I am Catholic. I explain that to give context. Last summer on retreat, I watched “Entertaining Angels” (the Dorothy Day story), and was deeply moved by the hospitality Day extended to the poor, lost and homeless in New York.
At the time of my retreat, my husband and I were going through a life-changing transition. We were passionately praying about what God was asking of us.
As we prayed, we began to realize that, like most people, we thought of hospitality as having a clean home, a pre-arranged date for a visit, nice food, etc. Through prayer and discernment, however, we realized that God was not calling us to be hospitable in traditional or comfortable ways. He was calling us to being open to “entertaining angels” even at the most inconvenient and humbling times. He was calling us to let Him minister to the weary, downtrodden and lonely through our home. We knew that He wanted to use our home as a retreat for those who needed spiritual shelter or renewal. He was calling us to extend the Corporal Works of Mercy as Hospitality.
As we prayed and talked, we felt clearly that this was a point of obedience that we could not ignore. We submitted and said, “whomever you send, whenever you send them, we are totally yours God. Totus Tuus.” We knew that we had to think of our grocery budget and our home not as our things but as His property, which He would help us to steward.
As a family we agreed to be a resting place for any weary pilgrim that God would choose to send no matter the personal cost.
Almost immediately, our calendar filled with pilgrims who were in search of the kind of fellowship that comes over a simple meal and a total surrender of our time and our expectations. Instead of scheduling friends in advance, and planning a nice meal, and cleaning our house, we found people showing up often without notice. Our home was not prepared, we were tired, our food was simple, our budget was stretched, and we had to dig deep to overcome our introverted tendencies so that we could welcome unscheduled, but not unwanted visitors.
The humbling continued. Friends came but they didn’t stay in the clean and prepared rooms. In the middle of a dinner party, a shepherd needed a private room to discuss something serious with a party goer . . . our bedroom was buried under laundry baskets and the homeschool projects that we had moved out of the way . . . so they commandeered the chaotic and embarrassing basement.
We tried to get our house tidy and ready to welcome visitors, but often God sent them at the inopportune times. We tried to make wholesome and delicious food, but sometimes we had to use whatever we had on hand.
We began to think about every aspect of our private life differently. As profound introverts who crave quiet, as a sufferer of a neurological disease, as homeschoolers of little ones, our life has been suffocatingly full – too full to accept visitors. And yet . . . with every visit the Lord has filled us up. When we needed to travel out of town for an unexpected out-of-state funeral, he sent some of our dearest friends over for a beer after the kids were in bed – and that beer extended past midnight and filled our depleted well with joy. We should have been packing or sleeping, but that visit turned out to be the sustenance we needed to get through the challenging funeral weekend.
As we loaded groceries, beer and hospitality items into our van the next morning that we knew that we would be sharing with a myriad of family members, we knew that none of our groceries, none of our time and none of our efforts were ours – they were merely God’s resources that we had the privilege of stewarding.
As we stared at our thin budget and travel-weary family after not one, but two, unexpected out-of-state funerals within two weeks of each other, we had great peace knowing that the money was His money and the time was a gift from Him. As we stewarded his resources to be used in the service of the corporal works of mercy (burying the dead specifically, but also feeding the spiritually hungry, etc.), we knew that we were blessed.
For us this has been radical because we have been stretched far beyond our inclination and our own limitations. But, in our “totally yours God,” He is making up the difference and giving us the grace necessary to minister to the Jesus in every soul who walks over our threshold and puts their feet under our table. Whether it is dropping my homeschool plans to make a cup of tea for an unexpected visitor or forgoing our date night to give rest to a weary pastor who needs a little family atmosphere, we are in radical submission to serve Him through whomever He sends into our home.