"Hospitality: Opening space in our hearts and lives to give and receive in relationship with neighbors and strangers in need."


Reflection on Benedictine Hospitality

   By Marilyn Grantham, Oblate OSB
 As a young man, Benedict of Nursia (480-543 CE) was sent to Rome to continue his education.  Distressed by the sinfulness all around him, he fled and took refuge in a cave near Subiaco.  There for three years, Benedict lived as a hermit and  immersed himself in studying the scriptures.  When he emerged and became a vowed monastic, he wrote his Rule, a detailed set of guidelines for monastics to follow, based on a deep understanding of the scriptures.  As a result, the Rule of St.  Benedict, still studied and followed today, is thoroughly grounded in the scriptures ... and the way Jesus followed on earth. The Rule is very clear about monastic hospitality ... based on Mt. 25:35 and Gal. 6:10 ... all visitors are to be welcomed as  Christ.  One monk is assigned to be the porter ... the monastic stationed at the door who welcomes anyone who comes ... everyone equally, without regard for station or condition.  The porter alerts the community that they have a guest(s) and  everyone, led by the abbott or prior (or the prioress) invites the newcomer(s) to pray and then dine with them as honored guests.

 In her latest book, Monastery of the Heart, An Invitation to a Meaningful Life (2011), Sr. Joan Chittister, Benedictine scholar, writer and speaker, expanded on the importance and impact of Christian hospitality, on those who provide it, as well as those  who receive it.  She begins by noting that being hospitable to those who are "our kind of people" ... people who "look like us and think like us" isn't what the scriptures and the Rule have in mind in terms of "community".  Benedict intended that the monastic community welcome everyone equally ... the rich and the poor, the slave and the free, the young and the old, artists and craftsmen, peasants and noblemen ... a "motley crew".  "The point is clear," Sr. Joan says ... "The guest to the Benedictine is much more than simply another social contact."  Our "community" is much more than those immediately around us.

Sr. Joan continues ... "The Benedictine ... is actually on the lookout for guests, for their needs, for their wisdom.  Thank God, you've come ... disturb our perfect lives.  Guests bring us to God in the guise of the immediate and the urgent, the uncomfortable and the unknown.  They expose our emptiness of heart and total self-centeredness, when we may not even know ourselves that it exists."

To read more parishioner reflections on Hospitality, click on the attachments below: