Hospitality is an interesting word. It is a wonderful word. I love hospitality. It allows us to give and get back at the same time. It cannot be easily faked because it is baked with love. Doing something without love being at the core of it is just a task being completed. Hospitality is love expressed in words and actions; it is central to everything we do. It is the reason I am where I am. Without it anything we do is just a series of actions.
This was my introduction this week to a conference on the topic of hospitality; a core feature of our Catholic faith. It is interesting that we use the word hospitality as if it is something we take out of the cupboard on special occasions, rather than something we should be wearing at all times.
The hospitality of those welcoming me at Saint Eulalia’s three years ago still resonates in my heart. Those who immediately volunteered to help me after an appeal at Mass for Catechists, the support in the parish office and willingness to accept a “newbie” into the parish. We talk about putting out the welcome mat for others in our lives, but shouldn’t it always be out there?
Hospitality is not pretending to be nice, just doing our work, but doing our work and ministry with intention, with creativity, without anger, with care and attention to detail. Hospitality is not perfection, but perhaps an intention to create a perfect outcome.
Sometimes, just sometimes, when we see hospitality delivered daily, weekly, in fact all time we can become immune to it. Not recognizing the face of God which is embodied in those actions. A welcome without agenda, help offered before it is requested, a listening ear, an open heart.
The parish has such a person who embodies the word hospitality in our pastoral associate, Louise Cocuzzo, someone I always felt I could use as a reference point if my own perspective was not set in a Christ like direction.
We all have those people in our lives who can give us this inspiration, not because they ask for it, but because they embody hospitality. Welcoming friends, family and strangers with an open heart and open mind.
As I meet a hundred retreatants for the first time this weekend, at our center here in Southern California, I think of how far I can go to increase the loving face of hospitality in my own life. We can all learn from the example of those who have the light of Christ burning brightly in their faces, a welcoming smile and in their hearts.
Let me be your server today
Each step is an active part of my love.
Moving towards the table needing clearing,
Responding to an empty cup,
Smiling to a face far from home.
According to mood and pressure.
Sometimes I am invisible,
No one sees me,
Only what I deliver,
And if it’s on time.
However, there is always one,
One who sees me and what I do,
For what it really is,
Loving and giving,
Supporting and consistent.
There when others need me,
No asking for gifts or rewards from them.
Just a smile and greeting,
To show they love me.
Just as I love them.