An Excerpt from the 10th Anniversary Edition of
St. Benedict’s Toolbox
Hello. Here is a sample from my book, St. Benedict’s Toolbox. I chose a selection from Chapter 7: Benedictine Hospitality – Hearts Overflowing With Love. Hospitality is a key component in The Rule of St. Benedict. Benedict is meticulous in providing direction for how his members are to show hospitality not only to the guests of the monastery, but also to one another.
The following selection from St. Benedict’s Toolbox is entitled “Putting Hospitality into Practice.”
The Excerpt – Putting Hospitality into Practice
The model of Benedictine hospitality outlined in the Rule provides us with a way to be Christ’s welcoming servants today as both “receivers and givers of grace.”* I’d like to share an example.
Taking Time For Hospitality
One summer while I was still a rector at a parish in New Jersey, I was tired and anxious to get home at the end of a hectic day. As I stepped out through the church door, I realized that the homeless family who was staying with us must have arrived for the evening. (Each summer we housed families as a part of the Interfaith Hospitality Network** in our county.) I thought, “I should go down and greet them and see how they are doing. But I really don’t feel like it.”
Knowing that it was important that the family knew we cared, my sense of responsibility (the Benedictine vow of Obedience) won out. I wearily I trudged down the steep stairs to the church basement, asking God to help me effervesce when I felt pretty uninspired.
Walking into the room I was greeted by the glad voices of mother and children. After hugs all around I sat down and spent 15 or 20 minutes with them, inquiring about their day and talking about all sorts of things.
When I got up to leave, I was a different person. I felt refreshed and energized! Had I just had a vacation and didn’t know it?? In truth my reluctant offer of hospitality was repaid ten-fold. What small grace I felt that I gave poured back onto me as a wave of love.
Making a Space of Hospitality for Others
All we need to do is to make a space of hospitality around us as Henri Nouwen suggested [in his book Reaching Out]. We can keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to what God would have us do. When our center rests in God we can empty ourselves as Christ did (Phil 2:7). We become free to replace hostility with hospitality. Then we can welcome friends or strangers as Christ to us at that moment. (RB 53.1) . We can receive the gifts that they offer to us.
We are often far from this today. We can be reluctant to take the time to be truly present to others. We can find it difficult to accept people as they are. Yet, with our families, in our circle of friends, in the church, at work – with Christ’s help – we can set aside our agendas and our expectations about people.
We can instead make room inside ourselves for others, one person at a time. We can provide a space of hospitality into which others may freely enter and feel safe because they know that they are accepted. We can meet our families and friends, strangers and guests “with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love.” (Rule Prologue 49***)
Overview of a Sample Tool
One of the tools in the toolbox for Hospitality is Hospitality in the Family. Suggestions include—
- Talking to your children about hospitality
- Discovering ways to practice hospitality
- Greeting your family member as Christ
- Extending hospitality to others as a family
- Being fully present to your family at mealtimes
Want to Learn More about the 10th Anniversary Edition of the Toolbox?
I hope that reading the above whetted your appetite for more from St. Benedict and his Rule.
To reach an overview about the Toolbox, click here. Enjoy!