Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Radical Hospitality: Benedict's way of love

Last week I spent a few days on retreat at Mepkin Abbey, whose monks are in the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (OCSO). When visiting such monasteries, I am struck by their generous hospitality that welcomes all sorts and conditions of people. Such Benedictine hospitality is a basic tenet of the oft-seen sign, "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You."

Here are a couple of paragraphs from a book I bought in the monastery gift shop:

Monasteries are increasingly making room for strangers, by planning their lives to allow room for guests. This hospitality is included in the Benedictine rule, but it is also the current reality of monasteries. People are knocking on the door. People of all faiths or no faith at all are drawn to something about monasticism. The challenge for Benedictines is to preserve their monastic distinction, their way of life, while continuing to welcome the stranger. It is similar to the challenge you face as you attempt to keep time for yourself and your closest relationships while developing an open attitude.

The walking dead stand at the gates of the monastery. If life doesn't kill your wonder, it will at least wound your spirit. The monastic way is sometimes called the path of life, and life is what we seek. People go to the monastery in search of life. Today, Benedictines are not physically saving lives by their tradition, but they do continue to save lives. The spirit of monastic hospitality gives us something healing and rejuvenating. So, while practically speaking, hospitality has changed since Benedict's day
[c.480-c.550 A.D.], the lifesaving spirit of it has remained. -- Radical Hospitality: Benedict's Way of Love, Daniel Homan and Lonnie Collins Pratt

It is little wonder that Benedict of Nursia is sometimes referred to as "the father of Western civilization."

In peace,

The Rev. Linda McCloud
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek
Photo: Mepkin Abbey
Moncks Corner, SC
January 2008

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