“Hospitality is not just about opening our doors, but opening our very souls.”

Rev. Mark Suslenko


This week, Fr. Ed Witt, pastor at St. Isaac Jogues in Rapid City, sent me an email advertising a new booklet on Hospitality being released by 23rd Publications.  It caught my eye because the introduction opens with the quote from the Rule of St. Benedict, “All guests are to be welcomed as Christ.”  We, too, have used this quote to describe what we mean by Generous Hospitality in the Diocese of Rapid City.  But the title of the first chapter took me by surprise — “Hospitality to Self.”  What is the author getting at here?  

We have written many times on this blog about Generous Hospitality.  Often we are trying to get at just what is generous hospitality.  What does it look like?  Bishop Gruss used to say, “It is more than coffee and donuts after Mass.”  I would argue it goes beyond a friendly smile offered to a stranger.  It also goes beyond greeters at the door of our churches.  All of these things are good things and we should continue to do them, but it is also true that:

“Generous Hospitality requires an attentiveness to the other.  . . (a willingness) to sacrifice my time and attention and give it to another.  It also requires a certain sensitivity to how others are experiencing life.” (January 2019 Post)  And that:  “True hospitality really comes from the heart.  So making your heart ‘guest ready’ is the really hard work . . . when you are ready to sit and listen and give people permission to be authentic; when you are ready to give people space in your life . . .”  Ennie Hickman quoted in a January 2020 Post  In short, “hospitality is not just about opening our doors but opening our very souls.”  Rev. Mark Suslenko quoted in a July 2019 post 


And this is precisely what I think the author of this new pamphlet is getting at.  Genuine Christian hospitality involves a willingness to sacrifice, an ability to share something of one’s heart, and the capacity to see others’ needs.  It’s goal is to share the love of God with another and to receive the other as a gift.  All of this requires a good dose of self-awareness and self possession. In addition, sharing the love of God presupposes the fact that we have experienced it first ourselves; we have allowed His love and grace to so permeate us that, when we share something of ourselves with another, it is Christ that is mirrored.  Lastly, it requires us to have the eyes to see Jesus in another; to see them as Jesus sees them. In my mind then, “Hospitality to Self” involves taking the time to grow in awareness of ourselves and closeness to Christ as well as cultivate the virtues necessary to love sacrificially and the sight to see things as God sees them.  

St. Catherine of Siena, who’s feast day we celebrated last week, offers timely advice for doing just this. She says, “Build yourself a spiritual cell, which you can always take with you, and that is the cell of self-knowledge; you will find there also the knowledge of God’s goodness to you. There are really two cells in one, and if you live in one you must also live in the other, otherwise the soul will either despair or be presumptuous; if you dwelt in self-knowledge alone you would despair; if you dwelt in knowledge of God alone you would be tempted to presumption. One must go with the other, and thus you will reach perfection.”  One of the hallmarks of St. Catherine’s spirituality was that knowledge of God leads us to a greater self-knowledge.  Also, as this quote makes clear, we can only have a healthy self-knowledge when such knowledge is wrapped in the experience of God’s goodness and Love.  To have both a true knowledge of self beside an ability to dwell in knowledge of God frees us to “reach perfection.” 

We might be tempted to think that in this time of social distancing our opportunities to practice Generous Hospitality are greatly diminished or perhaps even removed all together.  However, I have been encouraged to think this week about “Hospitality to Self”.  How can I use this time that we have, when life has slowed down and there is more time to be introspective, to grow in self-knowledge?  To gain a deeper knowledge of God?  To dwell more firmly within Him? And finally, to build more firmly within myself the vision, attitudes and virtues that will free me to open my soul to others and mirror more perfectly the love of Christ when things get back to “normal.”   

St. Catherine, pray for us.  Lead us deeper into our “spiritual cell”.  Calm our fear, dispel our darkened vision, that we might find in these quiet times, in our solitude, not only who we truly are, but who God is calling us to be.

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