The way we answer doors

Lynne Smith, OSB Hospitality, Living in Community, Monastic Life 2 Comments

The way we answer doors is the way we deal with the world.  ~ Wisdom from the Tradition, Conference of Benedictine Prioresses

How else can we bring
a divided world together
except by providing the open hearth
where all feel warm
and safe enough
to speak their truths
and listen from their hearts.  ~ An Extravagant Love, Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB

These reflections on Benedictine hospitality are found in Wisdom from the Tradition, written by the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses. Insights into the wisdom to be found within the Benedictine tradition were gathered from Benedictine women’s communities throughout the US and Canada. The section on hospitality was written by members of our own community here at Holy Wisdom Monastery. I would like to share additional selections from that section with you:

All people want to know and be known, to belong and to be considered worthy of welcome, to speak and to be considered worthy of being spoken to. The long tradition of monastic hospitality challenges us as 21st century Benedictine women [and, indeed, 21st century Christians] to listen carefully and to respond wholeheartedly to the human longings we encounter daily.

A renewed awareness of the wisdom of monastic hospitality is manifesting itself in this age of violence and fear of unknown others. Benedictine poet Mary Lou Kownacki gives voice to a contemplative monastic’s desire to respond to the world’s longings in “An Extravagant Love:”

Because I want an extravagant heart
I stay close to those
whose hearts are wide enough
to embrace the world . . .

How I love these great souls of wild gesture
and extravagant heart.

How their words fly in the face
of all we’re conditioned
to believe about people
these days . . .

If ever we needed
a people of extravagant heart,
it is here,
at this moment . . .

The point is that every person
and every idea
is brought to the monastery
and broken open
against the rock that is Christ . . .

How else can we bring
a divided world together
except by providing the open hearth
where all feel warm
and safe enough
to speak their truths
and listen from their hearts.

We have come to understand that hospitality is a sacred duty and trust. It is God whom we receive, whether in the person of a stranger or a well-beloved friend.

While it is an unusual attitude for our own culture that fears strangers, we are called to believe that the stranger has a blessing to give. The way we answer doors is the way we deal with the world.

Where do you experience “extravagant love” or an extravagant welcome? When have you been called on to offer hospitality to the stranger? Was it easy? Was it difficult? Did you experience a breaking open inside of yourself in the process of offering hospitality? Were you able to call on God’s extravagant love to overcome your own fears?

Would you like to join us in offering such hospitality to others? Consider our Benedictine Sojourner program, an opportunity for single Christian women, 20-50, to live, pray and work with us in our mission of hospitality.

Comments 2

  1. I love this blog. Just wondering if there is a book or a collection or writings called “Wisdom from the Tradition”, written by the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses. I would love to read more. Any chance someone might be able to email me?

    1. Hi Carol: I’m glad to hear you like this blog! We do have 12 copies of “Wisdom from the Tradition: A Statement of North American Benedictine Women in Response to Our Times.” They are available for $6 if you want to come to the monastery and pick it up, or $9 if you want one mailed. If you’re interested, just give me a call at (608) 836-1631 x124 or email me at mikesb@benedictinewomen.org. -Mike

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