"Hospitality is a lively, courageous, and convivial way of living that challenges our compulsion either to turn away or to turn inward and disconnect ourselves from others," write Father Daniel Homan, a Benedictine monk, and Lonni Collins Pratt, a journalist and retreat leader. In these fearful times, more and more people are consciously closing down in the face of strangers. Terrorism and the war against it have made everyone feel more insecure and unprotected. The media keeps upping the ante of fear with stories about possible calamities on the horizon. That is why the spiritual practice of hospitality is now more important than ever. It is an antidote to paranoia. As the authors note: "Fear is a thief. It will steal our peace of mind and that's a lot to lose. But it also hijacks relationships, keeping us sealed up in our plastic world with a fragile sense of security."
The Rule of St. Benedict has brought wisdom and comfort to believers for over 1,500 years. One of its main practices is listening, being really present for other human beings. This leads naturally into hospitality, which in monasteries has meant giving guests the space to pray and to rest, to enter silence or to speak in intimate terms about their journey of faith. Homan and Pratt show how this can become a part of anyone's daily life.
Every week we meet strangers and are challenged to come to terms with them. If we have accepted the "other" within ourselves, it is a lot easier to accept that which is alien in strangers. The authors also discuss the ways in which boundaries can be useful: "Boundaries allow us to give more to others, not less. Boundaries do not exclude the other; in fact, if you become a person with actual boundaries, you are better able to give to other people because you do not feel diminished by them. Giving is a joy because you want to give, and not because someone has manipulated you and you gave in." Homan and Pratt are convinced that gratitude opens up a space in us to greet others. Just think about the times in which your heart was overflowing with thanksgiving for all of God's graces. It is during those times that we are most hospitable to others.
The hurtles to hospitality are fear, suspicion, and self-centeredness. They can all be overcome by an open heart. Don't give in to the fear mongers among us; put aside all illusions of safety and you won't be so suspicious of others; put the needs of strangers above your own and you'll feel the kingdom of God making new inroads in your life.
This is a new and expanded version of a 2005 book.