The Marche, in Italy (Photo by Rod Dreher)

The Marche, in Italy (Photo by Rod Dreher)

Many years ago, when I was in college, or maybe had just graduated, I was reading the latest issue of  Vanity Fair on a flight to Europe, and read Bill Buckley’s answers to the Proust Questionnaire, a fun feature the magazine used to run (does it still? I haven’t read VF since Dominick Dunne died). Bill was asked, “What is your favorite journey?” And he answered: “Home.”

I remember thinking at the time — seriously, I do — will I ever get to the point in my life when I could give that answer? It seemed impossible. I could have thought of ten different journeys that would have been my favorite back then, even to places I had only visited in books.

But now, in 2016, at the age of 49, I stand with Bill Buckley. My favorite journey is home. I type this aboard a transatlantic flight that is now skirting Baffin Bay, and can hardly wait to see my wife and kids later tonight.

I have just enjoyed one of the most meaningful and spiritually rewarding journeys of my life, among Italian Catholics in Norcia and San Benedetto del Tronto. I will remember this last week always; this inspiration comes at a much-needed time for me. Yet the idea of going back to my everyday life, with Julie and the kids, delights me even more. How did that happen?

Beats me. It’s just gratitude, mostly. I think. It humbles me to think of what a gift I have been given in my family, and in the ordinary. The monks in Norcia were telling me how in the Rule, St. Benedict instructs them to treat their everyday utensils as if they were vessels of the altar. There’s great wisdom in that. My ordinary life back in Starhill, with its ordinary rhythms, is where God is. In San Benedetto del Tronto, those Catholics aren’t living in charming Italian hill towns, but in ordinary housing. But they live with a sense of gratitude to God that consecrates it all. My God, you should be so lucky as to ride around town with that mad genius Marco Sermarini! He will make you feel in your bones that life is a gift to be cherished, celebrated, and defended. You should have heard him talking about the tiny grove of olive trees he and his family cultivate on the side of a steep hill. It’s nothing, really, but it’s everything. To see the world like he and his compadres do — well, it’s to realize that home is our own garden of Eden. You just have to see it in the right way.

How strange and wonderful to go halfway around the world and spend a week among strangers, and to want nothing more than to come home to my little country town, and be with my own ones. Best journey ever!