By Sister Jeanne Cmolik
This is holy ground; we’re standing on holy ground.
For the Lord is present, and where [God] is, is holy. . .”
–John Michael Talbot
Some years ago, when my father was in a skilled care facility and my sister and I were preparing to move my mother to assisted living, I had the task of helping my mom clean out our family home, where my parents had lived for over sixty years. I worked there one day a week, and it was challenging, not only because of the accumulation of possessions and the decisions we had to make about them, but also because of the flood of memories that came with the handling of the “stuff” of their lives. Most of the time, my mom was cooperative and helped me with the sorting, but occasionally she would get upset and tell me I needed to go home and come back another day.
I remember one special day when we were sorting Mom’s dressy clothes, most of which she had made, and would probably never need again. As I pulled each item out of the closet and showed it to her, she would tell me the story behind it.
“I made this outfit for the Mediterranean cruise Dad and I took. We had to dress for dinner each night.”
“I made this dress for Jason’s (my nephew’s) wedding.”
“I wore this outfit for many special occasions: graduations, First Communions, anniversaries. It showed up in a lot of pictures, but I just really liked it.”
“This is the dress I made for your sister’s second wedding.”
That day it was clear to me that we were not just sorting clothes; we were sorting memories, and I felt like I was turning pages in a living scrapbook. These clothes were signs, objects that conveyed a deeper meaning than what was apparent to the eye. We decided to give away most of the clothes. As I folded them, I realized that what I held in my hands was holy.
When my younger brother died, his body and belongings were shipped to us from San Francisco, where he had been living. I remember going through the visitation at the funeral home, the funeral liturgy, and the lunch that followed, in a daze. As our guests were leaving, the funeral director called my sister and me into his office, where he gave us a box of my brother’s belongings, including the clothes he wore to the hospital where he died. His high-top athletic shoes had the laces loosened, like he just stepped out of them—and I was struck by the deep significance of those shoes—a sign of the life he “stepped out of”, never to return. I don’t remember what we did with the shoes, but I do remember that for me, at that moment, they were holy.
On days when I am really in the present moment, I realize that much of the “stuff” of my life is holy because it points to a deeper reality, so as I use these holy signs, I remember and celebrate.
- The mug I use for coffee each morning was a gift from a friend who is a potter.
- On cold days, I wrap myself in an afghan crocheted by my grandmother.
- I wipe my hands in a kitchen towel made by a friend.
- I eat fruit salad from a blue and green glazed pottery bowl I bought at a craft fair I attended on a beautiful summer day.
- I wear a sweater vest my mom crocheted for me 20+ years ago as a birthday gift.
- I cook with pots and pans given to me by one of our sisters when she was leaving her apartment and moving to assisted living.
- I have a quilt my grandmother made using scraps of fabric my mom used to make me dresses and blouses when I was a young girl.
- I make cheesecake from a recipe written in my grandmother’s hand, and remember that she made it for many special occasions.
- I have a small pottery vase I bought when I was at Yellowstone National Park. My friend who was with me at the time, asked me what I was going to do with it. “I’ll hold it and remember,” I said.
- I wear a “Minnie Mouse” apron that ties me to a dear friend who died much too young. When I wear it, she’s with me.
You get the idea. When I’m paying attention, I know that my apartment is holy ground, and much of what I touch is holy. Try it for yourself. Walk around your house and consider your belongings and the deeper meanings that are right below the surface. All around you are signs of people you love, events you recall, and powerful memories. As often as you can, celebrate and remember. This is your holy ground.
About the Author
Sister Jeanne Cmolik, CSJ, has served in various leadership positions including being a member of the Congregation Leadership Team from 2007-2013. She has also ministered in elementary schools, high schools, and parishes in the Cleveland area, and worked with new members in the Congregation. She enjoys reading, travel, music and writing blog posts! Currently she offers spiritual direction and works with RCIA in a local parish.
31 thoughts on “Holy Ground: Home as Sacrament”
Thx for the thoughts! Timely with the loss of one of the Sisters this week.
Thank you Margaret.
What a wonderful article to to be remembering in my life, too.
