Sanctifying the Home - Reclaiming Sunday as the Lord's Day
By Father Jim Baron
As my time starts to wind down here in the diocese before taking on a new assignment overseas, I hope that these articles have been an encouragement to the reader, even a challenge, to embrace the gift of Sunday as the Lord’s Day — a day of worship, rest, and recreation. In the face of our culture’s worsening health, many Christians instinctively want to push back and “do something” about it. Setting Sunday apart for the Lord and his purposes is tantamount to an act of rebellion.
Slowing down, making worship and rest top priorities over and above work, chores, shopping, and running errands — this is hard enough. What is more difficult, perhaps, is being faithful to this rhythm of life. One Sunday is good; doing this every week is a challenge. We tend to want expedient and efficient solutions to the problems of modern life. But the problems of today are often a result of the expedient and efficient solutions of yesterday. And instead of trying to “do more” to fix the world, this is a time to “do less,” meaning, to unplug, slow down, and recover that which we have lost — our families, our homes, our friendships, our faith and our humanity.
As we need a day “set apart” from the rest of the world, so do we need places that are also “set apart.” A sanctuary is a holy place designated for a sacred purposes. The home is truly a sanctuary. It is a place set apart for something sacred, the life that dwells within: family life. A home is a refuge, the setting for friendship, memories, comfort, enjoyment, formation, and prayer — a place to be authentically human. Unfortunately, the art of homemaking is often seen as a sexist relic of the past. People are still interested in house-design, cooking, and entertaining. But you can do all of these and still not have a home.
Thankfully, in many places, the domestic arts are making a comeback. During the COVID-19 shutdowns, many Catholics rediscovered that the things that matter most are found in the home. As we missed gathering as a church family around the Eucharistic table in the sanctuary of the parish, we simultaneously came to appreciate the simple goodness of gathering as a family around the dinner table in the sanctuary of the home. These two “families” and these two “meals” are pillars in the Catholic life.
Culture is formative. The rhythms of life, the habits, arts, and entertainments that surround us, all instill certain values. It will shape us as much as we shape it. The corrosive effect of our modern culture is real. It impacts our daily lives, in many ways deforming our humanity into something bizarre, confused, soft, addicted, angry, distracted, and tired. A sick culture produces sick people. A healthy culture, by contrast, forms healthy people.
Every home has a culture. Without a culture, it is just a house. Every home is meant to shelter a way of life, the people who live there, celebrations and seasons, hospitality, friendship, and an atmosphere of familiarity. You could describe the life of the home as almost liturgical. For those who have been blessed to enjoy the peace and stability of a home, it becomes a subconscious point of reference for everything else in life.
Such a refuge does not create itself. It is more art than science. Thankfully, many are turning their attention to the domestic as worthy of our efforts. The book “Theology of Home” by Carrie Gress, Noelle Mering, and Megan Schreiber offers some helpful insights into this process.
The state of the world, contrasted by the nature of the Church, makes the situation increasingly clear that one of the most impactful means of evangelization is to simply live the Christian life. God wants his world back. If the Lord wants to establish a foothold in the timeline of our historical existence, then dedicating one day of the week each week to the Lord makes a lot of sense.
If he wants to establish a foothold in the geography of this world, then sanctifying the home also is very strategic. When the Word was made flesh, he lived under the care of our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph while participating in the goods of domestic life. He also enjoyed the domestic hospitality of friends like Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. We Catholics embrace the fact that daily life is the setting for the mysteries of redemption. In a very special way, the home is where we can imitate the life of our Lord.
Maybe someone, someday, will elaborate a new set of mysteries for the rosary — the “Domestic Mysteries” to help us meditate on how Mary would have run the home, or the way Joseph interacted with his clients, or contemplate Jesus doing simple chores around the house. There is much spiritual fruit from praying with the entire Holy Family breaking bread, hosting neighbors, and laughing around the dinner table. We would do well to bring these images into our own prayer, and then live them out in our own homes.
(Father Jim Baron was recently appointed Director of Intellectual Formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, a four-year assignment that begins July 1, 2023)