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Home Away from Home

I was on staff at a retreat house and, as leader of song, I had a full view of the congregation for every gathering. One Sunday afternoon at the closing retreat Mass, I noticed a young woman I had not seen all weekend. Granted, there were about 175 women gathered, but most had gray or graying hair.
Curious about who she was and how I had missed connecting with her, I made it a point to meet her after Mass during our good-byes. I asked her how her time on retreat was. With tears welling up in her eyes, she apologized for “just showing up.“ It turned out she was a new student at a college located next to the retreat house—and it was only three weeks into classes. She was away from home longer than she had ever been before, and she was homesick.
Julie and I chatted over tea ,and as she told me about her family, she added, “I knew my parents and brother would be in church today back at home, and I knew if I went to church here I would, in a very real way, be ‘at home’ with them.” For Julie, God and parents and family were all accessible in a place called “church,” and this day she needed them all.
Julie and I shared many a cup of tea over her four years in college. Sometimes we visited after Mass on Sundays, and sometimes she would “just show up” at her ”home away from home” and come in through the back door to my office. This was indeed her way to visit—her family and God and now me. We shared the love and protection of God, rooted in family and as strangers become friends.
Julie has been a wonderful gift in my life, and I bless and thank her parents and our God for graciously granting me this opportunity of relationship.
As parents, we cannot keep our children from hurts and sadness, loneliness and any other painful moment they experience. We cannot be present to them always and everywhere. What we can do is love them and introduce them to the greatest love of all. We can introduce them to the One who can and will always be there for them in a loving and faithful way.
May the blessing of faith you enjoy and share find life in surprising ways not only in your life but in the lives of your children and those with whom you have shared the love of God.
Anne Scanlan is a member of the RENEW staff, serves on the Why Catholic? team, and is an exceptional liturgist.

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