One thing I have observed since I have become Catholic is the value of the small house. I have often heard people say “We can’t do that. Our house is too small.” Heck, I’ve said it. But I’ve noticed this cultural thing with Catholics that I haven’t observed much in other places. These are pretty subjective observations, so I’m not saying this is an exclusively Catholic thing.
First thing I ever noticed was an old newspaper ad in the Missouri History Museum. It was for a housing development in the 1940’s or 1950’s designed for large families. In order to buy a house there, you had to have at least four children. As you can imagine at that time of history that would more than likely be pretty heavily a characteristic of Catholic families. It was also in a municipality named after St. Ann. What was interesting about that was the type of houses they were. All of them were three bedroom, one bath homes. That’s for a minimum of six people. You couldn’t get an occupancy permit for that these days.
I’ve seen this fleshed out especially with my older Catholic friends. I know one lady who has a two bedroom house. She is widowed and retired now so she has it to herself. She and her husband raised six children in those two bedrooms–boys in one room and girls in another. I asked them where she and her husband slept. She said they slept in the living room. They were always up before the kids and in bed after them, so it was never a problem from her perspective.
I’ve been in lots of small homes for parties and meetings with huge amounts of people. I’ve seen families living in homes that most modern day American’s would say were too small for a couple much less a family. I’ve seen families with bigger houses than these say they have to move because it is too small.
I’m not one to become a model for the tiny house movement. I still need studio/work space for building and creating things, but what I have seen has affected me. It has inspired me to a deeper level of hospitality. It has made me more grateful for my beautiful two bedroom house (although I still long for a few acres more of land and some out buildings.)
It makes me think about the changes in our culture where a 3/1 house is a big freaking deal for a family of six or more to now where the goal is for each child to have their own room. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a big house. I would still like to have one. It just makes me think that if we can’t see the small house as a blessing and to open it up for family, friends, and strangers, then is a big house going to make things better? A few things to ponder.