Do you remember when most of the country was under stay-at-home orders and suddenly everyone and their neighbor was making homemade bread? Apparently, homemade cinnamon rolls are the hot new thing for the British during their latest lockdown. In recent years, certain domestic practices have become more popular, with gardening, canning, and sewing seeing a resurgence. But these activities are typically seen as hobbies, not part of what we do to make a house a home. Once lockdown is over, we ditch the sourdough and head back to our frenetic lives.
As Catholics, we consider the family to be the “Domestic Church” and the home to be a fertile ground for discipleship, sanctification, and holiness. But in our modern culture, people often feel happier at work than they do at home, and closer to their co-workers and friends than their own family. Author Wendell Berry once wrote, “Our kitchens and other eating places more and more resemble filling stations, as our homes more and more resemble motels.”
Why is it that we consider it a hobby to make a house a home rather than a vocation? Why do we love the idea of cultivating our Domestic Church, but don’t let it become a priority in our lives? Carrie Gress and Noelle Maring, authors of the new book The Theology of Home II: The Spiritual Art of Homemaking say that it’s because our culture no longer respects the idea of being a homemaker.
Gress explained that in the first Theology of Home book they explored why our homes are a foreshadowing of our true home in heaven, but she and Mering realized there was a piece that was missing.
“Homes don’t make themselves,” Gress said. “There actually needs to be a homemaker. This is really one of the blind spots in our culture today. We love the home, we love decorating our homes, we love cooking and sewing and all these new trends that come back to the home. But we loathe the word homemaker.”
“And we just thought this is really a problem here because somebody has to make the home. So many of us are doing that in small or large ways, and yet nobody wants to be called a homemaker. So I thought, can we rehabilitate this word? Because it just doesn’t make sense that we have so stigmatized it and made it to be so little, when in fact there is something really great and amazing and wonderful about serving those people around us by making a home for them where they feel known, loved, and treasured.”
Pope Francis often encourages parents to “waste time with their children” to build up their Domestic Church. But in a society that values productivity above all else, wasting time is seen as downright immoral. Our culture doesn’t value these small acts that deepen relationships, make others feel comfortable, and let our loved ones know they are wanted and loved. But it is these little acts of love that slowly strengthen our families and build a culture in which relationships are valued more than the productivity rat race.
“I think we have to look at homemaking as something that happens invisibly,” said Gress. “It’s a lot of behind the scenes things. In one book we compare it to snow. You know, it starts and there’s no drama usually if it’s not a big storm. It’s just very quiet. And it’s only with the accumulation that you start to realize that it’s really starting to build up to something bigger.”
Homemaking isn’t about the crafts, the cinnamon rolls, or the perfect throw pillows. It’s about the love, service, and connection that is behind the time you share in your home. These small acts may not gain you respect or accolades, but they will bring your family closer as you walk together on the path toward heaven.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Gress cautioned. “You’re not going to get quick rewards on it all the time. Of course, they appear in the great smiles and the great relationships that you’re building up, but there’s a lot of really hard points to that. It’s keeping the eye on the goal.”
Listen to the full episode with Carrie Gress: Are You Happier at Work Than You Are at Home?