"We are losing our attitude of wonder, of contemplation, of listening to creation and thus we no longer manage to interpret within it what Benedict XVI calls 'the rhythm of the love-story between God and man.'"
+ Pope Francis
Two weeks ago, after I told my mom that one of her sons passed away, I found myself on my front porch watching clouds pushed along by late winter winds. Because I live in the house in which I grew up, the morning’s views and smells were more than familiar to me. They were parts of what had made me. And so they provided comfort—a reminder of my brother Chuck, who would have played in this neighborhood, this yard, and in the nearby woods, over which the clouds were now racing.
In this time of social distancing and quarantines—of people staying close to home—I’ve been thinking about not just my home, but the privilege of getting to grow up and grow old in the house of my boyhood.
Our connection with a place is a sacred reality. We moderns have mostly forgotten this.
Fast-paced urban living, frequent relocations, children of divorced parents having two or sometimes three homes—all these factors, and more, can add up to a lack of any foundation in a place that is home. And with that comes a lack of known lands, skies, and cycles of light and scent that have nurtured you and will continue to do so like no other place can.
At a theology conference several years ago on the topic of Laudato Si’, I listened to a speaker discuss Native American perspectives of land. The topic turned to our own frenetic and disconnected sense of place—or rather our lack thereof. When I mentioned that I now own my boyhood home and still walk the streets and wooded areas of my neighborhood, one young man expressed disbelief. Not in the truth of what I had said, but that some people still could or wanted to grow up in the place of one’s birth—and thus to know a place as one would a spouse—growing, aging, changing together, but ultimately being the same reality.
Many of our eco-issues (as well as our public health crises, it seems) derive from our mobile culture—our insistence that our world is really one big village, which it is in a way, but also is not.
Living within the cycles, smells, and sights of the land you were born into has immense advantages personally and for the common good. That so many people cannot do so—through changes in climate or economic realities—and that so many people will not—because of a sad restlessness—are realities we must acknowledge and confront. Perhaps a reverence for one’s childhood home is an example of the “new lifestyles” we are urged to adopt by Pope Francis and his predecessors.
Perhaps, before we can care for our global common home, we must first love and value and nurture our own corners of creation—and that means we ought to work for social and economic structures that can give everyone the opportunity, and perhaps the desire, to choose to live and die in the very place that had first brought them life.
About the Blog
Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.