Home as Sanctuary, Refuge

Rumors are flying on both sides of the political spectrum, as America heads toward the anticipated inauguration of Joe Biden next Wednesday. It’s a difficult time, and not a little alarming, as Trump supporters and other Conservatives are threatened with retaliation by those on the Left.

A few years ago, Rod Dreher wrote a book called The Benedict Option, in which he urges people to consider following the example of the venerable Father Benedict of Nursia, who abandoned Rome and headed to the hills to dwell in caves before he was persuaded to take leadership of a monastic community. From that community he wrote a Rule which has become the standard of many successive Orders’* Rules over the centuries, and is still read and aspired to by Benedictines, today. Dreher recommends abandoning society and retreating to a more isolated life away from the controversies and difficulties of modern society.

Of course, Benedict left the depravities of Rome, not its collapse. And he didn’t have the technologies to complicate his life that we do, today.

Fact is, a full withdrawal from the world is extremely difficult in the 21st century. We have families, jobs, obligations of varied descriptions that make a full retreat impossible.

However, there is something to be considered in the Rule and life of St. Benedict that is useful for us all: the mandate to consider every dimension of our lives as belonging to God. He required his communities to set aside very particular times of the day to pray (the Mass and the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours), to study, to labor. In addition, his counsel calls his communities, and us, to remember that every dimension and aspect of life is God’s. The tools of life did not belong to the monk, nor even to the monastery; they were God’s, and were expected to be treated respectfully in consequence of that reality.

Likewise, our lives and our homes belong to God. And in a world where so much stress and uncertainty are at the fore (Will more shutdowns cost me work, and income? Will political and theological convictions jeopardize my employment?) the only place where we really have influence and some degree of control is in our homes.

The control should, must! be used to make our homes places of refuge from the world — for our families, certainly, but also for our neighbors and friends who are drawn to us to share concerns, burdens, prayer, need in an uncertain and frightening time. Reduce/eliminate clutter. Establish a place for everything and put items in their proper place (a great personal challenge). Cultivate a standard of hospitality, not entertainment, for welcoming friends to your home. Plain simple food with warmth and affection in the atmosphere is far more soul-nurturing than an impressive meal with stress and irritation.

In the coming days we will be called upon to comfort and encourage others, in and out of our family circle. Let’s be careful not to look on this challenge as a burden, but as our calling as home-makers. Let’s establish as our objective that all who enter our homes might sense God’s holy and healing presence there.

  • An Order, for my nonCatholic readers, is a community founded upon the particular gifts and insights of its founder — i.e., the Franciscans (St Francis of Assissi), the Domincans (St. Dominic), the Benedictines (St. Benedict), et al. Each Community and its daughter houses adhere to a Rule which outlines the particulars for that community, that Order, to live out its special gifts and calling.

Thanks to Angela for directing me to a delightful blog – My 50s Year is a charming attempt at adopting retro living –

It seems to be a developing trend, and why not? We are all hungry to return to a time when life was simpler, morality and decency were the norm – when you could turn on the television or go to a movie and not have to mentally edit the profanity… when you didn’t have to be voyeuristic in other people’s sex lives…

People hunger for decency and simplicity. We long for the days when men were men, women were women, vive la difference! and never the twain shall meet – much less disappear.

So check out this charming little blog, and think of pulling out your own hats… and where do you suppose I might be able to find some dress gloves? hmmmm


Some wonderful advice

God bless Penelope at Penelope’s Oasis for sharing this post a couple weeks ago.

“Don’t be afraid to take a wrecking ball to your life in order to redesign it” is bold advice, but completely fitting and even, sometimes, necessary.

Middle age and personal disappointments provide a wonderful impetus for evaluating my life. Having just turned 52 this past week, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, myself. Am I doing what I want to do? What I value? Where do my daydreams take me? What do I want to be when I grow up?

There’s an image that keeps coming to me – I’m looking out the window across a green lawn, shaded with large trees, and looking at an expanse of water – a Sound, perhaps, if not the ocean. Where is it? I feel as if I’ve seen it before, perhaps on my way to Ocracoke, but I’ve never been inside a house that overlooks so much water.

What in-between steps can I be taking to make my dreams a reality? If I need something pretty to look out at while I work, what can I do on my own to give myself a pretty view?

I’ve taken the wrecking ball to one dimension of my life – one that meant a great deal to me, meant more than I can tell anyone, but that simply had to be left. It doesn’t hurt as badly as one might think. Oh, yes, it’s scary, and there’s a bit of grieving that goes along with it… but there are compensatory graces: I know I made the right and responsible and honorable choice, and I know this “amputation” will allow me to draw closer to what I really want to achieve during the time God has given me in this life – and, consequently, to what I want in the life of the World to come.

There’s no virtue in being a victim, having one’s life scripted by people who want only their own good, their own convenience and pleasure. God gives us a great deal of free choice and the opportunity to make good each and every day.

Be bold. Be adventurous. No one else can do it for us.

Praying for Kim M.

