Lots of different images come to my mind when I think of the word ‘home’.
First, the house where I live with my parents in the Northern Suburbs of Brisbane. The sloped driveway, incessant plover birds, our dog Chief barking at 5 in the morning and the smell of freshly cut grass in the summer. I then think of our old house in Western Australia. That still feels like home in an odd way – I can still close my eyes and mentally walk the streets of the entire suburb of Waikiki, where I grew up five minutes from the beach.
I also think of my fiancé, Katelyn, and our nearly realized dreams of having our own physical space all to ourselves, together at last! That would surely feel like home, a new and exciting home as husband and wife.
Finally, I think of my Church. I think of my local parish on a Sunday morning, alive with the familiar face of community. Coffee cups tinkling, Fathers old jokes that only half make sense. The smell of snags on the BBQ, a simple affair raising some money for the youth group, or an upcoming mission trip or the local Vinnies conference.
I think of my office in that same Parish, where I work. The ladies from the front desk always offering me a cup of tea or coffee even though I’ve never said yes. Children tapping on the window asking for lollies with big eyes.
For me the notion of home calls up all these images and places. What feels like home to you? Maybe it’s a certain place, a familiar smell. Just a ‘feeling’ you get.
If you had told me just a few years ago that I would find a home in the Catholic Church, I may have laughed at you! Me, finding a home in organised religion?
You will know they are Christian by their love
How did this happen? Great question! The easiest and most honest answer to this question is: people.
In my younger rebellious days (I’m still rebellious I promise) the people around me heavily influenced the choices I made. In some cases, this led me down some dark paths, and the wounds of those choices are still healing today. My biggest fear was that I would not have a home. That I would not have people, a place, or something identifiable, to truly belong to.
When I moved across the country from Perth to Brisbane, that need intensified. This new place was definitely not home. The same pattern emerged – the people around me heavily influenced the choices I made because I wanted to feel at home, no matter the choices I made, unhealthy or not.
The deep desire underneath the unhealthy choices I made was not bad – all of us want a place to belong, a place to feel like home. Even if you are the type of person who can’t live in one place for more than five minutes, there surely is a place where your heart and soul comes to rest, like a piano resolving the chord. My heart was stuck on a discord, trying desperately to resolve, to find peace and rest.
My girlfriend, whom was quite open and strong in her Christian faith, invited me along to a few events.
It was there I encountered people of faith. People, who were confident in themselves but accepted me where I was in life. People who never shied away from drawing out the best in me, through their example, their encouragement, and their honesty.
The Church is, after all, made up of people. As I became more involved in the young community of awesome faith leaders mixed in with people my own age, experiencing life in similar ways to me, I slowly began to feel that odd, familiar feeling that happens when you just know that this is where your heart belongs.
I started to feel like I had a home in the Catholic Church.
Home is where God’s heart is
Ultimately, it was through the people I encountered, the very Church itself, that I developed a personal relationship with God. This is Gods heart – to be in relationship with us. And if the Church is the people, then Gods home is with His Church – in the hearts of His people.
In the home I have found in the Church, I am fed and nourished by the Eucharist. Jesus is waiting for me all the time in that special room of Gods house. In this home my faults and failings don’t define me, and they aren’t swept under the rug either. At any time I can go to a priest and directly, humanly experience divine mercy and forgiveness. In this home I am surrounded by a community of friends and family who support, encourage and challenge me, who ultimately want the best for me, and who are on their own faith journey alongside me. We grow in this home together, in Gods heart as a family.
Often-times I get angry at this new home of mine, at how it is run in certain areas. Or I might fight or argue with Brothers and Sisters living under the same roof. Or (and this is both a metaphor and a habit) I might leave the house entirely and come back quietly at some early hour of the morning. Whatever the case may be, I know that my heart still rests with God, and that my home will always be with His people, the Church.
My encouragement for anybody new to the faith, unsure about the Church, or even considering what have a relationship with God looks like – get to know the people. Millions of people living and billions of people past have found a home in the Church. God finds His home in our hearts. Find your home in His heart – He resides in the hearts of His people, who are the Church. Knock anytime!
Matt Ross is the Youth coordinator at All Saints Parish Albany Creek. He also works as a presenter for Real Talk Australia, and is currently studying a bachelor of secondary education at Australian Catholic University. Matt is looking forward to getting married to his Fiance’ Katelyn in December this year.
The views expressed in the Catholic Collective blog do not necessarily represent the views of the Youth Evangelisation Office or the Archdiocese of Brisbane