All posts tagged: hospitality

The Cure for a Throwaway Culture

Fr. Julián Carrón, leader of the Communion and Liberation movement, has a familiar refrain when asked about the Holy Father, “If you don’t think Pope Francis is the cure, you don’t grasp the disease.” The disease, already well-advanced in the developed West, is the “throwaway culture.” Francis describes those of us who have it as slaves to mentality “in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable. This way of thinking has room only for a select few, while it discards all those who are unproductive.” The inherent, irreducible value of inefficient human beings who are a net burden is ignored or even actively rejected by a throwaway culture which finds such value inconvenient. Francis obviously has direct killing as a primary concern here, but is also worried about the structural violence present in how we order ourselves. Francis insists that a commandment like Thou Shalt Not Kill applies very clearly to our “economy of exclusion.” In the Pope’s view, this economy “kills.” And the kind of exclusion with which Francis …

Human Dignity Was a Rarity Before Christianity

In my theological writings over the past twenty years, I have often (some might say tediously often) returned to two episodes from the gospels that never quite lose their power to startle me: that of Peter weeping in the early light of dawn over the realization that, contrary to his fervent protestations of the night just past, he has denied Christ before the world; and that of Christ’s confrontation with Pilate (especially as recounted in John’s gospel). After so much time, one might reasonably expect that the fascination would wane, or at least cease to have the quality of surprise. But nothing of the sort. Recently, as I was preparing my own translation of the New Testament for Yale University Press, I found myself drawn to both episodes yet again, with the same old familiar feeling that they contain something at once momentous and uncanny, something somehow out of place and out of time. Something is happening in these passages, homely as they may seem, that never happened before. We speak today very easily, if …

Ancient Israel’s Law of Defending the Weak

The command to remember is a common refrain in Deuteronomy (eg. Dt 5:15; 7:18 et al.).[1] What the Law requires of Israel is in some sense an extension of what God himself has done for her. The memory of that favor underscores Israel’s responsibility to do the same. This is nowhere more true, perhaps, than in the care for the vulnerable. “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge; but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this” (Dt 24:17-18). Israel is to identify with the weak and to extend what she herself has received. “You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (cf. Ex 22:21; 23:9; Lev 19:33-34; Dt 10:19; 23:7). This reception and extension of mercy is expressed beautifully in the life of Ruth, a Moabite and the widow …

The Hospitality of Adoption

“I hope that you’ll have one of your own one day.” Anyone who has adopted a child has heard this statement more than once. As an adopting parent of two children, I’ve learned to grit my teeth and smile, offering this gentle retort, “Well, I happen to see my children as my own. But thank you.” The simmering anger that normally accompanied my response has dissipated over the years. I’ve replaced the rage with a reasonable question: why is my well-intentioned questioner so concerned about having a child who is biologically one’s own? Biological parenthood, of course, is a good. The human race does need to be propagated. The wonder of sexual union (in addition to it often being fun) is the possibility of a new life coming into existence. From the mutual affection of man and woman, from self-gift, a child may be born. The child takes on characteristics from the mother and father, reflecting back to husband and wife the gift of their union. From the result of the love of two, a third …

Welcoming the Child: Foundations of the Hospitable Imagination

Bearing and bringing life into the world is the primordial act of hospitality, the universal experience of co-creating with God and welcoming the stranger, essentially the “first” work of mercy. Many will argue the political nuances of life issues and prioritizing who deserves the loudest voice in a world clamoring for one’s conscience and one’s action. But when we draw a collective breath and the dust settles, we must acknowledge the most basic reality of human life. We have all come into this world as tiny, vulnerable, powerless children dependent on our mother’s bodily hospitality and a warm and nourishing landing spot after birth. All of us. Without exception.   I definitely didn’t “get” this until I was pregnant with my first child and went through the miraculous, traumatic, transformative experience of pregnancy and birth. A lot of things came into focus after that pivotal moment in my life as a woman. I understood for the first time what it meant to literally give your life for another (though I did not actually die). I …

