New Evangelization and the Beauty of Hospitality
Every time I run into someone who remembers my mother, I am reminded of her gift of hospitality. There is generally some story about a meal shared, a party given, or a holiday observed. Our house was filled with laughter, warmth, and lots of food. Mom reveled in it all. As she advanced in years, I think the two hardest blows for her were the losses of my father and of the home they built together.
My mother’s gift of hospitality is certainly at the heart of my love for Benedictine spirituality. As part of the “Rule” that he created for his new monastic community, Saint Benedict stressed the importance of welcoming the stranger as one would welcome Christ (RB Chapter 53). In doing so, we hold that every human being is beloved by God and is worthy of respect, dignity, and compassion. An integral part of receiving another person in such a manner is learning to wait upon him or her with patience. The latter is not just about service, but also about attentiveness as well as an open and listening heart. Such an attitude requires space and time, two commodities that seem to be in short supply in the frenetic pace of our culture. As Jane Tomaine notes in her book, St. Benedict’s Toolbox, “We’re often reluctant to take time to be truly present to others, and we can find it difficult to accept people as they are.” Hospitality counters these tendencies.
The mission of the Church is to evangelize – to bring the Gospel out into the world in new and engaging ways. All too often, Christians have used the Bible as a battering ram to hammer people into belief through fear and guilt. Benedict’s Rule calls for something far different. In being hospitable, we invite rather than coerce. We listen rather than harangue. We take people for who they are rather than where we think they ought to be. And, taking a cue from my mother, we make a warm and welcoming space for others to gather, to share, and to revel in the joys of life.
If you are a catechist, how will you create a hospitable space for your students when a new school year begins? What can you do to increase your capacity to “wait upon” the children and young people in your care?
Download my suggestions for creating time and space for hospitality. Choose one idea to put into practice over the next week in your home or parish. Complete the reflection at the end of the week to assess how well you practiced hospitality.
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