Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

Nov. 4, 1998





            After death and divorce, moving is the most traumatic event in life.  That's what I think, anyway.


            This past week I helped my mother move out of her house.  For the last 30 years it had been our family home.  For 30 years it was the site of all our major and minor family events.  The reception after my sister's wedding, the place we received callers after my father's funeral.  It was our regular destination for the family feasts; Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and summer holidays. 


            After 30 years in the place, it took on our character and taste.   There was not one square inch that someone in the family had not hammered, painted, papered, sanded, scraped, or plastered.  When you live in a house for that long, your sweat is in the walls and floorboards.


            When the place was nearly empty I took one last nostalgic walk around the seemingly larger rooms.  I found my brother sitting in his now barren bedroom, looking at the walls, lost in his thoughts.   I couldn't speak.  Neither could he.


            But it was time to go.  My mother had raised her family and the season of life that called for big rambling house for her eight children was over.


            Americans move a lot, on average every four years.  This sense of loss and new beginnings is part of our lives.  It makes us a nation of strangers and vagabonds.


My parish has its share of transplants.  Many of them having moved to this rural county, from nearby Washington, DC.  Others have relocated to follow the expanding Navy base to our south.  Over half the residents of my county have lived here less than 15 years.  Many only stay a short while.


            For all of its spiritual trauma and sense of loss, there is also a spiritual value to moving.


            First of all, if we take advantage of the opportunity, it gives us a sense of spiritual detachment.  Once, when I entered the seminary at age 32, I had to move to Rome from Washington.  I held a party the week before.  Every one who came had to take something away.  It was oddly liberating to start life again at age 32 with only a footlocker and a couple of suitcases full of things.


            Secondly, it reminds us that we are only pilgrims in this world.  No matter how permanent and fixed this life might seem, we are all only passing through.  A little mobility reminds us that this world is not our final destination, but a process of becoming.


            A third value to moving is that it teaches us to make friends quickly and adapt to new environments. It makes us culturally flexible.  Especially when we move to a new culture and adopt a new language.  It is the experience of being a child again; full of wonder, discovery and the pain of learning things from scratch.


            Finally, moving teaches us that it is relationships with people that are important.  Not our stuff.  When the moving van comes and hauls it all away, you realize what a humble collection of things it really is anyway.  If all the things were lost on the way to the next house, it would not really matter if the people you love were still in your life.


            I don't wish moving on anybody, but there are some good things to be said for it.  It reminds us that we are the disciples of an itinerant preacher in Galilee who said, "Foxes have their lairs, birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."