According to St. Benedict, guests, “who are never lacking in the monastery” are “to be received as Christ” for Christ said, “as long as you did it to one of these least, you did it to me.” The sculpture located in the St. Benedict’s Retreat Centre foyer, “Christa,” is a symbol of the presence of Christ in both the guest and the one who receives the guest.
Hospitality is not mere sociability (as in the “hospitality industry”), but a sacred duty. Biblical hospitality invites us to see in the visitor a divine messenger. While the community and each member may have something to offer a guest, the guest also brings a gift.
In our day and age, we have become suspect of all that is different, including the stranger. It is a risk to open our doors to those whom we do not know, who are different. Yet the test of true faith is our ability to welcome the strange and the stranger, to make a friend of a potential enemy, to include rather than exclude. In welcoming the “other” we may thereby “entertain angels unawares.”
In Benedict’s day, hospitality was offered to travellers who needed shelter for the night before travelling on. Today the ministry of hospitality is exercised in many different ways.
At St. Benedict’s Monastery, we often welcomes guests who come for personal retreats or workshops offered in the retreat and conference centre. These guests have the option of being in solitude, requesting time to speak with a spiritual director, or engaging in their group’s activities or a Centre spirituality program. St. Benedict’s Place provides a home to seniors who must leave their homes due to their diminishing age.
Younger and older, for them all we provide a room ‒ a share in our home ‒ in simple, safe, and beautiful natural surroundings, an opportunity to celebrate Eucharist in our Chapel, and company in the dining room. Our ministry of hospitality also extends beyond the monastery so that we can exercise hospitality of heart in all our encounters. Thereby, we do our part to extend the reign of the God of peace and justice.
As individuals and families, parishes and companies, the gift of hospitality can be extended in many ways in word and deed. Just as Abraham welcomed three strangers and in return was promised a son, we are all promised some new life when we “entertain angels unawares.”