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The virtue of hospitality

Each of the Holy Cross congregations, founded by Father Basil Moreau, is known for its expression of hospitality. People often comment on how welcoming the religious of this community are, and that they feel at home with them.

In his book on Father Moreau, author Gary Mac Eoin says that members of the congregations of Holy Cross are the most hospitable people he has ever met.

Being hospitable is not reserved for select groups, however. Every Christian is called to be a welcoming person. Why? Because Jesus modeled this for us. He reached out to everyone, especially sinners. People felt good when they were around him. He treated each person with dignity and respect.

Hospitality is a vital component of Christian love. It gives flesh to what a loving person is about. Hospitable people accept others into their presence regardless of who they are or where they come from. They always have room for another person in their hearts and at the table of their lives. They make others feel wanted and at ease.

I have been thinking about this virtue in light of the immigration controversy in our country. I won’t get into the many issues here, but I do think that each of us, as followers of Christ, need to examine how open to and accepting we are of people of other cultures and from other countries. Do we make the stranger welcome in our presence or would we rather them stay in their own countries or part of town?

When we have time to stop and reflect upon the activities of our daily lives, most of us are presented with all kinds of opportunities to be hospitable. Hospitality is not limited to how welcoming we are to those different from us. It may be as simple as inviting someone to sit with us during lunch or to join in some other activity.

Hospitality could be as simple as starting a conversation with someone to whom we’ve never spoken when at Mass; reaching out to a person who appears to have come to church alone; giving directions to those who obviously seem lost on campus or at your workplace; smiling at a stranger who passes by on a street or in a store. Most of us can think of other situations.

I witnessed a good example of hospitality a couple of years ago during new student orientation at Saint Mary’s College. There was such a welcoming environment as students, faculty and staff helped the new students move into their assigned rooms. They even wore special orientation T-shirts that said “Welcome Home!” Several of the newly enrolled said the reason they chose the college was the warm spirit of hospitality they encountered when they first visited the campus.

Many years ago when I was home in New Jersey visiting my family, my parents and I went to the Methodist church where my brother, who was working his way through college, directed the church choir.

I still remember how warmly the church members there welcomed us and immediately made us feel right at ease. Had I not been a committed member of my own church, their loving spirit could have attracted me to return.

Extending hospitality is not just a nice thing to do. It is an integral part of what it means to be a Christian and a follower of Christ. Take some prayer time to reflect on how well, or not, you have exercised this important virtue. Think about the people who are welcomed into the circle of your life.

Jesus told us that when we welcome anyone we are welcoming him. There are no exceptions.

Sister Margie Lavonis is a Sister of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Ind. Contact her at mlavonis@cscsisters.org.






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