Back home again

All souls have a place called home. It might be wherever the old kit bag is put down at the shank of the evening or a fleeting memory of a place so long ago that it doesn’t even come with an address. But it is home all the same.

A buddy defined home as the place where you have to travel back a long distance for a wedding. Or a funeral.

My first home traces its roots to 1645 and a peacock named Adriaen van der Donck. He was called “jonkheer” in Dutch (“young gentleman”). The name stuck for his New Netherland’s claim along the Hudson River that would become Yonkers, New York.

A neighborhood called The End of the Line — natives often shortened this to “The End” — was my neck of that Yonkers’ woods. I’d like to explain that there was some great philosophical and theological import for that doom-and-gloom name. But the name came from the last stop for the old No. 2 trolley line from downtown Yonkers. The neighborhood kept the name long after the trolley disappeared. Two city blocks, The End of the Line meant home to me as a kid.

As the years went by I had other places to call home — a little cottage at Cape Cod that my parents bought for pennies after JFK was president. I had my honeymoon and celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary there. There were college dorm rooms I thought of as home.

For the last 14 years, I’ve called Pittsburgh home. It has been a good home, filled as any home with new friends and old friends, new memories and old memories. I’ll confess it now — I never learned to root for the Steelers. But I consider myself a fan of the Pirates.

The Faith defined each of my homes. There is no End of the Line without Christ the King, the neighborhood parish. That is where the souls were baptized, married and mourned, from generation to generation. The sons and daughters of that parish are everywhere.

At college we were planning the end of the war to the strains of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” while the sanctuary lamp remained lit in the basement chapel of the dorm. Our family’s very first full day on the Cape when I was 11 years-old didn’t begin at the shore but at Sunday Mass in a church with siding bleached from the salt-filled ocean winds.

Pittsburgh? You can’t know Pittsburgh without understanding that the Faith touches every part of its culture, every part of its history, every part of its life. Pittsburgh is Catholic in its heart and soul. You see it — you feel it — when you look from the Boulevard of the Allies across the Monongahela River up to St. Mary of the Mount Church that watches over the city.

For 30 years of my life beginning after college graduation, Indiana was home. A dozen years ago, as my friend described it, I came from Pittsburgh for a wedding — my daughter was married at St. Mary’s Church on North Jefferson Street in Huntington, Indiana. Our old parish. I’ve also come back for funerals.

Now my spouse and I have come home. Like the state song celebrates, we’re “Back Home Again in Indiana,” and just in time for the Indianapolis 500. I’m confident we’ll prove Thomas Wolfe wrong. We can come home again.

This says nothing dismissive about the homes left behind: The End of the Line, the third floor of Loyola dorm, Nauset Light beach, the Boulevard of the Allies. Because the Faith was there at each stop along the pilgrimage, pointing toward that way of living that touches the infinite through the grace of the sacraments. It is always there waiting for each of us. It is the Faith that makes our home.

Per omnia saecula saeculorum. For now, always and forever.

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Indiana.