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The source of hospitality is the heart of God, who yearns to unite every creature within one embrace. Only in the fullness of time will God gather all things in Christ, yet God’s boundless welcome is something we already enjoy here and now in the Eucharist. Our life together as a community gives us a foretaste of the communion of saints. So we have the power to be a sacrament of God’s hospitality, a house of God, offering his nurture and protection to all who come under our roof.
It is not enough merely to offer accommodation to visitors. Our faith must recognize the one who comes to us in the person of the guest, the stranger and the pilgrim. It is the Lord, who has identified himself with each of his sisters and brothers. If we are to give them bread and not stones, and truly meet Christ in them face to face, we must realize the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us for the ministry of hospitality, and remember how deeply people are yearning for the things of God. We have silence for our guests, which protects the mystery of their hearts and brings healing. We have our ongoing stream of worship, which they can enter. We have the fellowship of our altar and our table. We offer security, where guests are safe from intrusion and free to pray. Our houses have simple beauty. We offer courtesy, acceptance and intercession. And the Spirit has given us gifts of guidance, teaching and encouragement by which we can help retreatants grow in Christ.
We must also remain true to the limits of our hospitality. The claims of our life together and our other ministries mean we cannot take in everyone who wants to come or meet a guest’s every need. We cannot offer the closeness that some are seeking and can seldom be available as pastoral counselors. Normally our guests can stay only for short periods. If we let our life as a brotherhood be overwhelmed by the claims of guests, we could endanger the resources by which we can serve them. We can be confident of the rightness of boundaries that contain and foster our own life together. Every house shall have a private area to which guests are not normally invited and there shall be interludes during the year when guests are not received. The brothers who are given primary responsibility for our ministry of hospitality know its cost more than any and they need our support. Not every guest will be easy to welcome. If we experience difficulties in our relationship with any guests we should pray specially to find Christ in them and consult one another about the most appropriate resolution.
Just as we enrich our guests’ lives, so they enrich ours. We welcome men and women of every race and culture, rejoicing in the breadth and diversity of human experience that they bring to us. Their lives enlarge our vision of God’s world. The stories of their sufferings and achievements and their experience of God stir and challenge us. If we are attentive, each guest will be a word and gift of God to us.
The hospitality offered by the Brothers not only provides retreat and all the sustenance described, but it also often draws like-minded people. Thus in the days on retreat one feels part of a larger community. This is nurturing and makes it easier to return to the world where finding like-minded people is often rare.