Hospitality can be a huge struggle when you’re trying to shape an environment. We want to be welcoming, but we also want to keep our homes safe-havens for ourselves and our children. We want to be open to strangers in need, but without being ignorant of the risks involved.
Hospitality is essential. As Christians, and particularly as Christians seeking to imitate St. Benedict, we are required to live out a radical welcome towards Christ-in-the-stranger. But it can leave us feeling that we’re walking a delicate path.
Sometimes, we feel that we can’t seafely offer hospitality. How do we welcome the stranger as Christ when he comes with threatening ideas or problematic intentions? I think the solution lies in rootedness.
My primary goal in offering hospitality is to have a place that is so entirely itself, it can fearlessly welcome all others to find themselves in it.
But what does that even mean?
Think of a monastery. A place of absolute purpose and beauty, and often a place of unquestioning welcome and refuge. Benedictine monasteries especially have been known for centuries as centers of hospitality. The monks are free to welcome anyone, because their monastery stands unequivocally for something more essential.
It is a place consecrated to its purpose and cannot be swayed.
What about my little domestic monastery. Do we have the interior structure to offer hospitality to all? I hope so! We’re working on it.
Maybe that’s what all the Abbots think with they throw open their doors to the Stranger. But here, I can see the areas in which we need to grow; the ways in which we need to re-acquaint ourselves with our purpose.
Consistent Prayer: while we try to build into our day regular times for morning, evening, and mealtime prayer; our prayer life beyond those times is fragmented and inconsistent. We often say a family rosary, we occasionally gather for the Angelus. It is lacking a sense of ritual and so it isn’t quiet infused into the soul of our home.
Fasting and Feasting: I feel the lack of my devotion to fasting. I feel it and I know that above all else, this needs to be improved in me, and through me, to our whole family. I am the primary meal-maker, it would be easy to build into our weeks, months, and season a habit of fasting and feasting merely by planning meals with care. And yet I rarely do. Our table lacks the steadiness and certainty it ought to have, which lends a sense of instability to the home itself.
Honesty: In Christ, we see the fullest model of loving honesty! He is entirely direct and open with all those people who long to ask him questions and discuss his answers. He is honest with charity and gentleness, which is harder than He makes it look! I’m often too concerned with feelings and impressions for true and loving honesty, I want people to feel affirmed and coddled more than I want to offer them a genuine intimacy. But a house fails at hospitality if it creates a false sense of unity for the sake of placating people. We treat our guests as less than whole beings if we coddle their feelings and neglect their hearts.
Silence: My house isn’t silent in the truest sense, and I certainly don’t want it to be. But interior silence depends less on whether the kids are playing “owls and coyotes’ than it does on the sense of peace that infuses the space itself. I feel as though our house is almost there sometimes. Sometimes, many times, actually we feel so very cozy with each other that our own human restlessness is stilled and we can simply love.
A home does not in any way have to be perfect in any or all of these areas to be a point of genuine hospitality. But knowing where we are on the path toward wholeness in these ways is helpful. It helps us prepare to greet any and all as Christ and offer a place at the table to Him.