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Visitation Hospitality on the Way


The snows of January seem a good time to share reflections occasioned by being snow bound, preparing for a mission presentation at Notre Dame Bishop Gibbons School in Schenectady; setting up next steps in the CND Peace Project with Rose Mary Sullivan; and, of course watching the world events from Tucson to Egypt. Intriguingly enough, exploring the theme Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons’ faculty (and our own Jeanne Fielder) chose for their retreat day, provided a theme that runs through all of the events described above. The theme was hospitality - St. Marguerite must have loved it. (by the way, I did not get to Schenectady, but through virtual reality Jeanne and I were able to collaborate.)

The root meaning of the word "hospitality" connotes the surprise arrival of a guest who is accepted and invited inside a home. A host makes space within the home for the novelty of another. Once inside, guest and host "converse," their identities becoming transposed through the encounter… Hospitality indicates a receptivity and generosity of spirit that "welcomes" the different as an alternative to be considered with justice, humility, courage, and truthfulness. Hospitality nourishes community precisely because it is disposed toward the strange and different, toward what lies beyond the conventional margins of a group's identity… generous and courageously uncalculating, willingly granting by credit a solidarity with what comes unexpectedly and unannounced--the stranger, one who does not belong and who comes from "outside”.

As the host gives to the guest, the host paradoxically receives something precious, unexpectedly becoming more than he or she was before. There is a role-reversal. The host becomes honored and enhanced by sharing space... God blesses through the stranger. That is, in hospitality the center of gravity lies in neither the host nor the guest but in the God of both, who is discovered redemptively in the meeting. As boundaries become porous, the vulnerable stranger who allegedly has nothing to offer becomes a source of enrichment to the household, reconfiguring and transforming it.

This is displayed poignantly in biblical stories of hospitality that depict hosts entertaining angels unaware (see Heb. 13:2.)... (Dt. 10:17-19). (35).



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