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Welcoming the Guest as Christ

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“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ” – The Rule of Benedict, 53:1

Before I entered the novitiate at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, I took part in candidacy, a three-month-long period of introduction to the monastic life. To determine if I wanted to undertake the rigors of novitiate, my superiors granted me a week off from the monastery. Since home is quite a fluid concept for me, my friend Sara—more of a sister; I met her during our time at Quincy University—invited me out to her home in Colorado. Since I had never been to Colorado, I thought it would be great idea.

My trip was fraught with flight delays and mechanical issues. I also do not enjoy flying, as I do not have control of the plane. There was an issue with my rental car, preventing me from picking it up after a long day of traveling; I opted to take a cab the rest of the way. My trip was far from a disaster, but it was stressful.

When I arrived at Sara’s home, she welcomed me with the love of Christ. When she asked about the trip, I vented about all the troubles, especially the rental car snafu; she chided me about spending money on a cab when she would have been happy to pick me up.

On top of all of that, I got altitude sickness during the second day of my trip. She told me not to do the dishes (but I did anyway) and simply relax. In the grips of adjusting to the altitude, I acquiesced and tried to enjoy a few days with nothing but reading, praying, and the daily celebration of the Eucharist . . . and the Food Network. It was a very pleasant time, but do not ask me about the return trip!

All of us know the stories of Abraham and Sarah welcoming God (cf. Gen 18:1–15) and, of course, our Blessed Mother’s holy willingness to let God dwell in her womb, thus enabling her to extend help to her cousin Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39–56). These stories—these events—lead us deeper into the mystery of the love of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is a communion of love, one in which the three Persons live in a level of intimacy and togetherness that we can become a part of. The love we show to travelers and guests is that love in action.

As a man being formed in the Benedictine way of life, the events of the past several days have caused me to pause, reflect, and pray. Sara, who to my knowledge has not read the Rule, had a profound understanding of the virtue of welcoming the guest as Christ himself. I have even spent two Christmases with her and her family. All of this has taken place in the backdrop of a tough year for her. Even while dealing with several major changes that have taken place in her life, she still reflects the love of the Trinity in her actions.

Why does any of this matter? Given the events of 2016, some may have profound and timely questions about the future of immigration in our country. How are we as followers of Jesus Christ supposed to extend hospitality when the government may halt our efforts? The answer I have may be simple, but it is the best option. We pray, we practice what we preach with those Christ sends us, and we enmesh them in that love which has enmeshed us. It can be helping the homeless, the immigrant, or a friend who needs a home for a few days.

Novice Joseph Wagner, O.S.B.

Joseph Wagner holds an M.A. in liturgical studies from the Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. His research focuses on the social and political ramifications of the Liturgical Movement in the United States. He at St. Meinrad's Archabbey.