosting international students to join our family in celebrating this American holiday, we usually receive gifts such as foreign candy, trinkets, scarves, and even a stuffed camel with actual camel hair. We were surprised to receive from one of them a shower head with a hose! We politely thanked our guest and wondered how he came up with the choice of this gift - who does that? We shared many laughs with family members at receiving a piece of household hardware. It was one of those things that make for interesting conversation and filed in the funny family memories. However, two days before Christmas, our shower head cracked - causing water to spray in numerous crazy directions all over the bathroom!