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.
As I was reading your post on Home in the Heart of Jesus, it gave me some insight… an epiphany of sorts. I have a real, chronic problem with practices like Adoration and Benedition. Just bugs me — at times it seems like folks got God all trapped in that bit of bread — all safe and sound, and controlled. Then I read something like your reflection and your sorrow at “losing your home” — the realization that your home (our home) is in the Heart of Jesus, gives me a way to look at Adoration and see that it can be a way of sitting with the understanding and appreciation of just that reality: home is in the heart of Jesus. To be there allows me to more consciously realize and appreciate that. There are many times when we really need the concrete to be able to sense the reality beyond.
What a perfect answer you got. As academics, we too often give a treatise where a one-sentence truth that leads to further reflection is a much better response.
I feel very lucky that I was able to attend your excellent retreat. Thank you for your hard work. It is greatly appreciated. Leaving you behind in the retreat house made me very sad. Goodbyes are difficult. Inisfada was a very special place for many people. To me this is yet another reminder that God’s embrace is the only safe and permanent place – everything else is temporary.