Treat guests like family
and family like guests.
Spring is such a beautiful, inspirational season of the year, especially at its onset, and it always sets me to wondering if it was especially created by God just for the moment in time when His Son would rise from the dead – ‘gifting all humanity with the glorious potential of eternal life spent in paradise’.
Spring seems to be a time of preparation and as I wander outside I see a distinct change in my world. It’s brought about by a fresh crispness in the air and a sense of activity. The birds are happily chirping, busy constructing nests, laying their eggs then tending them, awaiting the cycle of new life. The flowers, of every gorgeous hue, develop from buds to full blown marvels, some so beautiful they take your breath away. And we women seem to join nature, get a surge of energy and begin our spring cleaning.
There’s another element to our makeup, at this season, which makes us prone to dreaming and wondering. And I think that’s part of God’s plan too, because He wants us to look at life, wonder what it’s really all about and maybe even bring a bit of new life into our attitudes and activities – to examine our priorities and evaluate what’s really important and what belongs on the back burner of life.
As I thought and evaluated, I came to the conclusion that one thing very important to me, as a Catholic, was to be welcoming and open to all people. To make sure I always delivered the message that this new life, gifted to me by Jesus, was meant just as much for them as for me. The reason it’s so important to always be open to everyone is because – ‘the wind blows and we know not where the seed falls’. The wind is the Holy Spirit and we are incapable of knowing where or when the seed will begin to take root. In my experience, I have often been surprised by someone expressing an interest in the Catholic Church when they were the last person in the world I thought would be interested. And the reversal has proven true – someone I thought was a prime candidate ended up having really no interest.
Now-a-days the Church has a special program for people who may want to explore if they are interested in converting to Catholicism. It’s called R.C.I.A. (The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). It takes place over the period of a year and culminates, for those who choose to make the ‘leap of faith’ and fully join us, on the eve of Good Saturday.
Last year I participated in this ceremony and it was a wonderful experience. I sponsored a nine year old boy and the program he went through was R.C.I.C (The Rite of Christian Initiation for Children). I felt very honored and yet surprised that he would ask me, an older woman, to be his sponsor. He’s a relative and I baby-sat him once in a while when he was just a little tike. A small wooden picture I have on a table in my living room always intrigued him. It’s the kind that comes from Rome and has the two little doors which can be opened and closed. Of all the children who have had access to that picture he was the only one with an ongoing interest. He would open the doors and I would tell him that she was Mary the mother of Jesus and she and her son Jesus loved him very much. He would kiss Mary and close the doors and as is the way with children open them and begin all over again. I always felt a little concern that he might tell his mother about the ‘lovely lady’ and she would think I was secretly indoctrinating him into my religion. I needn’t have worried because his mother came into the Church through the R.C.I.A. program the year before he did.
There were ninety people, mostly adults, being baptized, confirmed and receiving the Eucharist at this ceremony. I became briefly acquainted with a few as we waited outside the Church and I will always remember one young man who was a Karate teacher and ex-marine. He said he never knew many Catholics but there were a few who had impressed him, though they never knew it, and when he saw a sign outside the church asking – “Do You Want To Know About The Catholic Church?” He called the number listed and attended a meeting and here he was. After the ceremony I said: “Congratulations! You are much loved and most welcome to the Catholic Church”. He hugged me and there were tears of joy in this tough guy’s eyes as he said: “Thank you. This is the happiest day of my life”.
To be welcoming, for me, also requires the next step and that is being hospitable. When I think of hospitality I think of that old Southern saying – “Treat guests like family and family like guests.” Trying to live this is usually easier with guests than with family members but there is another old saying to remember – “Charity begins at home”.
Tying all my meandering Spring thoughts together I have come to these conclusions: First it is vital to feel a strong sense of belonging to the Catholic Church. Know that you have been specially chosen and called by Jesus Christ – whether cradle Catholic or convert – that you believe and have freely made the decision to be a follower and member of ‘His Kingdom on Earth’. Then be loving, open, welcoming and offer the hospitality of God’s house and Kingdom to anyone and everyone God puts in your life.