Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Monastic Hospitality

by Brother Gregory

In the monastic tradition, hospitality is a very important part of a community’s practice. At New Skete, our Rule addresses this: “Monastic tradition has always emphasized the importance of welcoming others as Christ. In a world rife with religious division and misunderstanding, we endeavor to foster unity and understanding within the Body of Christ, and without discrimination, tolerance and respect towards all.”  We do all we can to welcome others into our community as if we were welcoming Christ himself. With a nonjudgmental attitude, an open ear, and a welcoming heart, guests have often said that they feel welcomed. This time away from their daily routines helps them refresh and renew their souls and connect once again with Jesus and the Church in their lives.  

Often when guests depart, they comment to us that they have received so much and that they felt blessed in our home. New relationships develop or are renewed, quiet and prayerful space is provided, and fellowship is often exchanged during the meals prepared by Brother Marc. During the services, guests participate with all their senses as together we call to God with the ancient chants from Gregorian to Kievan.  Our guests see the German Shepherd dogs on the road with Brothers Christopher and Thomas, or at dinner time, even a puppy or two being raised by Brother Luke. At Saturday dinners when the monks and nuns gather for the evening dinner prepared by Brother Marc, guests get to taste the various flavored cheesecakes baked by the nuns. Visitors and guests often see volunteers working with the puppies in the kennel area, or enjoy the nuns’ blueberry pies at dinner. The dinner conversations about German Shepherd dogs, cheesecakes, liturgical music, smoking cheese with Brother Ambrose, talking with Brothers John and Peter about the history of the foundation of New Skete, and much more help to cement a relationship between the monastics and the visiting guests; and then they come back for more visits again and again. But the gift of giving is both ways: the monastics often comment on how we are enriched by the shared thoughts, insights, and life experiences of our guests after they have departed.

Hospitality is also expressed in the daily routines and schedules of the monastics out in the local community: singing in the Battenkill Chorale, going to the Post Office and meeting a neighbor, food shopping at a local grocery store, participating in the local food pantry with Brother Stavros, and many other activities where we bring the monastic life with us outside the monastery and into the lives of others—just being who we are as monastics.

With so much sadness in the world, which we often see on the evening news, just a simple smile to one another can be so refreshing and healing; when we give a smile, we often get a smile back.