Home, where my thought's escaping,

Home, where my music's playing,

Home, where my love lies waiting silently for me.

Paul Simon's "Homeward Bound" has been playing on a continuous loop in my head since I started reading Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si'. As I am Paul Simon's most devoted fan, the one-song mental playlist works out just fine!

Readers (Catholic and otherwise) are responding prolifically to Pope Francis' encyclical about "caring for our common home." Henry Longbottom, SJ, wrote a pithy overview of the new encyclical here at the Jesuit Post. Simcha Fisher penned a lively article here discussing how big families habitually live the simpler lives Pope Francis invites us to live. (If you like, please link your favorite new articles in the comments below.)

As I spend time with the English-language version of the encyclical, I have particularly noticed one word Pope Francis uses twenty-eight times: home. (Thus, Paul Simon.) Home is a splendid Anglo-Saxon word, short, simple, and rich with meaning. Home appears over and over again in the New Testament, from the time of Jesus' conception, when the angel assures Joseph he should make a home for the Holy Family (Matthew 1:20), to the moment of Jesus' death, when John resolves to take Mary into his home (John 19:27).

In his second letter to the Corinthians (5:6-9), St. Paul reflects on the mystery of our two homes:

So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away.

In his bounty, God provides two homes for us: one here on earth, and one glorious, everlasting home in paradise. We are not angels, of course. We have bodies, and we must live in the physical world. It is this physical world, our common home, that Pope Francis asks us to consider:

On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views. But we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair. Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems. [61]

Interestingly, when I searched for images of "home" to include here, nearly 100% of the photos looked like this:

©IPGGutenbergUKLtd/Getty Images

©IPGGutenbergUKLtd/Getty Images

And this:

©robinimages/Getty Images

©robinimages/Getty Images


These are magnificent dwellings, to be sure. I'm not sure our good old Anglo-Saxon house quite describes their splendor; these dreamy halls require the fancy French cognate mansion. But Pope Francis insists on sobering us, calling attention to our common home.

Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption. We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that “less is more.” A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. [222]

Exquisite consumer goods don't necessarily lead us away from Christian discipleship, but they can. Given my search results for images of "home," it's safe to say the American Dream has a lot to do with consumption.

And so I have begun to pray with Pope Francis. Reading and re-reading his words, I reflect on my own behavior and ask how my family's home in Milwaukee relates to both our common home on earth and our final home in paradise. Once again, I return to the scripture verse that inspired my vocation to marriage and family:

Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
— John 14:23

Jesus' words refresh, renew, and remind me: home is a person. Jesus is my home. The way I make my family's home matters, because I am a member of the Body of Christ. May the Lord show us all the way home.