Our nation is hardly a monastery, let alone many of our parishes. But on this feast of Benedict of Nursia, some thoughts on welcoming guests. I have never failed to be welcomed when visiting a Benedictine monastery as a pilgrim, retreatant, or just a drop-in visitor. Maybe our parishes would have something to learn about it.
From chapter 53 of the Rule:
1 All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35). 2 Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims. 3 Once a guest has been announced, the superior and the brothers are to meet him with all the courtesy of love.
I think of those moments at which introverts cringe: when guests at Sunday Mass are asked to stand and identify themselves. I rarely see a prayer or union inserted into the Mass, but Benedict might suggest doing it:
4 First of all, they are to pray together and thus be united in peace, 5 but prayer must always precede the kiss of peace because of the delusions of the devil. 6 All humility should be shown in addressing a guest on arrival or departure.
How might humility be shown in a monastery …
7 By a bow of the head or by a complete prostration of the body, Christ is to be adored because he is indeed welcomed in them. 8 After the guests have been received, they should be invited to pray; then the superior or an appointed brother will sit with them. 9 The divine law is read to the guest for his instruction, and after that every kindness is shown to him.
I suppose if visitors were identified and greeted at the door, accompanying them would be a possibility. Accompaniment is one of Pope Francis’ things. When I’ve visited St Martin’s Abbey nearby, someone is always there to ensure I can manage the Liturgy of the Hours.
10 The superior may break his fast for the sake of a guest, unless it is a day of special fast which cannot be broken.
Here’s a thought for “fastidious” Catholics: when a guest arrives at your home, would you suspend a fast you were keeping? Or modify it? Which fasts are unbreakable, even for the cause of hospitality?
11 The brothers, however, observe the usual fast.
A John 13 moment:
12 The abbot shall pour water on the hands of the guests, 13 and the abbot with the entire community shall wash their feet. 14 After the washing they will recite this verse: God, we have received your mercy in the midst of your temple (Ps 47:10).
A final word from our spiritual father:
15 Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received; our very awe of the rich guarantees them special respect.
Image credit: Saint Benedict Parish, Ahwatukee AZ