“Benedictine spirituality says that we must continue to beg the stranger to come into our lives because in the stranger may come the only honesty and insight we can get in our plastic worlds.” Joan Chittister
We are all Pilgrims! Today is the Feast of Santiago (St.James) the Apostle
One of the recently professed monks here at St Otillien, one of the few ‘redheads’ in the Monastery, spent part of his novice year in Spain, at one of the Benedictine Monasteries that offers hospitality day in and day out to the pilgrims who are on their way to Santiago de Compostela, known by all as ‘el Camino’, The Way! I did not see him last year when I came and thought perhaps he had left the monastery, since I knew he was a young novice. But instead he was practicing the ongoing and ever tedious work of Hospitality welcoming daily the many pilgrims on their way to the Shrine of Saint James in Compostela.
Stop, Look, Listen! It only takes a moment to see the many lonely souls traveling along side us in great need of hospitality.
“The world it seems has never been more in need of hospitality. Refugees roam the world displaced for political reasons by leaders who live in marble houses, while the soldiers they deploy die in ditches and the people they terrorize run from country to country seeking peace and safety for their children and human dignity for themselves. Tent cities are being built in the United States of America for the unemployed homeless of the richest nation in the world. Children flock to the cities in droves, out of abusive homes and divided homes and poor homes and good homes that simply can’t handle them. The elderly are abandoned in old houses with leaking roofs and dirty windows and uncut yards. Foreigners are named enemy simply because they are foreign, apparently, and do not think or live or look like we do.” JC
Following last weeks Republican convention and In the wake of the Democratic convention and following a week of horrendous murders and killings in germany in the last seven days by refugees or bi-nationals, who were taken in by the hospitality of the government, we hear stronger and louder voices which are the constant rhetoric to protect borders, to keep unwanted out, and to protect ourselves, only ourselves. Perhaps nevermore have we in recent history needed this message of welcome and embrace that Benedict offers to a broken world. The fear is everywhere. Can we afford to embrace the stranger or not? I love what one person wrote last week on Public media in response to so much negative interaction.
“I’m going to continue holding doors for strangers, letting people cut in front of me in traffic, saying yes ma’am, yes sir, saying good morning, being patient with a waiter, and smiling at strangers, as often as I am provided the opportunity. Because I will not stand idly by and let children live in a world where unconditional love is invisible. Join me in showing love to someone who may not necessarily deserve it. Find your own way to swing the pendulum in the direction of love. Because today, sadly; hate is winning.” Sue Burke
The rule of Benedict safeguards agains violent or obtrusive strangers. The risk is always there. Yet, at no time does it allow for fear of the stranger or for a lack of an open heart and welcoming smile. It must be difficult, day in and day out in the Monastery to offer such generosity, especially in a place like El Camino in Spain where thousands of pilgrims pass by the doors of the monastery yearly.
“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 one another.” JC
So many Monasteries are dedicated to Hospitality. Our Episcopal monastery in Santa Barbara run by the Order of the Holy Cross Benedictines rests one day a week from receiving guest, no more. The Monks spend nearly every meal with guests. The only social time they have to themselves is their daily ‘tea’ together in the afternoons. Even for an extrovert, this kind of work and care is tiring and costly.
The Rule of Benedict- “written at a time of great social migration and personal peril, long before there were campgrounds or large motels—charged the monastery to “receive guests as Christ” and to take special care of “the poor and of pilgrims.” “Guests,” Benedict wrote, “are never wanting in the monastery” JC
When I am at the Monastery, I try to be a well behaved guest and not get in the way of the regular life of of the Monks here in St. Otillien. I feel privileged to be invited into their inner space eating with them daily in the refectory and praying with them in the chapel. But I also know that I am a guest, and that guests too have a responsibility to their hosts.
“The Benedictine heart is to be a place without boundaries, a place where the truth of the oneness of all things shatters all barriers, a point where all the differences of the world meet and melt, where Jew and Gentile, slave and free, woman and man all come together as equals.”
Many times we look for compromise in our daily Christian living. We think to ourselves, ‘what can I get away with’? Or ‘yes, we should live in fear and protect only our self interest.’ Everyone is saying it, why shouldn’t I? If Jesus were ever judgmental and harsh, it was against those who refused to practice hospitality…”When I was hungry..when I was thirsty…when I was in prison…when I was sick..etc”. (Matthew 24). There is no escaping the rout of hospitality, in order to stretch our egos and our fears into the ‘love that binds ‘ all of us together into One.
“Hospitality means we take people into the space that is our lives and our minds and our hearts and our work and our efforts. Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves. It is the first step toward dismantling the barriers of the world. Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around, one heart at a time.” JC
PIC. 12 Century Pilgrim Church of Santiago Apostle by the town of Schondorf by the Ammersee some kilometers from the St Otillien Monastery. Last week I took a bike ride and visited this church.