Immigrants and Benedictine Hospitality

By Anthony Maranise

By now, most have heard that there is a “humanitarian crisis” at the Southern Border of the United States. Daily, hundreds of migrant persons, many of them young unaccompanied children, from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico arrive at the US-Mexico border after an often long and exhausting journey, seeking peace from lives tormented by violence or economic instability. This news, having reached the ears of Pope Francis himself, compelled him to make a statement, first reported by the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, on July 15, 2014.

He said, “This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, that these [persons] be welcomed and protected.”

The Pontiff’s own words use the same phrasing as St. Benedict’s guidance regarding hospitality in the Rule. He encourages that they be welcomed. “We are called to be like the Good Samaritan [from the Gospels]; we are called to be kind to the stranger.” 

Transformation occurs in that meeting, in that coming together.

However, the majority of the United States political landscape remains sorely divided in its response to this call. The question is not a matter of differing beliefs, in my view, for there can be only one sure call to action. When Jesus said, “Love one another,” he did not mean the glamorous, the understood, the popular, or the wealthy; rather, he intended that all persons created in God’s image be loved unconditionally, for that is how God loves us. Expressions of hospitality toward others are usually outwardly visible actions, sacramental in nature and character. Our physical or outward actions such as feeding someone, welcoming them in, offering them a drink, providing them with bedding, give an opportunity for some form of unity, a coming together in relationship. 

For Benedictines, greeting a guest is always done with a prayer, as stipulated in the Rule. Through that prayer, something unseen, though very real, occurs in the meeting of persons, in their welcoming. On the surface, it appears that the servers or hosts are merely greeting or feeding the guest, when in reality they are making welcome the person of Christ dwelling within the person they meet. It is a sacramental moment.   

Whether the cause is differing religious beliefs, political convictions, or preconceived prejudices, the reality remains that there are individuals in the United States – and undoubtedly throughout the world – who claim a Christian identity, but simultaneously have no interest or desire to work toward the welcoming, protecting, and loving of migrant persons who are the image of Christ – whose face, looking unlike ours, may be difficult to recognize. 

For some, the opening of the U.S. Southern border is a concern relating to national security or threats of terrorism and thus, their negativity and/or animosity toward migrant persons is one motivated by fear. Of course, the Sacred Scriptures hold a solution for fear which rests in cultivating or striving to experience more intimately the “perfect Love which casts out fear.” 

For Benedictines, ignoring the pleas and the needs of migrant persons is to “close ourselves to the sacred; to forbid God from coming to us.”
Prayer for Migrants and Refugees 

Lord Jesus, when you multiplied the loaves and fishes, you provided more than food for the body, you offered us the gift of yourself, the gift which satisfies every hunger and quenches every thirst! Your disciples were filled with fear and doubt, but you poured out your love and compassion on the migrant crowd, welcoming them as brothers and sisters. 

Lord Jesus, today you call us to welcome the members of God's family who come to our land to escape oppression, poverty, persecution, violence, and war. Like your disciples, we too are filled with fear and doubt and even suspicion. We build barriers in our hearts and in our minds. Lord Jesus, help us by your grace: 

• To banish fear from our hearts, that we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister; 

• To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity, while responding to their many needs; 

• To realize that you call all people to your holy mountain to learn the ways of peace and justice; 

• To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us; 

• To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring. 

We praise you and give you thanks for the family you have called together from so many people. We see in this human family a reflection of the divine unity of the one Most Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Anthony Maranise, OblSB, of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, is Lasallian History & Research Curator at Christian Brothers University in Memphis. The entire essay from which this excerpt is taken will appear in a 2016 issue of Benedictines, a journal of Mount Saint Scholastica Monastery, Atchison, Kansas

Posted by Josh Colfer at 2:04 PM

The Galleon is curated and managed by Christian Brothers University, a Memphis-based university founded in the Lasallian tradition (a sect within the Catholic faith). Part of our founding mission is to uphold respect for all persons-regardless of political, religious, or social beliefs. As an institution, we take no stand on political matters; to do so would undermine our commitment to intellectual inquiry and thoughtful response to events taking place in our World by members of the CBU community.

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