Hospitality has always been viewed by Christians as an important virtue and it is one for which the Benedictines are especially known. One of the original Rules of Benedict states, “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for him himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt. 25-35).”
I arrived yesterday morning at St. Benedict’s Monastery, about an hour from the Twin Cities, for a nine-day period of intensive work on the book I’m writing on my conversion from Catholicism to Buddhism and back to Catholicism. On my arrival, I was warmly greeted by Sr. Ann Marie, who runs the Monastery’s Visiting Scholar Program (the Studium), under the auspices of which I am here. After dropping my suitcase in my apartment and my computer, notes and other material in my office, we went to the apartment of one of the other sisters, who had fruit out, coffee made and bread ready to be toasted for our breakfast.
Although all visitors eat lunch and dinner in the dining room with all the sisters, fruit, bread, coffee, juice, etc., is provided in the apartment in which the visiting scholar stays in the event he or she wants to sleep late or otherwise eat in hir or her room rather than walking over to the dining hall. Ann Marie asked me if I wanted this or that in the room and when I answered yes to peanut butter, she immediately asked “chunky or creamy.” It may sound silly, but the question delighted me and made me feel even more welcome and cared for. I LOVE chunky peanut butter and it has been years (decades?) since anyone asked me what kind of peanut butter I preferred to eat.
Ann Marie escorted me to the oratory for noon prayer to make sure I found my place, which was then marked as “Studium Guest” so that everyone would know that was my place for the time I was there. She explained that there was always extra seating in the back for visitors, but that they wanted me to feel part of the community during my stay as a visiting scholar.
At lunch, Ann Marie introduced me, telling the others a little about my project. The excited and interested reaction that I heard and could see on the women’s faces was again touching, and several woman made a point of stopping me at or after lunch to greet me and say how interesting my work sounded.
I felt and feel completely welcomed here – in meals, in the oratory for Liturgy of the Hours, in the chapel for Mass, in the halls. I am grateful for the hospitality of the Benedictine sisters and am excited about the time I will spend here.