The Art of Householding | Sojourners

The Art of Householding

My "life plan" -- at age 23 -- was to own little and to move where the Spirit led. It was a late 20th century American religious quest interpreted through Dorothy Day’s Catholic anarchy, the factory theology of Simone Weil, Septima Clark's "practical politics," and the joyful authority of Clare of Assisi. Full of idealistic forward motion, I was ready to see and save the world -- in that order. My move in 1986 from California to inner-city Washington, D.C., was to be temporary.

Instead, I came into possession of a 1901 Victorian row house, and 25 years have passed. (Here's a koan for you: "Choosing your vocation.") I was given the gift of stability.

In 2000, after living in two other houses owned by Sojourners community's housing cooperative, Sojourners associate editor Julie Polter and I purchased our house on Fairmont Street. She was looking for more space (or at least a kitchen larger than a closet) and urban anchorage. I was already living in the house, didn't want to move, and needed a yard for my dog. I agonized over the ethics of "ownership" until my mom convinced me that "buying property is what the women in our family do." Julie and I scraped together the down payment, added in "urban homesteading" and first-time homeowner tax credits, learned the intricacies of joint tenancy, and shouldered the mortgage.

The "gift of stability" is considered the fourth vow in Orthodox and Benedictine monastic life. Poverty, chastity, and obedience are the "evangelical vows" that make one radically available to those in need of the gospel. Stability, as Thomas Merton put it, means to "find the place that God has given you and take root there."

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