Love Begins at Home

My dear friends,

Why name this blog, “Love Begins at Home?” Well, there are a many reasons that this phrase would be a fitting title for this blog. You may have heard this phrase said before by the great St. Mother Teresa, which is where I first discovered it myself. “Love begins at home” is certainly a thought provoking and jam-packed phrase! That is why it stuck with me over the years and was in the forefront of my mind as I was brainstorming names for my blog. Each time I thought of a different name I kept going back to Love Begins at Home.

As I began to unravel this phrase through thought and prayer I immediately began to realize that many of us desire to make an impact on the world similar to how St. Mother Teresa did. By this I mean that overall many of us could probably identify as being in the category of wanting to make the world a better place or to at least make an impact somehow. We are constantly being bombarded by the media with information that, more often than not, we don’t need to know. Usually it is terrible news about killings, shootings, hatred, arguments, fighting, negativity, and the list goes on. We see the bad and we want to create the good. Somehow someway we want to change the world, but how? If you were asked this question would you know the answer? St. Mother Teresa discovered the answer to this question through prayer as she said, “Love begins at home.” Her words teach us that each of us can actually change the world and the way to do it is so simple that it seems almost silly. God has had a specific plan for each and every one of us since the dawn of creation. A mission given to you and only you that stems from your relationships and your identity as a son or daughter of God!

So, how can I as an ordinary daughter of God, wife, and stay-at-home mother change the world?

Well, to start off, St. Augustine said this, “Give me praying mothers and I will rescue the world.” Prayer is a good place to begin when desiring to change the world! As I continued to unravel the phrase love begins at home through prayer I discovered a few things.

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Photo by Sasha Knock

Think about this, for 30 years Jesus lived a seemingly ordinary life. He lived in a home in Nazareth, worked as a carpenter, and lived within a family. Maybe this is why when He came back to Nazareth years later to minister the people living there proclaimed, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary?” Matthew 13:55. “And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.’ And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief” Mark 6:3-6. Jesus seemed so ordinary to those who lived in His hometown that they had a hard time believing that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. They especially had a hard time believing that God would humble Himself to become one of us and to walk among us, fully human and fully divine.

Our infinite and all powerful God humbled Himself out of love to walk beside us, to meet us where we are at, and to teach us how to best follow Him as “the word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Think of a good father who crouches low to best teach his child something. Yet he also raises his child into his arms to see things from a better perspective, a view that the child may not have seen otherwise. As St. Therese said, “The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus!” Indeed Jesus sets an example for all of us. He teaches us to do the ordinary things well with great love and humility. Each of the moments that Christ spent living within His earthly home in Nazareth with His family were part of His plan for the salvation of the world. Our Lord’s plan for salvation greatly involved the family and the ordinary things of everyday life! Not a single moment of His 33 year life went to waste. It was 30 years later, after Jesus redeemed our everyday life living within a family, that He then started to do the extraordinary things. For the remainder of His life He began to perform miracles, heal the sick, feed people by the 1,000’s, and ultimately suffer, die, and rise from the dead all out of His deep love for us.

Holy Family

Do you know what this means? It means that not a single second of our own daily lives within the home is wasted if we offer each of these moments to our Lord for the salvation of ourselves and sinners everywhere! What a special privilege God has given to us! We are able to enter into His work of salvation within our very own homes. Every dish we clean, every load of laundry we fold, every sleepless night taking care of our precious little ones are all moments for our salvation and the salvation of others when offered back to our Lord. Among the great quotes of St. Mother Teresa she also said this, “Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” May we do everything out of love just as Jesus did!

Did you know that we can practice corporal works of mercy from our own homes and within our own families?

“Finally, bear in mind that those of you who are working hard each day to earn the money to provide food and drink, clothing and shelter for your own families, and those of you who cook and clean at home, are already practicing these corporal works of mercy, at least outwardly. Why not practice them inwardly now as well, from the heart, not grudgingly or merely out of routine, but with compassion and love for your spouse and children, doing all to the glory of God and giving thanks to God the Father for providing for all your needs (see 1 Cor 10:31, Col 3:17). In this way, as St. Paul wrote, the simplest daily chore becomes “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,’ a true ‘spiritual worship’” (Rom 12:1).¹

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Our homes are surely places for sanctification as we grow in love and humility. How often, though, do we find that our homes are also the most difficult places to be sanctified? Whether it be a hurtful phrase from a sibling, a miscommunication with your spouse, not wanting to do our chores, or the annoyance of a family member who knows exactly the right buttons to push to create a reaction. This is exactly how we are sanctified though! Our homes become domestic convents in a sense. By welcoming Jesus into our own homes and hearts He teaches us how to love the members of our own families better so that we too may become holy. We too can live an extraordinary life of doing the ordinary things well and with great love. I have found that many saints teach us this lesson as well!          

