August 8, 2008

Twenty Something / Christina Capecchi

A firm foundation for trying times

I have been stepping through the debris, at once disturbed and intrigued; I have been touring foreclosed homes.

As the number of foreclosures climbs, “for sale” signs keep cropping up in my neighborhood.

I’ve entered these abandoned homes, encountering an emotional residue as sticky and dense as the physical mess left behind. Personal belongings strewn across stained carpet. A prescription bottle lying on a Mercer Mayer children’s picture book.

Cross-stitched dreams kicked to the curb.

For a reduced price, many buyers are rolling up their sleeves and attempting to repair the damage, taking on punctured walls, stripped closets and snipped pipes. Young adults, schooled by HGTV and emboldened by wild imaginations, are paving the way.

Surface problems are easy to fix, a real estate agent told me. Scratches and scars can be remedied, repainted and re-laid.

“Cosmetics,” he called it.

But, he warned, there is one problem you absolutely do not want to inherit, one fatal flaw that should send you running: a weak foundation.

I discovered that defect in one suburban home, a place that sparkled above ground with marble floors, granite counters and Roman columns. The master bathroom even featured heated tiles.

But when I stepped into the basement, the asking price that had seemed too good to be true suddenly explained itself. A deep fissure in the foundation had sent a crack from one side of the floor to the opposite wall.

Deal breaker.

Like the real estate agent, Scripture urges us to seek a strong foundation. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock,” Jesus says in St. Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 7:24). “The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock” (Mt 7:25)

Conversely, the house built on sand—like the person who dismisses the word of God—collapses in the storm, “completely ruined” (Mt 7:27).

We must build on rock in order to surmount the inevitable storms of life. This is an important reminder for young people like me who are eager to begin decorating. Before we chase our goals, we must forge a foundation of faith, building on the grace of the sacraments, the wisdom of the saints, the insight of Scripture, the support of believers and the power of prayer.

Then, when the storms come, we may quiver, but we will not collapse.

If there’s one thing the news has made clear lately, it’s this: Storms do come. Floods take out entire neighborhoods. Tornadoes hit quiet towns. Hurricanes upend sunny shores.

Then there are financial disasters—layoffs, foreclosures and repossessions—which can overthrow relationships and uproot mental health.

This month’s Scripture readings illustrate the power of faith to overcome such storms. Jesus heals the Canaanite daughter and multiplies the loaves of bread.

We hear that nothing can separate us from Christ’s love—not “anguish or distress or persecution or famine …” St. Paul writes “All these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us” (Rom 8:35-37).

And we remember St. Peter’s timid walk on water. “When he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened” (Mt 14:30) and began to sink. But Jesus reached out and caught him.

We, too, are easily frightened by fierce winds. But do not be afraid: When our homes are built on foundations of faith, we can withstand any storm.

(Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She can be reached at

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