This summer I have spent time contemplating God’s call to Abraham:
"Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you." (Genesis 12:1)
Instead of lazy days by the poolside or weekends camping, our family has spent these summer weeks packing. Like Abraham, my husband and I discerned a call from God to move our family, leave this place we’ve called home for twelve years (the area where I grew up), and venture to an unknown place.
Moving a whole family is no small task. The stakes are high: a new school, new community, and new neighborhood. Like Abraham, I feel that we are walking by faith in this matter. My husband and I have spent the past two years discerning whether we should move and, now that the time has come, it feels almost unreal that we are actually doing it. We aren’t adventurous people by nature, but faith has emboldened us to take the leap and begin again anew.
I’m comforted by the example of Abraham, who had to abandon the familiar and comfortable, setting out to a foreign place with his massive household. I also reflect on the Holy Family who had to move as well–under duress, no less.
Still, the transition challenges us, both emotionally and pragmatically. As the piles of boxes around our house grow, I wonder to myself how we ever accumulated so much stuff, much of which we rarely use or even realized that we own! It creates a longing inside of me to live with less. Why not pass these items onto someone who could actually use and enjoy them? Combing through our belongings has challenged our family to grow in a spirit of detachment. “Do we really need this? We can’t take it all with us.” We can’t take it all on our move; we can’t take it onward to heaven either.
We’ve decided to sell many items instead of paying to move them. Our house grows emptier by the day: the patch of faded grass where the swing set once stood, the open space in our kitchen where we once had our table. We feel a sadness to part with the swings our children happily swung on and the table that was the site of many family dinners. Yet, there is freedom in it as well. I think of St. Francis of Assisi, clad in his simple robe and sandals, venturing forth with nothing, but filled with the abundant grace of God and the power of the Gospel.
I walk around this building we have called home for the past few years. It has served us well: sheltered us and fostered our family’s growth. Two baby boys have come home here. I can become sentimental and then I must remind myself: home is wherever we are together. We made this building into our home; we can make a new home too. Our domestic church isn’t crumbling, but in making this move—a move that we hope will benefit our family in many ways, especially spiritually—our domestic church will strengthen.
Plus, we always have a home, wherever we may journey. That is the beauty of the catholicity of the Catholic Church. The Church is our family. Where there is a tabernacle, there is our true home. Where there is a priest, we have a spiritual father. Even if we travel or move hundreds of miles, the parish we enter will celebrate the same sacrifice of the Mass as every parish in every country throughout the world. What comfort and familiarity that gives to each one of us! We have brothers and sisters wherever we go.
As we make our rounds visiting friends we have known for many years, our hearts feel sad saying goodbye. We know many other families who are relocating at this time, some of whom belong to our current parish. As we assisted at Mass this Sunday, I gazed at the empty pews where those families once sat, now moved to other locations.
I prayed for them and I prayed about our own upcoming move. I reflected on all the various goodbyes I’ve made throughout my life: goodbye to my brother who died, goodbye to my fiancé who at that time lived states away, goodbye to teachers at the end of a school year. After Holy Communion, I continued my prayer and felt God reminding me that there are no “goodbyes” in heaven. In heaven, the saints are always together, with no parting, forever united in the perfect love of God.
But even while here on earth, we have a taste of that togetherness, precisely at Mass, where the Communion of Saints are united in the perfect sacrifice of Christ. I felt it at that moment: the friends who have moved already … they were still there, in a different way, but there with us in spirit and prayer. My brother who died three years ago? Yes, he was there too, celebrating at the Wedding Feast in heaven. And when we move to a new place … we will still be here in prayer.
Maybe you aren’t moving this summer, but perhaps you face your own “goodbyes”: a college student leaving home for the first time, a family member on hospice care, children leaving a summer camp where they’ve formed close friendships, an employee leaving a job he or she has worked at for many years. Whatever the circumstance, the unifying thread of God’s unending presence and perfect love that transcends all time and space removes the permanence of any “goodbye.”
And if you are moving, God will show your family a new land–just as He did with Abraham. We will go forth, in trust and faith, knowing that God will provide in His goodness and we will find family wherever we journey. To those we leave behind … “See you later” if not in this world, then in the next.