Did you know that none of St. Mother Teresa’s religious sisters ever expected her to do such great things? A sister novice of hers described her as “very small, quiet, and shy” and another word used to describe St. Mother Teresa was “ordinary.” I am quite positive that I once heard a great saint say, “Do small things with great love.” St. Mother Teresa perfected her own words as she certainly did the small things with great love. With such great love that she was then led by God to open an orphanage, establish the Missionaries of Charity, and serve the poor, crippled, and marginalized. St. Mother Teresa even won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979! During her acceptance speech she said this, “Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do. […] I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there.” We may not see our impact on the world right away, but by doing the small things with great love we will create a domino effect on the world. Virtuous and faithful families will cause virtuous and faithful schools, communities, churches, societies, nations, and a more virtuous and faithful world in which we live. The family is the basic unit of society. John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.” May we create a domino effect for the better within our world!

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As the phrase “love begins at home” also implies we must start off small and learn how to be humble in our love, just as God humbled Himself to become a small baby. Even Jesus Himself said, “… learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart” Matthew 11:29. A towering building must start off with a good foundation. Our love too must begin on the foundation of humility. So, out of humility our love must begin within the home as St. Mother Teresa said. We must learn to love our family, to be humble, and to serve one another.

St. Augustine, another great saint and doctor of the church, had much to say about humility and love. Here are a few quotes St. Augustine said about humility that reiterate St. Mother Teresa’s words:

“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”

“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”

“Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundation of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.”

Another special saint who is dear to my heart is St. Gianna Molla. She was yet another saint who seemed to live a rather ordinary life right up until her last pregnancy. She lived her family life full of love and did the small ordinary things of everyday life with great love. Then when she was notified that she might die if she continued her pregnancy she said, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child – I insist on it.” It seems as if she said this as if it were second nature to her, as if there was no other response she would have given. St. Gianna was indeed perfected in her love. Her love for doing the small things continued growing as she reached the point of being willing to give up her own life for her unborn daughter.

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Another dear and holy saint who reiterates St. Mother Teresa’s words yet again is St. John Paul II. In his apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, he gave the family another name, which also implies that love begins at home. He called the family “a school of deeper humanity.” A school, as you know, is a place to educate others. St. John Paul II understood that the home and family are training grounds for holiness. Here are a few excerpts that he wrote in his apostolic exhortation:

“All members of the family, each according to his or her own gift, have the grace and responsibility of building, day by day, the communion of persons, making the family ‘a school of deeper humanity:’ this happens where there is care and love for the little ones, the sick, the aged; where there is mutual service every day; when there is a sharing of goods, of joys and of sorrows… For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues which every society needs.”

“The family is the first and fundamental school of social living: as a community of love, it finds in self-giving the law that guides it and makes it grow. The self- giving that inspires the love of husband and wife for each other is the model and norm for the self-giving that must be practiced in the relationships between brothers and sisters and the different generations living together in the family. And the communion and sharing that are part of everyday life in the home at times of joy and at times of difficulty are the most concrete and effective pedagogy for the active, responsible and fruitful inclusion of the children in the wider horizon of society.”

“The Synod too, taking up and developing the indications of the Council, presented the educational mission of the Christian family as a true ministry through which the Gospel is transmitted and radiated, so that family life itself becomes an itinerary of faith and in some way a Christian initiation and a school of following Christ. Within a family that is aware of this gift, as Paul VI wrote, ‘all the members evangelize and are evangelized.’”

“The family has vital and organic links with society, since it is its foundation and nourishes it continually through its role of service to life: it is from the family that citizens come to birth and it is within the family that they find the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principle of the existence and development of society itself.”

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After discovering more about Jesus’ private ministry and unraveling what many saints had to say about the home and family I learned more deeply how I can grow in holiness. By following God’s will for us proper to our state in life and authentically being who God created us to be we can change the world. As St. Catherine of Siena said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” Each of us living within a family can change the world by living out the phrase, “Love begins at home.” Our love must begin as we humble ourselves at home and do small things with great love. Jesus knows the joys and sufferings that come along with families, both functional and dysfunctional. He redeemed every aspect within the home and within families. He began His ministry right in His own home in Nazareth. This is where Christ’s love began here on earth! May we too follow His example and the example that many saints have set before us as we begin our love at home. Our Blessed Mother is the perfect example of how I, as a wife and a mother, can live out the words of St. Mother Teresa. This, my dear friends, is why I chose to name my blog, “Love Begins at Home.”

With love,

Nina 

+JMJ+

References:

  1. Stackpole, Robert. “Part 10: The Corporal Works of Mercy.” The Divine Mercy. September 07, 2009. Accessed August 16, 2018. https://www.thedivinemercy.org/library/article.php?NID=3479.
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