This is the first post of a three part series on hospitality, which we will publish over the next several weeks. This series came about naturally, with our blog writers submitting unique posts on this topic on their own accord, within days of each other. That tells us that the Spirit is moving, and may desire Aggie Catholics to dive into this topic a little more deeply! How can the concept of home, welcoming, reaching out, hospitality, and belonging become more present in our lives? What does that teach us about God?
There is such comfort in these words.
These are the words we would scream at the top of our lungs every week to scared middle-schooler campers as they stumbled off the bus into our little neck of the woods in Georgia. Flags waving, people dancing, chaos everywhere – welcome to our home!
At the beginning of each week, most of the teens were pretty quiet. In the first few days, not much depth was reached in our conversations. As their week at Lifeteen summer camp progressed, the teens would begin to realize that we actually meant it when we welcomed them to our home. As a result, transformation started to happen. The masks came off, the walls came down, and the teens met Christ.
It’s amazing what a difference it made to feel at home.
Yes, home is different for everyone. Some homes are loud, others are quiet… Some are messy while others are spotless. But for most people, home is a place that is comfortable: a place where you can kick off your shoes and stay a while. Home is a place that you can be fully and authentically yourself.
If there’s one thing that I learned from my time as a missionary, it is that everyone desires to find a home. We as college students are no exception to the rule. In this time of transition, we desire consistency and familiarity; we desire to be seen, to be known, to be loved. We, whether we realize it or not, desire to feel at home.
With this in mind, it makes sense that the transition to college can be tough. We leave the places and people we have been surrounded by our whole lives and plant our roots in a new town with new people, new places, new experiences, new challenges – all while trying to balance school, sleep, and everything else we try to cram in the day. I don’t think there is a person out there that did not struggle with this daunting transition. It can be stressful, it can be isolating, and with suicide being the second highest cause of death for college students, it’s evident that we need to do something.
Our first thoughts might be that we need to create another program or ministry. We need to have better posters, more flyers, have bigger events. We feel the need to do more. I think the answer is actually quite simple.
“Hospitality requires not grand gestures, but open hearts. Hospitality is not necessarily keeping guests occupied or entertained. Instead, Benedict tells us to offer an open heart, a stance of availability, and to look for God in every single person who comes through the door. Little acts of giving, one upon another, pile up to create a huge force capable of repelling the darkness and transforming the world. Your life is not personal property; you belong to God. We are simply stewards of what God has given us. We are to serve one another in love. Everyone is a guest – even those of us who live here. Hospitality, rather than being something you achieve, is something that you enter. It is not something you do, but something you become. You try. You fail. You try again.
You make room for one person at a time.
We become more hospitable by welcoming one person when the opportunity arises. Receive every person as if you are receiving Christ himself.” (As found in Lonni Collins Pratt’s “Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love”)
That is something I can do. That is something I think everyone can do. It is simple, yet profound, and it is what Jesus asks us to do. Imagine what the world would look like if that is how we saw the person sitting next to us in the the pew, the person sitting alone on the student center couches, the person that you see every day in class but never bothered to learn their name, the person that doesn’t like the things that you like, or talk the way that you talk. I’m not going to sugarcoat it – this will take sacrifice and commitment. Meeting new people and forming new friendships takes work, but the pain of sacrifice is less than the pain of regret.
The world is ready and waiting for someone to say “welcome home” and actually mean it. A few moments of awkwardness is worth the beauty that comes from encountering another person.
Let’s step out of our comfort zones together and make St. Mary’s a little more like home for everyone.
Granger is class of ’21 is studying Business Management at Texas A&M and is originally from San Antonio, TX “Life with Christ is a beautiful adventure.” – JP2