I just spent the weekend giving a women’s Lent retreat at St. Ignatius Retreat House, the Jesuit retreat house in New York of which I was a member of the adjunct ministerial staff before my move to the Twin Cities five years ago. Not only was it the hub of my ministry in New York, but also St. Ignatius was my spiritual home for many years. The weekend was a bittersweet occasion – joy in a wonderful time with 45 women, many of whom have come on a number of retreats I’ve given there, and sadness because the retreat house is closing in June and this was my last retreat (and, indeed, last visit) there.
One of the great tensions in my life is that between the desire to be ready to pick up and go wherever I am led by the Spirit (the “life as pilgrimage” part of me) and the desire to feel a sense of home, to feel like I belong somewhere. In most periods of my life I have not felt a sense of home and belonging. Despite having a house and a husband and daughter, both of whom I love dearly, I often experience feelings of rootlessness and homelessness.
St. Ignatius, though, was a place the felt like home to me – my spiritual home for many years, the site of so many of my deepest religious experiences, the place out of which I ministered, a place I felt a sense of belonging.
I shared all of this at the retreat house with Fr. Bill Walsh, formerly my spiritual director and still a trusted friend and advisofr, telling him that with the closing of the retreat house, I felt like the home I had was being taken away from me. I would now be homeless.
Bill’s response was swift and direct (as he has always been with me): “Your home is in the heart of Jesus.” And, through my sadness, I knew he was right. That any other home is only a facsimile of my one true home, the only real home I have and really have ever had, the only home I really need – the heart of Jesus.
St. Ignatius Retreat House was a special place and it will always occupy a treasured place in my heart for all that happened there. But it is not about the physical house – or any physical house. As homelike as it felt, the retreat house was never really my home.