Woke up to find an email about a woman named “Kay M.”, from Pennsylvania, who died suddenly on Saturday. She’d become ill on Thursday, nausea and vomiting, had gone to the emergency room, been stabilized and sent home – her husband got sick on Friday – Saturday she told him she was very weak, and he called the rescue squad, but she died in his arms before they arrived. I’ve emailed the friend who sent me the email, asking if it was flu.

“Kay” and her husband have eight children, three in college and five being homeschooled at home. The youngest is only six years old.  As you may imagine, the entire family and all their friends are in complete shock. Please hold everyone in your prayers.

Ignited by Truth, 2009

I’d love to be able to tell you how wonderful this year’s Ignited by Truth conference was. After all, the 7th annual event has grown so large that it had to be held at the new Raleigh Convention Center instead of the diocese’s high school. We also had some stellar speakers – Joseph Pearce, Tim Staples, Phil Rivers, Fr. Larry Richards, Immaculee Iligabiza…

But I can’t. I have no idea.

I was approached the week of the conference about working at the Catholic Answers table during the conference. “The speakers will be broadcast in the room, so you won’t miss anything,” I was told.

The speakers were the standard “box” speakers against one wall, not ceiling speakers evenly positioned throughout the room. I, in the middle of the room, got to hear a few minutes’ of Immaculee’s talk as I was saying my Confession with Fr Ned from the Office of Vocations (he very kindly accommodated my need not to leave my table long by hearing my Confession there in the vendor’s room).

Still, I can tell you – There were nearly 2500 people in attendance.
*I got to see my friend Rose from Catholic Online.
*I got to see a friend and former student and a whole bunch of lovely folks from their Byzantine parish.
*I got to see That Other Laura, who was in my RCIA program at the other parish, and her lovely mom.
*I got to see Sabrena and Eric from Sacred Heart Beats.
*I got to see Chris from A Catholic View and now also from Deliberate Engagement.
*I got to meet Argent by the Tiber.
*I got to spend Friday evening and all day Saturday hobnobbing with Tim Staples. He’s as funny and astute in person as he is in writing or on stage.
*I got to meet Joseph Pearce, who is a VERY HANDOME GENTLEMAN, in defiance of what his promo photo suggests, and very gracious, too – with that lovely English accent.
*I got to spend a short while with the Lord in the Adoration Chapel.
*I got to shake hands and exchange a few words of greeting with our Totally Awesome Bishop, Michael Burbidge (knees won’t let me genuflect. rats!)
*Got to see, hug, talk with, and, best of all, worship with Matt, Deliberate Engagement colleague. Hadn’t seen him since September (he took hiatus from the Master Chorale, and now I have, too) –

I looked around the room during one of our very busy interludes, and realized with some sense of awe that I was in the midst of a huge group of like-minded Catholic Christians. So often I feel as if I’m swimming against the tide, trying to go in the opposite direction of all the other fish in my local river. But here, at this wonderful conference, we were all swimming the same direction – loving the same Lord, trying to live out our faith in the same paradigm.

I didn’t get to hear a speaker, but I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity for the whole world.

Remembering Michael Dubruiel, who was a friend to some of my friends. According to his wife, Amy Welborn, Michael collapsed at the gym this morning and could not be revived.

While the Catholic world, particularly the blogging world, is stunned, and even Pat Madrid spoke of being “devestated,” I’m a bit envious. The man was called Home. His family and friends will miss him terribly – but he’s been Graduated.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and may Perpetual Light shine upon him.
May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed,
by the mercies of God,
rest in peace. Amen.

A week full of compliments – and it’s only Tuesday!

So… I have to share these with you, okay? because compliments like this don’t happen every day – or every week, or every month, even.

Friend from high school read “Prelude and Fugue in Faith” and had glowing things to say about it – and very particularly about my writing. Suffice it to say I’m still smiling and blushing over the compliments.

Then yesterday I got a tweet from a new friend via Fr Z’s What Does the Prayer Really Say? – who asked me if anyone had ever told me that my photo makes him think of a young Dame Judi Dench.

Actually, Angela has pointed this out to me a few times – but hearing it from a gentleman goes much more directly and immediately to my heart/ego.

I kinda like this flattery and compliment business! I could really let this stuff go to my head!

A sweet award!


“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

Many thanks to both Angela and Mary Rose who thought this blog fit the bill – but I’m left with a dilemma: Do I know eight more bloggers? By golly, I do indeed!

Lala – at The Perpetual Residence of the Lady Nomad
Penelope at Penelope’s Oasis
Melina at The Art of Being Feminine
Adrienne at Adrienne’s Catholic Corner
Penny at Argent by the Tiber
Chris at A Catholic View (and now a contributing editor at Deliberate Engagement – but I don’t think Matt would appreciate having to distract the pro-life blog with awards and pretty stuff, so I ain’t goin’ there!)
Must mention a couple of men, though:
Guy at What Women Never Hear (if you haven’t read his blog, you’re missing out!)
Owen at Luminous Miseries

Bless you all for making my life better!