Msgr. Fernando G. Gutierrez
A home is just a house if there is no love. This is what the former parochial vicar of my hometown parish church said.
A house is a building that’s built for the purpose of a dwelling place notwithstanding whether there are people living in it or not. A house is a physical thing that is a structure, built with wood and bricks, furnished with furniture and carpets, plumbing, electricity, etc. Houses are numbered by municipalities who are interested in collecting property taxes and designated by geographical location, such as Purok, Sitio and Barangay. A motel or hotel is not a home, though it has rooms, beds and bathrooms.
A home is an abode that provides peace, comfort, happiness, security, and confidence. It is known for the people living in it, such as “Ka Juan Matanda, Sonya mali-mali,” etc. A home is where an individual or a group of people has an emotional, psychological and spiritual attachment to it. It is a place where family members feel most comfortable and feel that they belong. There are phrases that describe the emotions attached to a home, “Make yourself feel at home, I want to go home, home sweet home. One can buy a house but not a home”. To show one’s hospitality and welcoming a friend, a Mexican would say, “Mi casa es tu casa” (my home is your home or you’re welcome to make my home as your home).
My early spiritual, gut-wrenching childhood memories, betided at my ancestral home. It is still vivid in my memories how at 8pm the whole family kneeling at bamboo flooring prayed the rosary and prayers for the dead. After the prayers we got to the sack. It was at home where my maternal aunt taught me how to read. I experienced joys and laughter at my siblings’ shenanigans and during birthdays and other happy milestones. It was at home where I shed tears with the demise of my mother, father, maternal aunt and uncle.
“What is home? My favorite definition is “a safe place” a place where one is free from attacks, a place where one experiences secure relationships and affirmation. It’s a place where people share and understand each other. Its relationships are nurturing. The people in it do not need to be perfect; instead, they need to be honest, loving, supportive, recognizing a common humanity that makes all of us vulnerable.” (Gladys Hunt. Honey for a Child’s Heart. The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life.)
When someone deeply listens to you.
It is like holding out a dented cup you have had since childhood.
And watching it fill up with cold fresh water.
When it balances on the top of the rim
You are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin
You are loved.
When someone deeply listens to you
The room where you stay starts a new life
And the place where you wrote your first poem
Begins to blow in your mind’s eye.
It’s as if gold has been discovered.
When someone deeply listens to you
Your bare feet are on the earth
And the beloved land that seemed distant
Is now at home within you. (“Deep Listening.” John Fox)
Changes in work and living conditions
In the midst of the continuing threat of COVID-19, there are changes in the way we live and work. Family members, especially those below 20 years and senior citizens beyond 60 years old are required to stay at home. Stay-at-home condition has its blessings and dissenting impacts.
To avoid contamination of COVID-19 virus, business establishments required their employees to work from or at home.
1. Home schooling. According Bishop Roberto Mallari, Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) many concerned parents are financially as well as technologically unprepared for online learning. Computers, phones or WIFIs are beyond the family budgets. Teachers and students, though motivated to learn the new challenges, do not have the devices needed.
There are places in the Philippines where phone signals either are too weak or non-existing. It’s much easier for students belonging to affluent families or living in the metropolis to avail themselves of the requirements of online education.
What about poor families, especially where one of the parents is the bread winner who has been laid off from work?
2. Continuing threat. Rubbing salt in a wound, there are reports of SARS-CoV-2, the causative virus of the severe respiratory ailment of COVID-19. The IATF wants the LGUs to assume an immediate measure to control the spread of this new infectious disease, if ever it hits the country. The most vulnerable ones, such as children, senior citizens and PWDs are required to stay at home.
The DOH believes that easing the quarantine protocols on commercial and public life causes the spike of Covid-19 in Metro Manila. I have seen a few residents of my barangay, especially the youth, ignoring the wearing of facemask and social distancing requirements. I’m not sure if the barangay “tanod” and the police look the other way regarding these violations.
Challenges of working at home
Someone joked about a guy who asked his wife, “Do I work at home or do I live at work?”
