“I discovered, you see, that real Benedictinism requires us to pour ourselves out for the other, to give ourselves away, to provide the staples of life, both material and spiritual, for another. The question is not whether what we have is sufficient for the situation or not. The question is simply whether or not we have anything to give. That’s what hospitality is all about. Not abundance and not totality. Just sharing. Real sharing.” – Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled From the Daily
Hospitality is at the heart of who we are as Benedictines. It is really sharing in many ways. For example, Sisters Charlotte, Mary Jean, Maggie, Jackie and Catherine show hospitality daily at our retreat house as they interact with our retreatants. From their warm welcome of those who come for a retreat to their gentle help during our prayer time (not everyone is Catholic or even Christian), these Sisters model one kind of deep hospitality.
Others, including Sisters Denise, Rita, Marlene, Germaine and Catherine, greet guests at the front desk in our Welcome Area. I’ve never seen these wonderful Sisters not brighten up with a big smile when a guest enters the front doors!
Sisters Janet and I bring our hospitality to our students when we try, each day, to help our students know they are gifts from God.
Sisters Mary and Maggie (and others when they are able) go to the food pantry once a week to help distribute food to those who need it. I’ve gone, too, when able. And I’ve never seen anyone treated with anything but dignity. (When Sr. Anne goes along, she always throws in a Hail Mary!)
We take to heart what St. Benedict says when he says, Greet all as Christ. We reverence all of God’s creation. And we take that reverence as hospitality with us in all our ministries. Sisters Bobbi and Germaine take it with them when they visit the house for homeless women and children they help run. Sisters Claudia, Judith Ann and Rachel take it with them as they plan liturgy, run offices and teach in parishes. Sisters Sandra, Susan, Sheila and others take it with them when they travel on community business.
We all take it with us when we go to the grocery store, movie theater or even to the park.
We show our hospitality daily to the outside community. But we also reverence one another. That is, treating everyone as if they are Christ includes us!
As you might guess, this is sometimes more challenging than showing hospitality to strangers. Sometimes, we have to set aside our feelings. (Even Sisters can get upset sometimes … remember, we’re a family too!)
Being hospitable with one another can mean such small things as helping Sister Rosemary get her dinner or taking Sister Michelle’s tray to the kitchen for her. Sister Mary Jane offers hospitality by always offering listening ear, while Sister Helen is happy to share her bag of popcorn … even if she deep down wants the whole thing!
Whether we welcome someone to change the TV channel – even though we were there first – is just as tough for us as it is for any family. And that’s the reality of life in community. Others will want to watch their own programs!
But the little stuff is important. That is, if we can’t be hospitable about the small things – what TV channel to watch, whether someone can afford food or a home, whether someone believes what we believe – we won’t be able to treat all as Christ.
Email me anytime to chat more about this or any other question you have about Benedictine life. I’d love to hear from you!!