A Chair and a Half

Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he who in his great mercy gave us a new birth; a birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; a birth to an imperishable inheritance, incapable of fading or defilement, which is kept in heaven for you who are guarded with God’s power through faith; a birth to salvation which stands ready to be revealed in the last days. As any good preacher does, I paid my due diligence and researched the history of 1 Peter for this occasion. It was clear to me that this reading for today was the blessing prefacing a longer teaching; but when was it written and to whom? That’s when I came across this explanation from a commentary: “[We] suggest [an authorship] . . . after the death of Peter and Paul, perhaps A.D. 70–90. The author would be a disciple of Peter in Rome, representing a Petrine group that served as a bridge between Palestinian origins of Christianity …

True Hospitality

Being the new girl is hard. I am very used to being the door-opener and the welcomer. I recently moved from Washington, D.C. to Chicago. I have been on the other side of the door lately, the one being welcomed. The hospitality extended to me has been intentional and genuine. It seems to me that, lately, the world may have forgotten what Christian hospitality is intended to be, but L’Arche has not forgotten. The core members reveal to me, through every interaction, what true Christian hospitality looks like. For those unfamiliar with L’Arche (French for “the ark”), it is a community of faith where people with and without developmental disabilities share life together in homes, as a family. The core members are adults with developmental disabilities, and assistants live in community with them. L’Arche provides a unique model of care, where quality professional care is merged with mutual relationships to build a community where everyone has a genuine place of belonging. We seek to be a sign of hope, revealing the truth that all people—including …

Three ‘Single’ Thoughts on Marriage

Thought 1: Marriage is a gift. Single people often hear the message, “If you want to get married, make yourself someone worthy of marriage.” It’s in magazines and media. It’s in the advice of friends and parents. Be interesting. Take up another hobby. Smile more. Make yourself more beautiful, skinnier, and happier. Be aggressive. Go after what you want. It’s in the competitive air we breathe. Marriage is seen as a personal achievement. It’s a life goal, a marker that you’ve made it. You’re one of the elite, the worthy ones, willing to do the hard work of earning marriage. And if you aren’t willing to work hard, you’ll be left out. It’s a dog eat dog world. Blood, sweat, and tears, and all that. This is battle, people. The Catholic world talks about being “worthy-of-marriage” a little differently, but it’s the same idea. Read more Theology of the Body. Have experiences that make you an interesting person to be around. Meet the Holy Father. Go on pilgrimage. Be holier. Don’t curse. Pray more, and …

The Fruitful Promise of God

“Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years, and Sarah had stopped having her menstrual periods” (Gen 18:11). This is the kind of detail that frequently perplexes my undergraduates. Why does the Bible care about Sarah’s fertility? The promise that God makes to Abraham consists of land and progeny: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen 12:2). Yet, there’s a problem. Abraham and Sarah are very old—well past the age of childbearing. If the covenant is to be fulfilled, it will be God’s miraculous intervention that is required. And of course, God acts. The LORD appears to Abraham through the mediation of three mysterious figures. And Abraham, righteous man that he is, approaches them, bringing them water in the midst of a desert. He bathes their hot and tired feet, inviting them to sit down at table. He provides not simply a bit of bread but yogurt and meat. He welcomes the stranger in …

Benedictine Hospitality as Making Space

Yesterday, I spoke at St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, IL, on Sacrosanctum Concilium. Before the talk, I was invited to pray at Mass, as well as eat dinner with the monks in the refectory. At Mass, I watched as the monks entered the Abbey Church, some using walkers to make their way to the choir. The last monk to enter was blind, moving slowly with his walker down the sloped church. The eyes of every monk was watching him not with a sense of impatience but attentive to any needs that he might have during his journey to the choir. Individual monks, unbeknowst to their aged confrere, moved slowly out of the way, making space for their brother in Christ. At dinner, the subtle dance of making space continued. The monks knew where to sit at table. They knew who was to pray, and when he was to lead prayer. They slowly told their guests what to do, never in a demanding way, but with a spirit of love. They waited for their after meal prayer …