By Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick
Like all kids growing up, at times I felt out of place — at school, at church, with friends and even in my own family. In early elementary school, I longed to play the more organized games of the “big kids,” making myself out of place with my peers, but not belonging with the older students.
Like many others, this feeling grew as I entered the awkward stage of life that is adolescence, and was bolstered by the themes of many coming of age stories. Like Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” and the Disney classic “Beauty and the Beast,” the account many young people hear is that leaving home — especially for those from small towns and the middle of the country — is the path to success and the way to shed the feeling of not fitting in.
While traveling has its benefits in developing a mature understanding of the world, this narrative implies that it is always better for a person to leave her home than to stay. More importantly, this account misses the reason that Belle’s words “there must be more than this provincial life,” resonate with so many young people: there is more. But, it isn’t out there in the great beyond, or in Europe or New York. It’s heaven.
The story of humanity begins with Adam and Eve kicked out of their home, where they had good work, luscious food and a close relationship with the creator. As biblical stories remind us, we, like the Israelites in the desert and the holy family in Egypt, are a people in exile. Our sense of exile does not arise from any deficit in our homeland, but from our distance from God.
Our true home is communion with God. Throughout our mortal life, we always will be, in some sense, in exile; however, we can draw closer to God during our earthly pilgrimage.
Prayer, scripture and the Sacraments are at the center of the path toward Christ. A deeper relationship with the Lord requires spending time with him, meditating on the words of scripture and physically receiving him in the Eucharist and other Sacraments.
God is love, so cultivating the virtue of love draws us closer to him. Mother Teresa’s example and advice is to do “small things with great love.” For some, this is working hard to provide for one’s family, while for others it is taking soup to a sick friend. Each of our duties, however small, provides us the chance do them with love.
As the source of all beauty, God reveals himself in the beauty of the ordinary. This means we can come to know him better by both appreciating the natural beauty present in even the most urban environment and by cultivating beauty in our everyday surroundings.
In other words, we can come to know God through making and appreciating our home — even when it doesn’t feel like home.