In the last post on this subject (Part 6), I spoke about mirroring the sacraments in our daily living, beginning with baptism, and how it related to cleaning and purifying (as described in Chapter 2 of Genevieve Kineke’s book, The Authentic Catholic Woman). Through an understanding of the sacraments, we can apply their principles to our living, keeping us closer to God. This develops our inner beauty, slowly but surely. I had mentioned how difficult a time I had linking cleaning the house to the sacrament of baptism (with the principles of cleansing, purifying and dying to self to rise with Christ), and I realized I needed to stop thinking about my dislike for the job and rather, think about the benefits a clean and orderly house has on my family and their daily living.
The value of hospitality
Cleaning and purifying paves the way for hospitality, the art of welcoming someone into your home and your life, and offering them service through your love. After all, a dirty and disorderly house is hardly welcoming! Hospitality in ancient times for people in the Middle East was not only a nicety, it was a necessity. There were no stores or restaurants along the long, hot paths, no places to drink or to eat, and very few homes along the way. People in that time knew that offering hospitality to a traveler was necessary for that traveler’s life. Hospitality was live-giving.
While hospitality today may not be necessary for physical sustenance, it offers vital emotional sustenance. As Kineke points out, hospitality “provides an essential forum of love and comfort to all” in every phase of life (page 18, The Authentic Catholic Woman). In most cases, we provide food, shelter and comfort, but in some cases it can be literally a matter of life and death. This was the case with St. Gianna Beretta Molla who “welcomed” a child into her womb and bore the child despite the fact that it cost her her life. Her daughter attended St. Gianna’s beatification, thanking her mother for the gift of life, once by allowing conception, and then again by allowing her to be born.
Mary as the example
Mary displayed hospitality by allowing the same – she welcomed God incarnate into her womb where she bore Jesus Christ and then took care of Him, offering vital physical and emotional sustenance. In taking in Jesus, she was able to gaze upon the face of God daily, hold Him in her arms, caress and kiss him, feed and bathe Him. Remembering how the face of Moses glowed after he would speak with God (see Exodus 33), imagine how Mary’s whole life must have glowed!
All about the love
Hospitality is a gift of love. I recall my husband’s grandmother, “Noni”, as the model of hospitality in my life. It took me years to understand why her gift was so special because I needed to look outside of myself to see it. Noni’s welcoming of people and providing food and comfort were not merely duties or chores, they were acts of love, acts as natural as breathing. I recall the time my brother-in-law got married – people were coming and going all weekend long and yet there was always the same welcome, the same offer of food and conversation. Suddenly my eyes were opened and I saw a gift I longed to have. Hospitality does not come naturally to me but I work at it now, always keeping my Noni in mind as my example. She lived in a sacramental manner.
Providing a safe haven
Hospitality not only offers care and comfort, but a safe haven. This part at least I did understand and I made it a priority from the first day my children came into the world that our home would be just that. In this safe haven they were to be respected as people with their own ideas, even from the youngest age. They would be listened to. God has blessed this effort tremendously in that we have excellent relationships with our two 20-something children who happily share their lives with us and know to come home when they need a safe haven.
It’s all about being engaged
As a natural loner, I prefer not to engage with people. Jesus, however, is calling me to engage all the time and to be welcoming at a moment’s notice. It can be as simple as offering a smile and a greeting. Perhaps it’s taking care of others on the job with a pleasant and willing attitude, even if people seem unreasonably demanding. Maybe it’s putting aside the desire to go out after work to a desired activity so I can be home to offer dinner and companionship to my husband.
Hospitality is not about the chores and duties, it’s all about the love. When hospitality is lived in the spirit of baptism, it becomes sacramental, and special.
Copyright 2011 Susan Bailey