Katie Kelly Belly listed five challenges to working from home and how to fix them. (Post, Sean; Schumm, Jeanne Shay (1997). Executive Learning: Successful Strategies for College Reading and Studying. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.)
I’m outlining those five challenges and expanding them according to my understanding.
1. Loneliness is the condition of perceived angst when one experiences the need for social relationship and actual absence of it. Working alone at home, confounded by workload and pressed by urgency to finish it on time has impacted one’s mental and physical wellness.
2. Work distractions. It is the occasion that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else. One’s work at home could be time consuming that it results into forgetting to eat on time (breakfast, lunch, dinner), take the medicine with meals or tuck to bed the children.
3. Domestic distractions. There are different kinds of distractions. External distractions include factors such as TVs, phone calls, social interactions, music, and text messages. There are also internal distractions, such as hunger, fatigue, illness, worrying, and daydreaming. Both external and internal distractions contribute to the interference of focus and hamper the quality and quantity of work from home.
In-between works, one feels the urge to go to the restroom. He/she notices that it needs cleaning. During breaks, one goes to take snacks and sees the dishes on the sinks. Tiredness can contribute to falling asleep during work at home.
4. Keeping your edge. I’m calling this as losing one’s edge.” It means losing the skills, conviction, or energy that helped make one a success before.
Work at home is comfy, carefree and relaxing. One does not dress up with coat and ties or skirts and high-heeled shoes. Instead, one could wear pj’s – night clothes, nightwear, sleepwear or shorts and slippers.
5. You are your own office manager. You are not answerable to anyone else for the decisions, which you are making, be they right or wrong. You have set your own rules and no one else has the authority to pull you up or down. You’re in-charge. Nobody watches you, unless there’s a CCTV installed.
6. Work-at home is very exciting away from the office where there are annoying, demanding and demeaning co-employees. Of course, you long for those you are close. Work-at-home is freer, yet it comes with responsibilities planning, foresight, self-discipline and focus on the tasks.
7. Don’t be a workaholic. Your office–home–is there 24/7. There is a tendency to work more hours, even on nights and weekends. Not fewer, logging in work time on nights and weekends, just because it’s there and they can’t ignore it. (Cf. Jennifer Cook, Investopedia Apr 8, 2020)
Benefits of staying at home and work-at-home life
One time, Satan mockingly said to God, “See that? With the evil of COVID-19, your Catholic families don’t go to church, “bisitas” to attend Mass; they could not attend communal devotions in parishes and they are prevented from going to monasteries to contemplate and meditate. No more fiestas. A few families attend baptisms, marriages and funerals. Even public schools’ pupils are taking courses online. No more catechisms and confessions. All is due to my shrewdness. Now, the families are in my power and control.” God responded, “Not so fast, evil one. The families don’t go to church, but their home is their church now.”
Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am present with them” (Matthew 18:20) Jesus is present in the community of believers, if its members are united in words and deeds with the spirit of the Church and through the Scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
A little boy was asked by his mother to get the mop in the closet. The boy said, “I’m afraid to go in there because it’s dark.” His mother assured him not to be scared because “Jesus is there, watching over you.” The boy responded, “I know Jesus is there, but I want somebody with a SKIN.”
Catholics believe and profess that God the Son is incarnate, God assumed a human flesh (John 1:14). As God came to the world in a fully human body, Christians relate to God and to one another through our bodies.
Church Fathers, especially of Vatican Council 11, describe the family as “the domestic Church.” In Familiaris Consortio, #49, St. John Paul II spoke of the family “as a ‘Church in miniature’ (ecclesia domestica) in such a way that in its own way is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church.”
Though the members cannot attend Mass and sacramentally receive the Holy Eucharist, yet through the Words of the Scriptures and the Eucharist, Jesus is present.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
102: “Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely. 64
103: For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body.66
104: In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, “but as what it really is, the word of God”.67 “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.” 68 (64. cf. Heb 1:1-3. 66: cf. DV 21. 67: 1 Thes 2:13; 68 cf. DV 24.)
What is at stake at home?
“Parents with families suddenly confined to home may find themselves wondering: ‘what will we do all day? For weeks?’” said Sr. Aleydis Johnson of the Valley of Our Lady Cistercian Monastery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.
Maybe this conflict will tell us something about our self, and about our family, that we don’t want to know.
Monastic life, with its emphasis on separation from the world, silence, stillness, and simplicity repeatedly brings us face to face with our own sins, defects, and wounds and those of the others with whom we live all day, every day. … I think members of families, particularly parents, might experience a temptation to forestall the rumblings or eruptions of conflict through a tempest of activity and we encourage them to resist. Conflict, internal and external, is a message-bearer that you ignore or silence at great expense to yourself and your family. One of conflict’s messages is: ‘You do not know how to love. Love is hard and you are weak. You are poor in what matters most.’
So, instead of focusing your efforts on keeping it at bay through an array of neutralizing activity, or retreat, we’d suggest lavishing your attention and availability on one another, simply being together, in one another’s company, without lists of things to do, getting to know one another as persons who can be filled with the fullness of God in order to empty it out onto one another.” (Cf. John Burger wondering about how to handle life at home? Contemplative monks and nuns have some advice | March 23, 2020)
Be present to yourself
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things, which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke
through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
(Confessions Lib. 10, 26, 37, 29, 40)
St. Augustine had been restless. He was seeking for God, whom he knew is inside him. But he was preoccupied with external things ad extra (outside) that most likely prevented him from finding God within him. One decisive moment in his life happened – when he started being present to himself. It was then that he found God deep within himself. It was then that he found God deep within himself.
My search for God
Before I suffered a fall in 2009 that led to my early retirement, my hours were devoted to things ad extra (outside) of me. My daily tasks included going to work at 6:30 am till 4 pm. I celebrated two or three Masses on weekends. On certain occasions, I was invited to deliver talks at Cursillo retreats and conferences. I was outside of myself.
When I retired in 2010, I came to be aware of myself, my failures and strengths, my relatives and friends whom I have taken for granted. Most of all, I found God, whom I took for granted.
Ad intra vs. ad extra
The ad extra has implications for evangelization. Following Christ’s mandate of going into the whole word and baptize all in the name of the Trinity, the movement is naturally ad extra. However, those who already inside the Church are taken for granted as practicing the faith. But that is not the true scenario. There are lapsed Catholics, fallen-away-Catholics, twice-a-year Catholics or jokingly labeled as Chreaster (Christmas and Easter.) or Catholics who attend Mass at weddings, baptisms or funerals. Someone said that there are two times in one’s life that Catholics are carried by others – at their baptism and at their funeral.
The church’s action is to watch the front door (with allusion to baptism), while no one watches the back door.
Evangelization is directed toward the non-believers, while lukewarm Catholics are paid little attention to (ad intra inside/within). It is more very challenging to evangelize non-practicing Catholics, because they had been baptized normally as infants, catechized and confirmed. During adolescence, they either left the church or stopped practicing it.
Three minsters shared their frustrations regarding the bats that live in the church and leave their droppings or guano on the pews. A protestant pastor said that he used different pesticides, but they are not effective. A priest shared his experience. He said that he used various kinds of noise to drive away the pests, but his technique was not successful at all. A religious minister said that he baptized the pests and after that they were gone.
The Christ in me
Fr. Henri Nouwen was approached by one of his students at Yale University. The young fellow was wondering why is it that every time he is in front of the priest, he always reminded him of Christ. The priest unpretentiously said, “Son, the Christ in you recognizes the Christ in me.”
Wherever we are, working at home or staying at home, at the office, playground or gymnasium, Christ remains with us. Christ in us blesses and sanctifies the place (s) where we are and those we encounter, our family members and people we meet outside our home. These persons become sanctified and sanctifying others through the Christ who is within us. That is evangelization ad intra (our family) and ad extra (our friends)