I relate to all that is written here. I enjoy my “holy ground” and have wonderful memories all around me every day.
I wish my children and their families would understand. To them my “holy ground” is meaningless . I understand THAT would be normal feelings for them. I don’t understand why they think and tell me I don’t NEED them. Maybe I don’t need, but want to keep and enjoy those memories while I’m still here on Earth. They bring me joy and comfort as I use and see them and remember.
Thank you for your thoughts on this, Diane. Praying for you as you navigate your family and their understanding.
So touching Jeanne. I could walk along with you & name some precious things that hold such sacred memories of joy& tears. Thank u 😘
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Thank you Betsy!
Never thought of my apartment as “holy ground,” Sister Jeanne, but now I do. The mugs in the cupboard, the mementos in the curio cabinet and elsewhere, even the fridge magnets all have a beloved person (living and deceased) or place behind them. Thanks for this beautiful reflection.
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Thank you for reading, Carole! I’m glad it brought you a new way to look at things!
That was lovely, Jeanne…..thank you for sharing your memories….your descriptions are very vivid….easy to picture the scenes……Bernie
Thank you Bernie!
Hi Jeanne, Thanks for your touching reflection on “Holy ground” in the past and present. Memories are precious
treasures.Hope you are keeping well.
Sending ♥️abd🙏 Christine
Thank you so much, Christine! Love and health to you as well.
Love this, Jeanne!
Going to take a walk around the house and visit with some memories and dear friends.
Thanks for the invitation.
Thank you Jeanne,
I have one tea cup my mom drank coffee out of each day. She wasn’t a tea drinker. It often had coffee rings on the inside. I use it everyday as a reminder of my mom since 1981. I say to it: “Ma don’t you ever break!” :))) With our recent deaths in the family I have several memories that come in my thoughts and photos that somehow appear and then the tears come as well.I could go on.
It was a pleasure to read your reflection. You have a way of putting words together in a very vivid and meaningful way Stay healthy and safe.
Blessings to you, one of your many sisters, joyce
Thank you so much, Joyce, for sharing that lovely musing on your mother’s tea cup, and for your kind words. Blessings to you as well!
Jeanne, and Diane who replied: You have given words to the feelings in my heart. I too have a mother, and an aunt, with many precious things I will be forced to help them deal with when they can no longer stay in their homes. Many of these objects belonged, at an earlier time, to their mother, my grandmother. The women in my family don’t give up their things! That includes me. So now I’ll rifle through my china hutch and curio cabinet and closets. I’ll permit myself the joy of remembering the good times and wonderful people those souvenirs represent.
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Susan, thank you for reading. I’m glad this piece gave words to your feelings!
Jeanne, what a perfectly delightful piece. It made we weep to recall so many things that can bring back such fond memories and such fine people who have been a part of my life. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Cathy.
I so appreciate being reminded that all ground, all things are holy–the special things and the ordinary. It’s the ordinary places and things that I too often forget to recognize as holy. Thank you!
Thank you for reading, Maria!
Thank you for this beautiful reflection.You have brought new meaning to “my stuff”.
Thank you Ginny!
Thank you for giving me a very different perspective of the ‘stuff’ that we have in our home. It is completely decorated and furnished with memories. I read your blog to my husband, who has an especially difficult time getting rid of anything (including me during our 58 years together😜). We truly live in a home that is holy ground. Your descriptions and photos of your process with your Mom will stay with me for a very long time. Sharing those moments together is a gift, not a job to be done. 💓❤️
Thank you for reading, Josetta! I’m so glad it could give you a different perspective!
Adding my thoughts and thanks for your reflection..,our dining room china cabinet-my parents Infant of Prague Statue dressed liturgical they received Him as a wedding gift 75 years ago -they’re with Him now but I have the memory; my mom’s wedding china, my godmother’s Madonna, The list can go on with memories of friends brought back by coffee mugs and angels w broken wings from friends with whom I’ve shared joys and times of brokenness all in that thin line between us and our God.
Thank you for sharing your memories with us, Helen!
Thanks for reminding us of ALL that is holy!
Thank you for reading Mary Ann!