Tag Archives: hospitality

Holy porters

Saturday, November 18, Capuchin Father Solanus Casey will be beatified in Detroit, Michigan. A Wisconsin native he became a Capuchin and was ordained a priest. But, for various reasons, he was not allowed to preach or hear confessions.

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Reading about his life, I found out that he had been at St. Felix Friary in Huntington, Indiana, from 1946 until 1956. I taught high school part-time for two years in Huntington and often worshipped at the Friary. I did not know I was praying where a saint had lived.

After several assignments, he ended up in Detroit, where he served as porter, door-keeper for Saint Bonaventure Monastery. There he opened the door, counseled many, and saw that the poor were fed. He showed holiness in simple acts of love of God and of all who came his way. As he once said, “We must be faithful to the present moment or we will frustrate the plan of God for our lives.”

A friend of mine, David Nantais, wrote an article on Father Solanus for America magazine nine years ago. It’s worth reading as well as a more recent article on the Francican Media website.

There are other holy porters. One of the most notable is Saint André Bessette, a Holy Cross brother, who served in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The poor and sick flocked to him, seeking healing and love. He was very devoted to Saint Joseph and now you can visit a shrine to the foster father of Jesus on the hill where St. André lived and prayed.

You can read more about these two holy door keepers in an article by Fr. Thomas Rosica.

There are other porters, at least two I know of.

St. Juan Macias was a Dominican lay brother, porter of the Dominican convent of Santa María Magdalena in Lima, Perú. His generosity brought him the epithet “Father of the Poor.”

St. Alfonso Rodriguez was a Jesuit brother who entered the Jesuits later in life. He was the porter of the Jesuit college on the island of Majorca. He influenced the missionary vocation of St. Peter Claver to go to Colombia and work with slaves. When he was canonized, the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a beautiful poem in his honor. The second stanza reads:

Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.

What moves me in the lives of these door keepers is their attention to those whom they welcomed at their door. Their hospitality moved minds and hearts; their attention to the needs of others brought healing. They recognized Christ in everyone who knocked at the door.

They truly practiced the virtue of hospitality.

I pray that I can learn that virtue from them an I ask their intercession for this grace. I am all too prone to consider people who knock at the door as interruptions, rather than as calls to live out my vocation as a Christian and, now, as a deacon.

They serve to remind me of the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews 13, 2:

Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have entertained angels unaware.

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Taking the initiative in hospitality

When he saw them,
he ran from the entrance of the tent
to greet them.
Genesis 18:2

One of the most famous icons in the world is Andrei Rublev’s The Trinity, which depicts the three strangers who were welcomed by Abraham. I have seen other depictions of this scene that include Abraham and Sarah.

AbrahamVisitors

But reading today’s first lectionary reading, Genesis 18: 1-15, I noticed that Abraham was seated in his tent and he noticed the three men standing nearby. They had not come to the entrance to his tent, seeking help. They were just there.

And Abraham ran. This old man runs – something not very seeming for a revered old man. He runs to greet them and invites them to wash their feet, eat some food, rest, and then go on their way.

How often do I think that hospitality is being attentive to those who knock on my door. But that’s a minimalistic understanding of the hospitality of God.

Abraham teaches us that hospitality is looking out from his tent for the stranger, for the wayfarer. It means taking the initiative to welcome the other. We need not wait until someone comes asking help or a cup of water. We are called to follow the example of Abraham and go out and bring in the stranger.

Isn’t this what Pope Francis has been telling us. We need to go out from where we are, from the walls of our churches and our homes?

Isn’t this what the current refugee and migrant crises call us to do – not building walls, but strangers – refugees and migrants – into our midst?

Isn’t this what I am called to do as a deacon – to go out, running like the old Abraham, to serve those who stand outside in the heat of the day?

Isn’t that what God does for us – running out of heaven, coming down to earth, to show us love and rescue us from sin and separation?

Do not neglect hospitality,
for through it some have entertained angels unaware.
Hebrews 13:2

 


 

The photo is of a miniature that I purchased in Jerusalem, in the Church of the Dormition, many years ago – the work of a local artist.

Welcome the stranger

Remember always to welcome strangers,
for through it some have
entertained angels unaware.
Hebrews 13: 2

In many Catholic churches today the homily will be on the Gospel story of Mary and Martha. It’s a shame that many will probably not reflect on today’s first reading from Genesis (8: 1-10), the beautiful story of Abraham, Sarah, and the three visitors.

The most famous image is Andrei Rublev’s icon The Trinity, but forty years ago I saw an icon in Athens with Abraham and Sarah in the background as the three visitors ate. About ten years ago I found a miniature in Jerusalem that I’ve placed at the entrance of my home here in Honduras.

abraham3visitors

But reading the text this morning something struck me that I had never noticed before.

Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent at the hottest time of day. He looked up and saw them standing there and then:

 When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them.

He did not wait for them to approach. He took the initiative to welcome them, offer them water to bathe their feet and food to eat.

Welcoming the stranger is not merely waiting for someone to come and ask for help. As Abraham took the initiative so should we.

Like the Good Samaritan of last Sunday’s Gospel, we are called to see, feel compassion, and draw near – making ourselves neighbor to those who are in need or are passing by.

Welcoming the stranger is not merely waiting for them to come; it’s a positive act of welcome.

Come. Sit here with me. Let me give you something to eat.

And so, we may welcome angels, the messengers of God in disguise.

Look up. See them standing there. Welcome them in.

It won’t always be easy. I’m reading Dorothy Day’s diaries, The Duty of Delight, which reveal the difficulties she experienced and the challenges she faced.  But, she persevered, with prayer and patience, and so entertained these messengers of God. Appropriately, a film about her is entitled Entertaining Angels, even though it was not always entertaining.