Not long ago we had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Boquet of Human Life International when he visited our parish. After Mass, he blessed us by sharing a potluck dinner and imparting some of his wisdom and spiritual guidance. The title of his evening talk was “Catholic Air.”
What better time than in this Holy Week to do an air quality check in our homes, our lives. No, I’m not suggesting we hire an HVAC specialist to sanitize our ducts. And I’m not referring to that odd odor that is emanating from under my teenaged son’s bed. The “Catholic air” to which Father was referring is the atmosphere we create in our homes.
We all recognize the need to breath clean air for optimal health. Anyone who has ever unwittingly sucked a cloud of smoke into his lungs knows the discomfort it can cause. Air pollution from factories and poorly maintained vehicles are blamed for all kinds of ills from environmental to health. So to, we must be mindful of the “air” we are breathing into our bodies, minds and souls.
When my journey into motherhood had just begun, I must admit that the airflow in our home was stifled. We surrounded ourselves with ordinary art and décor. Our frugal budget offered no means for a Picasso or Duncan Phyfe, but we did attempt to create a welcoming environment with hand-me-down furniture and thrift store paintings.
Recollecting Those Habited Sisters, plastic rosaries…
But as our little ones grew and my home schooling career commenced I began to reflect on my Catholic grade school experience. Recollecting those habited Sisters, our plastic rosaries, statues of the Blessed Mother and the crucifixes that hung in every room, I realized that a big part of my education was scented with the aroma of Catholicism. That is to say, Catholic symbols, books and objects surrounded us and infused us with faith.
So, as I set about preparing to educate my own brood, I realized that our home would be the center of their whole educational sphere and that included their education in the faith. Pretty pictures and comfortable furnishings were useful, but those alone would do little to reflect the true lessons we hoped to impart on those young, innocent minds.
Our home needed to be a mirror of our priorities, a reflection of our inner selves (or at least an image that we were striving to reflect). I suppose I have my mother-in-law to thank for blessing us with our wedding icons and an individual icon for each of our older children. In doing so, she provided our home with its first visible symbols of the faith we were proclaiming.
Of course, if we were going to teach our children at home, than it would be a Catholic education; and how could we impart a truly faith-based education without choosing good, authentic Catholic curriculum. Those school books, filled with beautiful Catholic artwork and sainted characters, were hard to close until we began to add equally beautiful images to our walls and our refrigerator gallery.
Catholic symbols had a natural appeal to our children. When I started a little shrine to our Lady in the kitchen, the older boys followed suit by covering a corner table in their bedroom with rosaries, holy cards and little resin saints. The sweet scent of Catholicism wafted through our home like incense from a senser.
Jesus Welcomes Me Back
Not having stepped foot in my childhood parish since my family moved to the parish on the opposite side of my hometown, I was excited at the chance to revisit Sacred Heart just a couple of years ago. Walking in the side door, the one I’d walked through countless times before as a pony-tailed, freckle-faced girl, I was instantly attracted to the huge painting of Jesus in the narthex. I recognized His face and He spoke to me of the many times we’d met as I’d entered through that very door on my way into His house. I felt as though I’d just come home. That painting connected me to more than a building, it linked me to my childhood, the beginnings of my faith journey.
While to an outsider (especially an outsider to the faith) our home may now resemble a layman’s monastery, it is our refuge. Our refuge from a world that fills the air with visual and auditory pollution. Just as the signs and symbols of my grade school days are intertwined with my faith memories, so too, the Catholic décor we fill our home with tangibly connects us with our beliefs. I can speak to my children about the mercy of God. I can tell them about Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, but how much more effective that lesson becomes when they can see and touch an image of Christ crucified.
Some days I whisk passed the icons and statues in my home with barely a fleeting glance or consideration, but other times I am stopped in my tracks. The picture of my Blessed Mother hanging in my bedroom will cause me to take pause and pray for a need that’s weighing heavily on my mind. The holy oil on my kitchen shrine reminds me to bless the little one in my womb. The rosaries dangling beside the door offer my children ready access to a meditative tool. This is the Catholic air of which Father Bouquet spoke, the perceivable representations of our mysterious faith.
Are You Guilty Of Being Catholic?
There is a popular quote I’ve heard repeated, it asks, “If someone accused you of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Would a stranger know you are a child of God just by looking at you? How about by speaking with you? What if he entered your home, would he know Whom you serve?
Children love to model their heroes, for that matter so do adults. They’ll wear Taylor Swift’s perfume, don a T-shirt labeled Sean John, or plaster their bedroom walls with Justin Bieber’s smirk. So, it is crucial that we reflect on the messages we are mimicking and ask ourselves if the air we are breathing (and emitting) is refreshing to the soul or simply adding to the already polluted worldly environment.