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  • Writer's pictureNatalie

Home Churches

Today we are in Stay Home mode with the pandemic that the world is experiencing. The situation is less than ideal. I wish I could have prayed and participated in the Mass in an actual church building. The statues, stained glass windows, murals, community, and music help my thoughts transcend ever higher. However, we are making the best of it.

We had Mass at home by live streaming with Fr. Mike Schmitz. I cleared the living room, and set up the kitchen chairs to make a pew. Our throw pillows were accessible as kneelers, and I made a mini altar right under the TV screen so that it could line up with Father’s altar. I love to pray with all five senses so I was able to use frankincense incense so our living room could smell like church. The homily was incredibly touching and hope-filled. This reminds me of how universal the Church is.

All of us are at home live streaming the Mass. We are hearing the same readings, reflecting, and praying as families in our little “home churches” or domestic churches. Domestic church is what all of us are called to. Sharing the faith and our relationships with God with our families at home. For the early Christians, “home churches” is all they had.

It was a time when Christianity was illegal, so people would celebrate Mass, pray, and come together as a community in peoples’ houses—"home churches.” We are hiding from a virus and they hid from persecutors, both are life threatening and terrifying. Yet we find community by coming together in the Mass, even if that means by live streaming.

Back in October, we went on a pilgrimage to Italy. In Rome, we had free time, so we went to some normal tourist spots. Some of them didn’t work out, so we went a different route which took us to the other side of the city to the minor basilica of S. Clemente. This basilica was a time capsule. The top floor is from the 12th century, the middle floor is from the 4th century, and the bottom floor is from the 1st century. The top basilica was in the time right before the rebirth of our world. The mosaic murals, mosaic stone floors, and frescoes still intact display 900 years worth of faith, and it was a breath of fresh air and a true historic sight to see. When we went down to the level below, we found a basilica from the 4th century when Christianity first became legalized. This church would’ve meant so much to Christians of that time. For the first time, they can gather outside of hiding, outside of the neighbor’s home. They could, for the first time, not have to watch their back while they came together to sing, to pray, and to celebrate the Eucharist. As I touched the stone structures and gazed at the frescoes that have remained for over 1700 years, the feeling of relief and peace in the air was palpable. We went one more level lower to a Roman mansion that belonged to the first Roman senator to convert to Christianity. This mansion would soon become a “home church.” I walked on the handmade, original, herringbone brick, I could picture people packing into this room like sardines for Mass and prayer time together. Hiding, but freedom found in the God who delivers. There was an unsettling feeling as I imagined being forced to worship in homes, but then I was flooded with the feeling of intimacy and God’s Presence.

We traveled through the centuries as we took each flight of stairs into the earth. The real journey began as we ascended back up through the eras of faith. From a “home church” to a basilica where Christians could worship for the first time without fear to the basilica that awaited the Renaissance. Then you step outside to our modern world. We have come so far since these centuries, but God remains the same. Little did I know, five months later we would be returning to the “home church” style of praise.

We are staying inside our homes, and some of us are fearful of the unknown. God’s Presence is here. He’s waiting for us. We are being confronted with a more intimate way of prayer. There’s a reason we are here and there’s opportunity in it. Maybe it’s to find breath, peace, Presence, intimacy with God. Right now, I’m being called to listen. It’s a time of productivity to get things done at home for my family. It’s a time to catch up on my spiritual reads that I’ve had to put off for so long. More importantly, I’m embracing the silence and opening myself up to what’s being said to me. I am amazed that I can find so much of God in this one-bedroom apartment.

For example, we live streamed Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Mass. He is a priest that I’ve seen speak at National conferences. I’ve watched all of the YouTube videos of his talks that there are, I’ve done a couple of his faith programs that he’s put out with Ascension Press, and I follow his content on Facebook. He’s inspiring, and he knows how to bring the complex doctrines of faith down to a level that’s understandable to all. He resides in Minnesota and works at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Outside of National Conferences, that I don’t get to frequent often, I wouldn’t be able to attend a Mass with him. It’s a gift that I got to do just that this morning. His homily and reflection at the end of Mass were heartfelt. He spoke about suffering but with the vital message of it’s how we suffer that matters, and we should always have trust and hope. Here was one God-given opportunity that I got to be part of, and many others were a part of it as well. This is the universal Church, and I witnessed that from my makeshift living room church.

In most Italian holy sites, you’ll see signs that say “silenzio” so people know to be silent to respect the sacredness of the space. In Tuscany, there’s a Franciscan holy site called La Verna and they have signs that say “Ascolta,” which means to listen. God is calling you here and now, are you willing to listen?

“Stay with me. Remain here with me. Watch and pray.” -Taize song

How are you creating a domestic church or “home church”?

Where is God working in your life and heart currently?

How are working on listening and finding God in this time and space?

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