St. Benedict left us very clear directives on monastic hospitality in his 6th century Rule for Monasteries. In his Chapter on The Reception of Guests he instructs; ‘All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say; ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’. He underlines that ‘proper honour’ should be shown to guests as well as the ‘courtesy of love’ and he offers guidelines on how this should be carried out, emphasizing the centrality of prayer before all else and the place of humility in the service of guests.
St. Benedict’s rule teaches us that “Jesus is received in guests and especially in the poor and pilgrims.” Real Hospitality is indeed a gift of the Spirit and this is the gift that we freely give to our guests when we remain free and open to the Spirit in ourselves. Indeed, in the monastery, the whole community is involved in extending monastic hospitality; in creating an atmosphere of prayerful, gentle, joyful welcome as well as taking care of practicalities behind the scenes.
Pope Francis urges contemplatives “to open the windows” to share the fruits of their contemplation and prayer; ‘far from separating you from humanity and particularly from suffering humanity, contemplation must lead you to being experts in ‘the art of listening” which is more than hearing, and in the” spirituality of hospitality “by taking to heart and bringing to prayer all that concerns our brothers and sisters, made in the image and likeness of God. Contemplation which does not lead you to bear the pain of suffering men and women and to rejoice with their joys is an illusion.”