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
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.
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.”
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
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
• 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
• 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
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