Well! What a disappointment! I've just heard that X Factor have been pulling a fast one! The stage in the series when the Judges take the finalists back to their homes for them to be mentored and further selected are not in fact their own houses at all! They're just rented! Apparently, though, this happens a lot. When you see celebrities reclining on their marble mantelpiece or walking in their garden in Hello or OK or any other celebrity magazine you wish to mention it's not necessarily the place where they live. A spokeswoman for X Factor said: "The contestants are invited to a house. We call them the judges' houses, not the judges' homes. Sharon had only just moved in to her new home and hadn't even unpacked so we couldn't have filmed it there. We have never said they are the judges' real homes and it has been this way for the past four years." Perhaps it takes the shine off it. After all, we are inquisitive creatures who like to peep beyond the net curtains and see how the other half live! That's how the paparazzi earn their wage and editors sell their newspapers - because it feeds the enquiring, inquisitive, invasive mind of most of us!
In the house of which I spoke yesterday - you know, the replica of Mary's house at Walsingham - we don't see the real thing - and nobody says it is! There is, of course, the holy house of Loretto - said to be the actual house of Mary transported by angels (stopping off at Germany along the way!) but Walsingham is a replica from Richeldis, the Lady of the Manor who had the vision to build a house and make a home. Perhaps the whole thing feeds our enquiring, inquisitive and invasive minds - not even Mary can get a rest from it! But, of course, there's more to it than that! There must be!
Beyond the net curtains (or voile or venetian blinds!) of our house is the place where we can be ourselves. Of course, there are many homes when people are not free to be themselves and where they live with fear or intimidation but there will be some small place somewhere where we will know who we are and, hopefully, be free to be ourselves. By visiting a place like Walsingham (or Loretto - though I have never been there!) you enter an intimacy, a small space where you can experience the domesticity of God, that down to earthness, where God invites us to be at home and get our feet under the table! There is always a thrill in visiting the homes of heroes and has beens, those people who have made their mark in the world and left their mark on us - be it writers, musicians, figures of faith or huge historical figures. Somehow you are in touch with them or feel closer to them or sense a small seed of something that gives a new perspective on their life. But in the end, we return to our familiar front door and enter the place where we live and it is there that we kick of our shoes, flick through the fascination of a thousand TV Channels or leave the washing up til the morning (or is that just me?!) It's there that faith is fostered and there that we meet God in the way we live our lives. And if we have been invited to be at home with Mary and Jesus, it's only right that we invite them to do the same!