Saturday 2 August 2014

Spiritual Homes

Some people do not understand why I want to return to Great Britain, where I lived for almost thirteen years. They are mystified that I would want to live on the small island instead of the United States, where I was born.

But, I believe in spiritual homes. A spiritual home is a place where one meets God more readily than in other places and where one feels, well, "at home". For some, spiritual homes are places of pilgrimage, such as Walsingham or Knock, Lourdes or Fatima.

For others, a spiritual home may be the same as the family home, where one was nurtured in the Faith and where one feels "at home" spiritually.

For others, like British ex-pats, a spiritual home may be an affinity with Spain, or Portugal, or Malta.

Most people do not understand ex-pats. Most people wonder about ex-pats and think they are running away from something.

But, for me, when I come to England, I am running towards something. This concept of a spiritual home happened in my adolescence, at about age 10. I began to be besotted with English things (not the Beatles-I was never a groupie).

I read copiously about British history, British heroes, British culture, and so on. I imagined falling in love with a Brit, (which I have three times now), and settling down in sunny Surrey, or Somerset, or Sussex.

I lived in Bristol, West Kensington, Bayswater, Ealing, Hayward's Heath, Plymouth, Sherborne and Petersfield. I have vacationed in Kent, East Anglia, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Yorkshire, especially the West Riding, which I love.

I have made several pilgrimages to Walsingham, and one to Holywell. I have hiked in the Brecon Beacons and prayed in Tyburn.

I have studied at Bristol and taught there, worked in Westminster Diocese, and brought my tiny baby home to Hayward's Heath.

But, the years of living there began in my soul and in my heart, years before I actually did live there.

England was always my spiritual home. In America, for my adolescent and adult life, I read Newman, Manning, Anselm, Aelred, Julian, Bede, Beowulf, Sir Orfeo', 'Sir Degaré', 'Sir Gowther', 'Emaré' and 'The Erle of Toulouse' all in the original. Of course, I read Chaucer, Shakespeare and the other dramas of the greats and some not-so-greats. My doctoral work in British poetry covered all from the beginnings to the present day as well as Irish poetry. I cannot list all the literature or theology or mysticism I have read from the British Isles. My work on David Jones spanned seven years of my life. I have read most of the British novelists, essayists and political theory. I have even read biographies and works on such as John Maynard Keynes, T. E. Lawrence, Oscar Wilde and J. R. R. Tolkien,  and as my first degree is in history, I know the history of the peoples from prehistory, through the various occupations, such as the Roman times, to the present. I devoured archeological and architectural books on England. I studied the flora and fauna of Great Britain and kept a bird diary for 10 years there. I know the saints of the holy isles. I named my son after two of the martyrs of England.

I wrote a book on Fountains Abbey and many poems and essays relating to England. I have written dramas about medieval England and Walsingham.

One's soul is formed by influences and for a scholar, the influences of reading and study become the stuff of working towards perfection.

Why a person is called to a certain field and to a certain land is a great mystery.

But, one thing seems particularly mysterious to me and that is the call of the land. When I am here in my new home in New York (upper state), I can objectively appreciate the beauty and richness of the land. But, the very ground I walk on seems strange to me.

I have no affinity with the trees which tower over me, or the myriad wild flowers which line the edges of this property. The lake is beautiful, but it is not "my lake".

The Pool of London is "my pool",  just as the River Skell is "my river". I know London like the back of my hand and love just to walk in the City.

I have walked in the Surrey Hills and in Dartmoor many times.

When I walk in England, I feel energy and strength from the very ground on which I walk. It is as if the very soil speaks to me of the centuries of love and warfare, religion and paganism, life and death.

When I first came to England for a visit in 1980, I was struck with the ground. It was soft, not like the hard dirt of Iowa or Indiana. Thousands of years of tilling and work on the land had made the ground a living record of history.

I miss that rich heritage. I miss my great friends who are British. They are of the land I love. They are, as well, part of the land.

For those of you who live in Great Britain, I beg you to pray for her. She is Mary's Dowry. Mary loves her and I think part of what I feel and sense is God's great love for Britain.

Pray I can come back and live out my life there. I want my body to mingle with the dust of England when I die.

I share in one small bit of England, the bond which God made with my English son. He will missionize England even if I cannot. But, I, too, would love to return to my spiritual home.

Will you join me in prayer for this miracle of grace? Will you love your spiritual home?

O blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon England thy "Dowry" and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee. By thee it was that Jesus our Saviour and our hope was given unto the world; and He has given thee to us that we might hope still more. Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the supreme Shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we may all deserve to see and praise God, together with thee, in our heavenly home.


  1. Thanks for this lovely post. Many of the places you mention are familiar to me. We English have so much to be grateful for, particularly our history as the 'Dowry of Mary'.

  2. umblepie, pray that the authorities over this blog take off the above comment-it is almost like a curse and disturbing for all of us.

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, the English have much to be grateful for....

    Pax tecum


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