Feeling at Home

This is my last full day at St. Benedict’s Monastery, where I’ve been since Monday morning. (I leave tomorrow morning.) This is my third stay at the St. Benedict’s since May, as part of the monastery’s Visiting Scholars Program. Although this stay has been shorter than my last two times here, I have gotten a lot of good editing done on the manuscript of my book adapting Tibetan Buddhist analytical meditations for Christians.

Here at St. Benedict’s, the rhythm of my day is simple. I join the sisters for Morning Prayer, Noon Prayer, Mass, and Evening Prayer (except when the cold deters me from walking back to the oratory for Evening Prayer), and eat lunch and dinner with them in the monastery dining room (I eat breakfast in my apartment) and otherwise spend most of my time in the office they provide that is separate from my apartment here.

The first night I walked into the dining room for dinner, one of the sisters walked over to me and said, “Welcome home.” I smiled, for I do, indeed, feel very much at home here. Part of that is simply the ease with which I slip into the rhythms of monastic life; I’m comfortable with the quiet (more pronounced during this early January than during my May or September visits because the snow and fewer people around) and with the punctuation of the day with periods of communal prayer.

But a large part of it has to do with the way in which the sisters welcome guests into their community. When I walked into the apartment assigned me for my stay, the kitchen was already stocked with what the sisters knew I liked (including crunchy peanut butter). I have a designated place among the sisters in the oratory for prayer while I am here. When I walk into the monastery dining room I know I can find a welcome spot at any table, whatever sisters are sitting there. I was invited to lector at Mass one day, one of the things I most love doing. Many who met me on one of my previous visits stop to ask about my daughter and husband. Every day I am asked how the work is going or someone just stops me to say they are glad I am here. Everything comes together to make me feel a part of the community – comfortable, welcomed and loved.

Hospitality is a particular Benedictine charism, but it is a virtue all Christians should strive to embody. My experience here encourages me to reflect on how well I do at making others feel at home – whether in my own home, my place of work, my parish or any other place I encounter my brothers and sisters.