St. Benedict invites us to welcome in each stranger we encounter as the face of Christ in our lives. Those people who make us uncomfortable or we dislike are especially included. I also believe that Benedict meant to extend this hospitality within ourselves and seek out the stranger who knocks within on our hearts – that part of ourselves that has been neglected or shut out. This inner and outer act of hospitality are intimately connected. As we grow in compassion for the places within which challenge us, we are able to extend that compassion toward others. The more we grow intimate with our own places of weakness or unlived longings, the more we can accept these in others.
When people in our lives stir a strong reaction in us, often it is because we are seeing our own shadow side being reflected back to us. Being curious about our response opens us up to greater interior freedom as we discover the inner places we have neglected.
Monastic spirituality calls us to see everything and everyone – including ourselves – as holy. The tools of the kitchen are to be regarded as sacred vessels. The places in our heart where we wrestle are to be embraced with kindness. The person who irritates us or makes us feel fearful is a window into how God is at work in our lives. Being a monk in the world means that there are no more divisions between sacred and secular.
What would it mean for you to welcome in neglected parts of yourself?
When you consider hospitality, is there someone who comes to mind with whom you could practice?
Holy Presence of God,
Create in me a welcoming space
to usher in the grace that newness offers.
May my heart be spacious
and my spirit free.
May your infinite compassion
grow in me like sunlight across a field,
luminous and radiant.
copyright Christine Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts
monk in the world ecourse