By Carrie Gress
In 2007, I was living in alone in a charming Rome flat in the heart of the city. I worked with people all over the world but engaged with local colleagues only once a week. My Italian wasn’t great, so although I was surrounded by people all the time – I heard the din of the nearby Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere nightly – I didn’t have a lot of close daily contact. Of course, I got together with friends on weekends, but weekdays could be long and lonely. And it wasn’t just a spiritual hunger – I delighted crossing a Roman bridge each morning for Mass at the Gesu or Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. I’d promptly grab a cappuccino and coronetto for breakfast and then make a holy hour in one of these historic churches, with the rosary and spiritual reading later in the day.
The hunger was seemingly more mundane but still palpable. I remember just wishing that there was a website to visit that would help fill some of these empty places of my soul – with rich articles that made me think or transport me to another place or time with stories. I didn’t want a book or a novel – I was still a graduate student and had enough research always beckoning. But I knew fresh ideas and inspiration could banish that feeling of isolation filling the mind with wonder and keen intrigue. There had to be someplace that had content that could spark both my intellect and soul.
I wanted something that was soulful, interesting, engaging. I didn’t need more news (I was working in the news industry). I didn’t need gossip and celebrity sightings. I didn’t need overly intellectual commentary. I didn’t need splashy women’s content like Cosmo or The Cut. I wanted something beautiful and edifying, that didn’t feel like a waste of time. Surely, there had to be a place where I could find all this?
After I returned to the United States, married, with children arriving at regular intervals, my quest didn’t end. I was now around little people all the time, but I still longed for something that quenched this thirst for real content. The middle-of-the-night hours seemed the worst when I was up nursing or with a sick child and the world’s problems seem more daunting than daylight hours. Prayer was great, but sometimes something else to reorient the mind and soul was also helpful.
And then it happened. I started a blog. I started writing about all the things I wanted to read about – a beautiful chapel tucked away in South Dakota, a meditation on Our Lady of the Snows, a feature on the oldest apothecary in Rome with Dominican roots, and great ideas for home décor and sacramental gift giving. I woke up early to crank out these pieces that charmed me, hoping that I wasn’t the only one who thought such things were important. But then it hit me. Where can I send these to reach more women? Aggregate sites, like New Advent, frequently posted my newsy articles, but there didn’t seem to be site like this for women’s content. And why not? Why wasn’t there a place that aggregated lovely and compelling women’s content? It was from these questions that what is today known as Theology of Home came be. Instead of writing my own content, the idea was hatched to pull content from all over the internet, aggregating a unique blend of content for women. The project has since grown into four published books, planners, and countless other products at The Mercantile, with more to come.
The clearest message that has come to me through all of this work is that home is important. We are called to create not only the physical space oriented to peace, order, beauty, and goodness, but also to make room in our own souls for these timeless gifts.
Looking back to the itch I had so many years ago often makes me smile; I created this platform out of a very personal need, but I myself do not have the luxury of opening it each day, discovering fresh curated content, and leisurely picking through that which interests me. But I know that I am not the only person on the planet who had this unnamed desire and I take great satisfaction in helping to fill in the empty crags in the hearts and minds of so many others.
There are still plenty of moments when I read through secular content and wish we could create more of it, pieces of art, architecture, decor, culture, and life, through a much more Catholic lens. The vision is clear of what Theology of Home could still be. We hope and pray the best is still yet to come!