A Sanctuary for Souls
“The woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.”
– St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Take Up & Read:
We’ve considered essential holiness, and we’ve hopefully begun to conquer some of our biggest distractors from it. Now let’s turn to our vocation as women to create spaces that shelter holiness. We are souls. We walk around on feet and we touch with hands and we taste with tongues, but essentially, we are souls. We want to be holy souls. Our souls live in homes. And we—all of us reading—are homemakers, entrusted with creating shelters that nurture the holiness of souls.
As you consciously tend your home, you tend your soul and those souls in your care and keeping. If you asked my children what phrase I use most often when referring to home, there’s a good chance they’d tell you “a soft place to land.” I’m a big believer that home should envelop you with peace. Home is a sanctuary, a term used for holy spaces. And thirty years into homemaking, creating that soft place to land and maintaining it with grace is still a work in progress for which I beg providential assistance every day.
When your home is a sanctuary, you can rest and be restored. You nurture your own soul and the souls of the people who are sheltered there. So often, your environment--your outer world--is a reflection of your inner world. So, when you make progress in your inner life, that will spill into your home. That doesn’t mean that women with beautiful homes are necessarily sterling spiritually beings. It means that women who feel safe and secure in the love of Christ create sanctuaries for themselves and their families that are safe and warm, and those spaces reflect the true beauty of Christ’s love.
This may seem dissonant with what we've gleaned from Pinterest or from HGTV. The wisdom of the trendsetters tends to run towards the marketplace. Material things are paramount, and independence and self-reliance is most important. Even those who emphasize limiting possessions can miss the mark about those possessions. Remember again that minimalism is not the same as essentialism. In the minimalist world, one can easily still put too much emphasis on things (or the lack thereof) and not enough on sanctity. Spending indordinate time and energy minimizing things is not virtuous. And sometimes, it’s okay to hold onto the extra serving plates in hopeful anticipation of the next big gathering at your table. It’s fine to keep the toddler clothes because you somehow know they’ll bless someone. It’s fine to have spare mittens and extra socks because you know that they make a snow day into a happy memory instead of a study in frustration. What you are doing there is considering the material good in light of the good of the people it will serve.
In a world where material goods are most prized, individuals are the most important and pride is the highest virtue--sometimes that manifests itself as pride in the picture-perfect home. You were not created to be in service to making a soulless shell look pretty. Your goal is not to be happy in a pretty place.
God wants more for you. He wants joy in a sanctuary. He wants home to be a little bit of heaven on earth. Instead of prizing the individual and her accoutrements and accolades, He emphasizes community. Instead of striving for self-esteem, Jesus models humility and a servant’s heart. The greatest goal in making a genuinely Christian home is to create a space where souls can minister to one another. Our value comes from loving one another because we love God, and above all, because he loves us. The home is where ministry--connectedness and reaching people with Jesus--happens in a most meaningful way for women.
Let our homes be places where God and His people dwell together.
John Paul II spoke beautifully about the tender encounter Jesus has with John the Beloved and His Mother from the cross. Speaking of St. John’s Gospel, the Holy Father said:
The evangelist concludes by saying that "from that hour the disciple took her into his house" ( Jn 19:27 ). This means that the disciple immediately responded to Jesus' will: from that moment, welcoming Mary into his home, he showed her his filial affection, he surrounded her with every care, he made sure that she could enjoy recollection and peace waiting to be reunited with her Son, and to play her role in the newborn Church, both in Pentecost and in the following years.
John's action was the execution of Jesus' testament in regard to Mary; but it had a symbolic value for each one of Christ's disciples, who are asked to make room for Mary in their lives, to take her into their own homes. Because, by virtue of the words of the dying Jesus, every Christian life must offer a "space" to Mary, to provide for her presence.
Think about that for a moment. What would it look like to consider homemaking from the perspective of you as the disciple whom Jesus loved? What would it look like to get up every morning and go about your homemaking as if you were making a place for Mary to enjoy recollection and peace? The grace of that place would certainly offer recollection and peace for everyone who lived there. Certainly it would be tidy and beautiful, but the force behind the neatness and beauty would be the grace-filled soul of the woman who considered it her vocation to make a home there. In the biblical sense, a “well-ordered home” is one that is ordered towards God. Such a place offers recollection and peace to everyone who visits. It is indeed a soft place to land.
Ponder with your pen:
What is God’s vision for home? What does he care about? How does he see the role of homemaker? Carefully and prayerfully consider this week’s scripture and begin to outline a holy vision of a sanctuary for the souls entrusted to you.