St. Francis of Assisi and gratitude.
Each year on October 4, we celebrate the great and humble saint of Assisi. This most unlikely candidate of transformation in the Church, through a profound encounter with Jesus Christ, became an instrument of renewal in his day and in ours. Our present pope, Francis, chose his name to be an inspiration as he took on the mantle of Peter.
While most of us are not called in such a profound way as St. Francis, we are all called to follow in his footsteps in becoming saints, disciples of Jesus Christ. In and through our baptism, we have died and risen with Christ. We share in his life, death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit has been given to us no less than St. Francis himself.
I have often spoken to you about the importance of stewardship, a disciple’s response. In our Stewardship Newsletter last month, we highlighted the Four Pillars of Stewardship; hospitality (Christian kindness), prayer (heart to heart with God), formation (continuous conversion) and service (love in action). For the next four weeks, let us look at each of them.
Hospitality – Christian kindness.
“When I was a stranger, you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35). The gospel teaches us that whenever we welcome the least of our sisters or brothers, we welcome Christ himself. This is why the first marker of a stewardship parish is hospitality. Being welcoming and friendly is one of the first ways we can be Christ-like toward others.
As the newsletter said, “Modern Catholic parishes are often so large and have so many Masses that many parishioners do not know one another. To create a sense of community, be sure to smile and greet others as you enter and exit the church.” Then it concluded with the encouragement, “Let us try harder than ever to be a welcoming community.”
A few years pre-Covid, we were intentional at being hospitable, welcoming, getting to know one another. We had “nametag Sundays.” We refashioned coffee and doughnuts on Sunday mornings. We intentionally greeted each other before Mass and at times asked how we could pray for the person next to us. We were invited to sing and respond robustly, encouraging one another in our communal prayer.
This has become so very difficult now, which is even more reason to focus on hospitality. Rather than give into the temptation of being isolated, we need to be all the more attentive to each other.
Even though we are wearing masks, smile. It is the tone of our voice and the glint in our eye that shows the smile on our face.
Be intentional about your response when asked, “How are you?” If you are fine, a word or two about what that means can bless someone’s day. If you are blessed, say why. If you are grateful, speak a word of explanation. Simple ways of hospitality.
Take home a bulletin. Have someone read it aloud in the car on the way home.
Be gracious in the parking lot.
Hospitality is not meant merely for the church but throughout our entire day. How do you reach your spouse and your children when they come home? How do you greet guests when they come to your home? How well do you listen when you would rather be doing something else? How do you greet the checkout person in the grocery store?
Hospitality, prayer, formation and service—the four “Ps”, pillars of stewardship. Let us practice focusing on hospitality this coming week so that it becomes more and more a part of our daily lives.
In Christ, through the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary and of blessed Pier Giorgio, I love you.