The theme song to Cheers, a sitcom from the 1990s, pointed out that “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”
Yesterday morning I arrived at St. Benedict’s Monastery, where I will spend ten days hopefully doing the final round of edits of the manuscript of my book on my conversion from Catholicism to Buddhism and back to Catholicism. The Monastery has a visiting scholar program (Studium), and this is my sixth stay here in the last several years.
As they always do, Srs. Ann Marie and Teresa, directors of Studium, had coffee and breakfast for me when I arrived. After breakfast, I had enough time to unpack in both my apartment and my office before it was time for noon prayer. At prayer time, I sat in my “usual” spot in Oratory, next to 89-year old Sr. Olivia, who was delighted to welcome me into our pew. After noon prayer, it was off to the Monastery dining room for lunch where I was warmly greeted by any number of the Sisters, including the prioress, someone who always makes you feel like you are the one person she has been waiting to see.
Hugs. Smiles. Welcome back greetings. Queries about my current project and about how my daughter is doing. It is hard to imagine being more embraced by a community. Welcomed into a place where everybody knows your name and is glad you came.
During my talk at our Lady of Lourdes on Sunday, someone commented that many Catholic churches are not welcoming of new people. I thought of that comment as I walked back from lunch yesterday. The Benedictines here at the monastery are a model of welcome. All of our Christian communities should be as welcoming.