The World is Not Thy Home: A Letter from Maura

(Click on the photos of the letter to enlarge them

Dear Friends,

I am an earthbound creature. I don’t just mean that I am a typical human who sometimes shudders at the idea of their own mortality and is caffeine-dependent to be functional before 9 a.m.  I mean I am deeply, stubbornly attached to people, houses, pets, favorite sweaters, and even the way certain landscapes look during a particular month and I tend to mourn the passing of time  more than I rejoice in the beautiful new beginnings it can bring. I cling to “the way things are” so that I don’t have to think about the future and the idea of eternity which is both thrilling and terrifying by nature of being so unknown

I am a cradle Catholic, raised by faithful parents and given all the tools I could desire to root my faith deep into the fiber of my being. As I grew up, my faith was a constant that I had few reasons to doubt or challenge. The first time I experienced ridicule for my beliefs is still fresh to me, mainly because it was so foreign to my rather sheltered childhood. The summer after my sophomore year of high-school, I took my first job on a landscaping crew, and fell in love with the weekly hours of sunshine, hard work and time spent learning about the different plants and flowers we tended. However, I was also very young, very naive and very “holier than thou” in my attitudes. Several of my older female co-workers quickly realized I did not swear, did not joke about vulgar or sexual topics and took an air of quiet disapproval when they did. Akin to a game of tug of war, they tried to coax me to engage in their conversations or speech, and I was mostly

[Page 2]

standoffish and judgmental because I didn’t want to go against my conscience. Slowly however, I saw the desire to be liked and included could over-ride my previously solid convictions; my shaky grasp of eternity and love of temporal comfort and approval held sway on my heart. By the end of that summer, I realized that faith was a part of me in a similar way to my favorite jacket or favorite book; it was familiar and sometimes important  to me, but it could be quite easily set aside when I grew embarrassed of it or it was not immediately useful or comforting to me.

Even though that was almost ten years ago, the fight against my own apathy and worldliness still wages daily. It is not an easy road for a stubborn, earth-loving girl to try to mold her desires and fears into a faith that teaches us to say “the world is thy ship, not thy home” and “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” to name a few. At least weekly, I find myself asking for trust, asking for peace, and sometimes just asking for perseverance when the other feelings are absent. On those days, it is important to remember that each of us has our own doubts and roadblocks when it comes to navigating the difficulties of life on earth while also preparing for life eternal.  Even though I don’t foresee giving up my frequent flyer seat on the journey of conversion and repentance anytime soon, I do have a conviction that sixteen-year-old me did not have. The world can tempt us to believe that material possessions, human accolades or personal achievements are the source of fulfillment and that desiring a faith-life is boring or old-fashioned but in truth it is the biggest adventure, the sweetest challenge, the most evergreen of love stories. As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

Pray for me as I will pray for you all, and may we meet in heaven (where hopefully there will still be some sort of celestial coffee?) Peace be the journey! 

 - Maura McKeegan


Get to know Maura

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Maura Mckeegan Barnes portrait

Hello! My name is Maura Barnes. I am 25 going on 26, a brand-new wife, part-time teacher and sales rep and aspiring editor and home-improver.

What do the first two hours of your day look like? 

I am a night owl through and through which definitely makes waking up in the morning my Achilles Heel.  However, my new husband, Marc, is the textbook definition of a morning person- so while my mornings used to consist of me snoozing my alarms for longer than I care to admit, peppy husbands who open the curtains, sing loudly and bring you coffee are a bit harder to snooze. As we try to develop our own family faith life, I am trying to join him in praying Morning Prayer from the Divine Office but in all honesty, am much more attentive for the Night Prayer (again, back to the night owl thing).

Describe your favorite part of your current occupation. 

Even though I majored in English Writing and do some editing on the side, I have always enjoyed doing a lot of different things, rather than one full-time job. My current combination has proved to be especially varied and enjoyable. This past school-year, on the days I was not working my job at a furniture store, selling couches and indulging my love of giving interior decorating advice to my customers, I spent my time in the classroom. One day a week, I got to use my degree by teaching a Literature/Writing/History class to fifteen high schoolers who both challenged and delighted me with their insights and questions.

Perhaps my favorite days though, were spent as an assistant in a Montessori classroom (3-6 year olds). Helping little hands learn how to write their names, being the glue-stick supervisor extraordinaire, sharing in their triumph when they count to 100 for the first time; I experienced everything from pulling a student’s first loose tooth during lunchtime, to listening to detailed explanations of their abstract artwork to comforting them when they fall at recess. There is nothing like the honesty, delight and enthusiasm of children to keep one grounded.

What's one fear that keeps you up at night?

Sometimes I worry that I am not doing something meaningful enough with my life, or that I don’t have as clear of a “path” as I would like. I have always been a bit jealous of those who knew exactly what they were supposed to do with their lives because even though I have definite areas of interest and talent, I have never felt a pull towards one specific career, which has left me with a varied but sometimes unfulfilling trail of jobs since finishing undergrad.

Tell us about the first time you experienced a strong sense of belonging in the Catholic Church.

Probably the first time I ever traveled away from my hometown and attended Mass somewhere else, and realized that the Church truly is universal. An obvious fact to some, but rather earth-shattering to me when I actually experienced it for the first time.

Tell us about a woman you look up to. 

I am blessed to have a mother I look up to, both in her personal and spiritual life but also in her various callings as a nurse, lactation consultant, homeschooling teacher to me and many of my seven siblings, a rental-property owner, grandmother...the list goes on. Sometimes our similarities in personality cause us to disagree, but I can’t help but marvel at how she moves through the world with courage, grace and optimism, seemingly never daunted by any task at hand.

Favorite character ever. Go! 

Being a lover of literature, this may well be the toughest question on here to answer, but I would have to go with my first heroine, Anne “with an e” Shirley. I loved that she was a character that I could relate to and aspire to over time, since her series spans from her childhood  all the way to being a mother with grown children of her own. Her awkwardness, her resistance to change, her desire to do something meaningful with her life, and her intense delight in beauty and simplicity have always made her a character I cherish. (Bonus point: Her nemesis turned best-friend turned husband, Gilbert Blythe, also happened to be my first and most lasting literary crush.)