A House is Not a Home: Domestic Church and the Art of Homemaking

A House is Not a Home: Domestic Church and the Art of Homemaking July 4, 2014

This is part of the Patheos Catholic summer symposium, anticipating the Church’s “Synod for the Family” in October.


I write surrounded. By boxes. We are moving into our new place in Vancouver, British Columbia. This is the 14th move of my 31 years of life, excluding small and transitional moves.

I have now been a resident in three countries: the USA, Mexico, and Canada.

There is a process of thinking and way of being, an attitude and approach about the place where one lives, that becomes very intentional and clear when there is instability and flux. The experience of displacement can often create an even stronger sense of place. Home in absentia.

I don’t know where my body ought to be buried when I die: This is a nostalgic reduction, nostalgia for nostalgia.

But, as Luther Vandross croons, “A house is not a home.”


“Blessed are the poor.”  The poor understand, often in a tragic but nonetheless beautiful way, what makes a home. If you are not poor and want to feel “at home,” let the poor host you, become their guest. Experience true hospitality.

A “homeless person” is a poor description. Houselessness is one thing, homelessness is another.

There are people who live in mansions who are homeless. There are those with no roof over their head, who are houseless, who have a rich and lasting home.

Jesus Christ, a wandering man who spent the night in the garden of Gethsemane, was not homeless — only houseless.

In another sense, we are all homeless. This is not our home. But there is room for both, and hope keeps the balance.


A home begins with people, not things. If you want to have a beautiful home, always begin with the person and the community of persons, try as best you can to keep the material and consumerist commodities at bay.

There can be a home without a house, just as there can be a Church without a church; the luxury of a material house is important, but begins with gratitude.

After gratitude, and grace, comes teaching: Catechesis through space and place, a domestic church.

Decorate your house, if you have one, with symbols and religious art, sure. But don’t forget about love, show that love in how the space is used and organized.

This is mystagogy: To sanctify one’s home to reflect and show fidelity to its most essential ecclesial function so as to teach.

Nothing fancy, but don’t make it up, let the liturgy guide you. Colors, mood, food, and time.


To “sanctify” is nothing more or less than to make holy. A sanctified dwelling is a home. Make your home today in imitation of the Church, first in your heart and the lives of those you love and hate (whom you must love), and take it into your house.

Our home is always already in love, and this love is what binds together, and transforms anew, the family.


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