The real life of a home

The following gem is from Mercatornet. You should really read the whole thing.

Deep in the human heart is the desire to be together with people that we love. Human happiness is always a shared happiness: shared especially with a small number of people. For most of us a fulfilled life will only be found in walking its hills and valleys in communion with family, and a few friends.

We don’t need the latest study to show us that we are losing the ability to live in communion, even with those closest to us. And not only does this problem start in our homes, it grows there. Home—the very word should resonate with feelings of warmth, belonging, togetherness. It should be the most reliable place of real personal intimacy, the surest antidote to the great bane of human existence: loneliness. But more and more, it is not.

Family home done right

Perhaps the central reason that we are not really living-together in our homes is that we are hardly living there at all. For starters, most of us spend very few hours of the day within, or near, our homes. But even more to the point, how do we spend those hours that we are at home?

If Aristotle is correct that the truest human intimacy takes place in good conversation, then here we have a prism through which to consider our customs of home life, beginning with meal times. Though cows usually feed in the vicinity of other cows, they are not particular about eating together. Household meals, on the other hand, can be configured to be regular occasions for communion between family members. But given the various pressures on home life today, such a configuration will need to be a conscious object of intention. Otherwise our meal practices might tend toward the bovine.

Outside of meal times there are two other main household contexts that can be suited to rational and personal communion: work and leisure. But both of these have been largely removed to venues outside the home, while what is left behind has taken forms less conducive to communion.

Households were once the primary locus of human work. Much of what was needed for human life was produced, as well as consumed, therein. Even after the industrial revolution removed much production from the home, traditional “home arts” retained a significant place in household life for a number of generations. Yet the last couple of generations have seen a notable drop of even these activities. The art of cooking seems more associated with dining out, or edgy parties with peers, than with keeping a family well fed, around a table spread and seasoned with love. The arts of growing and preserving foods, while certainly not dead, are far from commonplace. The same can be said of home carpentry, sewing, knitting and the like.

Apart from other negative consequences of the demise of these arts, our home life suffers the loss of a natural context of human presence, of being-together in a meaningful way. Indeed, not only does such work provide the satisfaction of communal achievement and shared competency, it also often allows for regular, sustained conversation. Who would not start to speak with a fellow potato-peeler, or sander of wood? The repetitive yet varied and fruitful work of such arts is one of the great hidden treasures of a way of life that for many of us can only be had by re-discovering what has been lost.

If one were to judge by the sales of flat-screen TVs and the like, it might seem that the life of leisure is alive and well in the home. But Aristotle distinguishes leisure and amusement. In a rather remarkable line, he reflects: “It would, indeed, be strange if the end (goal) were amusement, and one were to take trouble and suffer hardship all one’s life in order to amuse oneself.” Amusement—of which what we call entertainment is surely a kind—has a place in the home. It serves work by providing a break, a necessary relaxation. But such is no replacement for leisure, which is a time of richer activities.

Leisure time in Aristotle’s sense, while indeed relaxing, is much more than relaxation. Its activities are rich in meaning, and consequently have an unmatched power to unite the people that engage in them. A group reflection upon blessings received; the reading or performance of a drama; stories of family history or great heroes; music appreciation; common prayer. Here a family community is especially alive, present to one another in a unique way.

Salt gives seasoning to food. But good conversation, especially that occasioned by the rich and regular activities of the home, does more than give seasoning to life. It is the beating heart of a real communion of persons, of a happy life-together with those we love.

+AMDG

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The Virtues and the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit

I’m planning to write a bit about the connection between the virtues and the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, as it’s not something I’ve thought about in great depth before. For today, the important points from the Catechism, well worth the read:

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”62

A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.63

THE HUMAN VIRTUES

Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.

The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.

The virtues and grace

Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God’s help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them.

It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ’s gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil.

THE GIFTS AND FRUITS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.109 They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.110For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.111
The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.”112

I’ll leave you with this thought, which has been the source of much reflection for me of late:

“The virtuous life and the happy life are synonymous.” ~ Fr Emmerich Vogt

Sts Simon and Jude, pray for us!

+AMDG