Perfect kitchen, big closets, two bathrooms, big enough study, hardwood floors, two car garage, 19 outlets in each room, good neighborhood, good school district, big yard, two small trees...the list goes on and on and on.
Finding the perfect home requires tons of research, lots of time searching realtor sites, and lists upon lists of what we NEED to make a house a home. We've been looking on and off at homes in our area for quite some time and it can become daunting. There's always a this one is great...but... It is one of the biggest decisions of our life from the financial aspect to making sure you have enough rooms for the kids you want one day, to making sure the house won't flood (especially if you live in southern Louisiana.) It's almost obsessive the amount of time people, you and me, put into purchasing a home.
But what about a church home? I'll be honest, for most of my adult life, I haven't really felt "at home" in my church parish. When I was a Youth Minister in New Orleans I didn't feel "at home" at the church, when I moved to Baton Rouge it was a little bit better but I still wasn't "at home" and when we moved back to the Houma area, we lived in one of the smaller bayou communities and I taught religion at a small church that just didn't feel alive with the Spirit. We then moved into the city limits and started attending the Cathedral, where we celebrated the Sacrament of Marriage, surely this would be the place we could call home, we even had a special connection to the parish. But after Sunday upon Sunday, month upon month, it still just didn't meet our needs.
That's when we sat down and took some time to think about things. We spend so much time trying to find the perfect home to live in, that no matter if you keep it for all of your life, is only temporary. We spent no time or effort into making sure the Church we attended met our needs. And that's way more important. It is in receiving the sacraments, following and abiding in Christ with our parish "family" and ministering to the young, outcast and downtrodden that we life fully in Christ and gain everlasting life, where we build our eternal home.
Now I'll admit, I am a little stubborn and was (and still am, at least Sacramentally) a firm believer in the fact that every church parish has everything any Catholic needs, because it is not the Priest, the building, the choir, the comfy pew cushion, or the mosiac backsplash to the alter that fulfills our needs, but it is the Body and Blood of Christ that is present and freely available, it is the Confessional that lifts the stain of sin that is in every Catholic church.
But what I didn't realize was, while that does take care of my needs and it does make me grow, it doesnt make me reach my full potential. Because while the music doesn't matter, it does set the tone for my worship. And while who the priest is doesn't matter, he does layout a floor plan through his homily so that I am not building on shifting sand but instead on solid rock.
After talking with my wife and realizing we weren't where God was calling us to be, we listened for the subtle voice of God, and while we never jotted down our list we pretty much had a good idea of what we needed, and we would soon begin that journey. This was almost 3 months ago now and I'm finally getting around to actually writing my list out, just incase I forget.
So here's my list,
I need a home that is welcoming and warm
I need a home where the music moves my soul to worship
I need a home where I can fully understand the floorplan of God
I need a home where I can participate in the plan of Salvation
I need a home where a community gathers to vibrantly celebrate the Sacrifice
I need a home where I can raise my child in the faith while I can fully live the faith
I need a home that is community and family oriented
I need a home that is generous to those in need
I need a home where I am genuinly called to the altar of the Eucharist
I need a home where people are called and encouraged to ministry
And this list goes on and on and on too. So does my wife's list. And we decided, with list in mind to set out on what was sure to be a daunting journey in and out of the numerous Catholic churches in town. The first weekend of our journey we started with a nearby parish, about 6 minutes away from our house (the Cathedral where we were going is only 30 seconds away.)
We entered the church and were promplty greeted. We then found our way to a row of pews nestled on the right side of the church near the Tabernacle and close to the Altar. We got to Mass 30 minutes early which gave us plenty of time to "scope" things out and get a feel for this new church. As people began to trickle into their pews a guitarist started to strum soft hymns. By 5 minutes to Mass the church was packed, very few seats left, this was very much unlike our Cathedral parish that was at best, sparsly attended. A couple of minutes before Mass, the priest, in stole and chasibule, came to the front of the theatre style seated pews and began to welcome visitors, asking them where they were visiting from. He then called us to greet the people sitting around us as he returned to the foyer of the church. The entire Mass was vibrant, respectful, engaging, encouraging, up-lifting and so much more.
Even though we had about five other churches on the list to visit, we decided to try the same parish again the next weekend, and the next weekend, and the next weekend, and within a month and a half we were proud new home-owners, we became registered parishoners at Maria Immacolata Catholic Church. And even though we would have registered at our new parish, no matter where it was, I found it nice that it was encouraged in such a positive way, "to live fully in the sacramental and communal life of the Catholic Church." that was just a little lagniappe! (lagniappe, "lawn-yaap", org. acadian french, v. def. A little something extra.)
I find it amazing that if we just take a minute to listen to what God is saying and then follow his voice that He will give us exactly what we need. In the short three months (+/-) He has done so much to my spiritual life. I feel connected to the church again, in a way that I haven't felt since I left my first parish, I read the daily scriptures and pray the morning prayers everymorning with my Magnificat, my wife and I get excited and enjoy Mass every weekend. It's a good place to be, to listen to God's voice, and then find and live in his grace!
I encourage everyone to make a list and make sure you are getting everything you need in a home. It's a lifelong decision that will have everlasting affects. Take time to find out what your spiritual needs are, and seek out ways to find them. It may be that your parish offers everything you need except one or two things that a neighboring parish can give you in the form of a special group, or something that is offered on the Diocesan level like a Cursillo retreat or a Married Couples Retreat. Whatever it is, find it, go to the table, and feast on God's love.
I know this post was a little legnthy and if you made it through I'd love to hear your comments and even stories of how you found the right home for you and your family. Please don't forget to follow my blog!