Homes are harbors; there is a veracity there, an awareness of what is, what could be and even expectations about what should be. Homes are the dwelling place between the real and the ideal, between what is accepted and what is expected, between what is selfish and what is selfless. Homes allow ultimate freedom, laughter in pursuit of living and the potential of being “fully human”.
Behind a great fieldstone wall, there was a monastery of Franciscan Poor Clares in the north Bronx. Although vowed to a life of poverty and simplicity, prayer and enclosure, they delighted in encounters with the outside world and often retold stories and lessons from those interactions. One of their favorites came just after the election of a Pope.
Six of them had attended a Franciscan gathering g about an hour away. Someone asked for a ride back to the Bronx and they were happy to share their big clunky blue sedan. He happened to have been a secretary to a cardinal at the papal conclave and gamely volunteered to share his experiences and take questions. The sisters had exchanged glances with the offer and gladly accepted. He talked first about the pageantry and then about the beauty of it all and the sacredness of the process with a reverent tone. His eyes popped with the first question.
“Can you telll us about the campaigning, the politics of it all?”
He pleaded first that it was all the movement of the Holy Spirit, that it was entirely spiritual and free of all other influences.
The sisters burst into a benevolent laughter, smiles everywhere. He persisted, insisted for a moment, said surely their lives of prayer would enable them to grasp the movement of the Spirit.
There was a quiet then a bit more laughter.
“Of course,” said one of the older sisters. “But God acts through human beings such as we are, doesn’t he? We are just thinking it would be pretty difficult for the Spirit to act without that part, don’t you think?!”
He sputtered for just a moment or two more saying, “Your lives are so isolated from the world! Why would you think of politicing?”
“We might be isolated but not from our own humanity, not from the humanity of others….” the eldest sister responded. Then she quoted Irenaeus: “After all,” she said, “to be fully human is to be fully alive. Enclosed or not, life is about being fully alive! and that movement of the Spirit does make us fully alive. How could the cardinals not be human? Not be aware of one another, of the impact of one choice over another?”
He relented and they preserved the story. What their home looked like from the outside to him was far different from the reality of home to each of them. Homes invite us to more fully embrace the unedited realit of our humanity.