Closet Christianity

Our house has nine people currently occupying it year round, sleeping in seven beds located in four bedrooms on two different floors. Then there’s the sofa bed we have for visitors. There are two queen size mattresses, three doubles, and three twins. It’s not difficult to see how linens can become easily disordered in a closet, especially with the added stress of blankets, quilts, dust ruffles, comforters, and a few extra pillows! I have to admit that I’ve been unhappy with the chaos in that closet for quite some time, but not unhappy enough, I suppose, to actually go through it all.

One of the best things about having work done in your house is that you end up sorting out things you’ve meant to, but never seemed to have the time for. That’s what happened with our linen closet last week, when the hallway wall to wall carpeting was replaced with wood flooring. Everything had to come out of the closet. And when it did, I wondered how we had ever been able to close the door with all that stuff in there!

All kinds of “buried treasure” were piled on my bed. I found outdoor plastic tablecloths I didn’t even remember buying, as well as numerous sheets in sizes I couldn’t recall. Some sets were for beds long gone, others were missing a pillowcase or fitted sheet. I also found the beautiful Christmas curtains with miniature lights I never managed to put up last year. After separating the sheep from the goats, I re-folded and re-organized what I had decided to keep, and got rid of nearly half of what had been crammed in there. Some of that could certainly be used by others. The rest was just trash. Now I don’t avoid that closet any more. In fact, I’ve opened the door a few times just to see how nice it all is now.

It’s hard to steer a middle path between throwing everything out and saving things you don’t need, will never use, or make you wonder what you were thinking when you bought them in the first place. One thing is sure: it takes a lot longer time to thoughtfully go through things than it does to box them up or pitch them out. I think that that is precisely the housekeeping that our Universal Church is currently undertaking. We are opening boxes long stored on less than accessible shelves, and examining the contents. We are deciding not to keep some of the things that delighted us when we first saw them, because they now seem chincy or just not in keeping with the rest of what we do or who we are.

I see this process beginning in almost every aspect of parish life, from religious education to the music we sing at Mass. Many of us are finding that over time we have collected a ton of mismatched pieces. Some of what was once wonderful is broken beyond repair. Others are trapped in time like an insect in amber. Still others are--and always were--just plain silly. It’s nice to know that we can enter our own lost and found and still find treasures that are waiting to be discovered, or re-discovered as the case may be.

Who we are as Church will always remain the same. But how we do things as Church is beginning to change, to be restructured, re-organized, and re-evaluated. And that isn’t a bad thing, as long as we realize that we can’t keep everything we currently possess, nor can we throw it all away and re-invent the wheel.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an author, speaker, musician and serves as Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield.