Behold, I am the hostess (in training) of the Lord

June 8, 2017

From the Pews

While my Mama is ever learned in the gentle art of making others feel welcome, her natural flair for hospitality has not passed along very easily to her youngest child. Sure, I’ve always received complimentary coffees and extra bathroom towels with deep gratitude. But my linear-minded self tends to error on the side of modest (and sadly stingy) hospitality. Less food means less waste! My guests can’t expect me to stay up past my usual bedtime, right? And nobody scrubs floors in college apartments anyways…  Striving for simplicity has left my hostess abilities pitifully lacking, much to the chagrin of my poor guests.

Kate Anderson

Kate Anderson

The saving grace for any future visitors of mine was at hand when I accepted an invitation to the Behold Retreat. This beautiful day sparkled with speakers, resources and lovely surprises for young women in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The talks I heard at Behold cast a warm new light on the welcoming domestic churches which my Mama and countless others have always beautifully kept.

A theology of hospitality began to unfold as wife and mom Justina Kopp and Sister Eileen Leon spoke from their unique vocational experiences. These women shared a foundational cornerstone long upheld by the Church to make sense of many a thing: God is the perfection of beauty, truth and goodness. Every beautiful thing, from cathedrals and sunsets to clean homes and joyful families, points us to God. A sacramental worldview opens our eyes to the divine dimensions of life which cannot be seen at a mere surface glance. Understanding the purpose of beauty strengthens our spiritual eyesight — but the real joy in seeing beauty anew is sharing that vision of goodness with others!

Since hospitality happens to be all about ‘”the other,” Dia Boyle put our renewed appreciation of beauty to work with her talk on “the others” we encounter in the domestic Church. She explained that the home can be an instrument for beauty because home is the place where we are most influential. Members of a home naturally return to this physical structure out of need. Whether those necessities are rest, resources or relationships, homes ideally meet the needs of those who dwell there. We become people of influence through words and actions we extend toward friends and family in this ordinary place called “home.”

Now people of faith can certainly be influential showing extraordinary love in abysmal conditions, as St. Teresa of Calcutta and countless others have taught us! But knowing what we know about the good, true and beautiful God, couldn’t most of us put a little more effort into creating homes that point others to him? There’s a difference between houses filled with “stuff” and homes that only contain what is beautiful or useful. Rather than trying to impress others with wealth or false appearances, a beautiful home can be an instrument for blessing others.

Warm spaces with cozy lamps and flickering candles invite people to linger. Guests will hope that conversations last longer in a place that is smells fresh and feels clean. And company will always stay later if dessert is served! With this encouragement to remain together, our investment of time yields a harvest of influence. My worries about hospitality becoming an occasion for vice were soothed by the wise words shared this day, because a clean space, plentiful meal and lovely home will always lead our hearts and minds back to our perfectly pure, generous, and beautiful Father.

These beautiful musings from the Behold Retreat explained the theology of hospitality I have long encountered but never understood. Lovingly decorated Christmas cookies, freshly laundered sheets and tastefully selected paintings are the little things which give way to big truths. Hospitality brings us back to our fundamental need for relationships, with Christ and our neighbors. And if warm coffee cake and fresh flowers help us point others to God, then goodness truly is beautiful!

Kate Anderson is a young Catholic with an old soul who spends her days in the Twin Cities learning about banks. 

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