Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
During this Jubilee year of sabbatical we are revisiting our Monk Manifesto by moving slowly through the Monk in the World retreat materials together every Sunday. Each week will offer new reflections on the theme and every six weeks will introduce a new principle.
Principle Two: I commit to radical acts of hospitality by welcoming the stranger both without and within. I recognize that when I make space inside my heart for the unclaimed parts of myself, I cultivate compassion and the ability to accept those places in others.
“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for him himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
—Rule of St. Benedict 53:1
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.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Art work © Kristin Noelle
Text: “Come,” she said truly. “Welcome.” It wasn’t always easy, depending on the guest. But even in the discomfort it worked on her softening something tight and protected growing a deeper ease.