Sanctuary. Sanctus. Holy. “Sanctuary” is defined as both a place of refuge or safety and a holy place.
The domestic violence crisis shelter where I minister recently moved into a new building. The Sojourner Truth House, part of Sojourner Family Peace Center, is now bright and warm and, with its carpeted and wood floors, less noisy than the old shelter. Although the old shelter served its purpose well for decades, its construction and limited space didn’t lend itself to any level of quiet. In fact, in some ways, I think the noise added to the tension felt by the women and children seeking sanctuary from violence and abuse. I have wondered what I can possibly offer these remarkable, resilient, and yet very wounded women and children. Why did God lead me here?
St. Augustine spoke of going to one’s “inner hermitage” to find sanctuary in communion with God. Catherine of Siena called this fertile ground our "cell of self knowledge". Because the noisiness of our lives can often drown out God’s gentle yet persistent whisper, finding that inner cell, our “inner hermitage,” requires quiet, contemplation and prayer.
Perhaps I am being asked to deepen my prayer life in order to fully inhabit my inner hermitage…not to stake a claim on it for myself alone, but to share with others the peace I find there. Perhaps I am being called to offer an outward sign of the indwelling of God’s peace and love.
But aren’t we all called to this? If we can do nothing else, we can be sanctuary to each other.
Kathy Flynn, OP
Whitefish Bay, WI