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Families Without A Patria

Recently, while at a funeral, I heard said multiple times, “It’s so good to see everyone together, it’s too bad it takes a funeral.” If your family is anything like mine, you’ll understand. Some family members still live in the “home area,” but many don’t.

I have fond memories of my nonagenarian neighbor. He was born in the 1920s, and for much of his last years, I gained as much wisdom from him as I could sitting beside him in the summer afternoons. He had fought with the 3rd Infantry Division in Northern Africa and Italy, and had traveled much of the US after the war with a career at Massey-Ferguson. He used a phrase, which in many circles, has gone out of use—home place. The home place for that man, who had been away from home for years at war and work, was a homestead in Northwest Ohio. The thing for him was that he had roots, he was anchored. While we lived a few miles away from his “home place,” we’d always refer to it in conversation, while driving we would go by and look at it, and it was the reference point for most things at his own place—that’s how it was at the home place. Whether or not his parents knew it, they gave him a very natural gift—the gift of home and place, and a very strong one at that.

How we have lost that sense and gift of home! The average across the country for years in a home that one owns is 13.3 years. Today, common financial practice is to put a value on the home you’re living in—because it’s an option to sell it! Homes are commodities today, like cars or clothes, something to be used for awhile, but traded in for an upgrade. The biggest contributor to this fact, I believe, is the land, or lack thereof. Think about it, how many farmers just up and move on a regular basis? “That was great-grandpa’s farm and house.” That statement will be almost impossible in a couple of decades. How many great-grandparents will have had one house and a farm that they spent almost all of their adult life at?

Once detached from the land, the diaspora only gets worse. Maybe where grandma and grandpa are is sort of home—but I don’t really know the people or the culture. Maybe it’s where mom and dad moved to and spent most of my childhood? Maybe it’s my first house? Or the third? So what about the next generation? Where will my children call home if they are 3 generations or more removed from a “home place.” We are officially nomads—we move for work and climate. We no longer have a culture, or a home that we claim as our own. So how did the nomads of history develop greater culture, family, and “home place?” How did they stop roaming? The LAND!! They started cultivating a piece of land, and pasturing on that land, and leaving that land as an inheritance. The land became a huge part of their life, and they in many ways became a part of the land—it was no mere investment, but an intimate bond.

And this nomadism of ours, it has a spiritual effect as well, more than just scattering us physically, we’ve been left like children without a father, trying to understand the Fatherhood of God.

In the closing verses of Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, two verses of poetic lines from St. Thomas Aquinas are often repeated:

O salutaris Hostia, Quae caeli pandis ostium: Bella premunt hostilia, Da robur, fer auxilium. Uni trinoque Domino Sit sempiterna gloria, Qui vitam sine termino Nobis donet in patria. Amen.

It ends with the phrase containing patria, our native-land, our home place, “Who life without end grants to us in the homeland.” How does one understand the eternal “home place” of heaven if we don’t have one here on earth? The lack of fatherhood and irreligion has been studied well, but I propose that the land is another foreshadowing of heaven, and without it, we must overcome great obstacles to understand and desire what God has planned for us.

Without a patria on earth, our families are scattered, and our souls will struggle to understand the patria which Heaven is. Without a patria, we miss a large part of “heaven-on-earth” with our families, and an understanding of our true “home place” in heaven.


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