This past weekend eight Benedictine sisters from seven different monasteries met for a picnic in the foothills of the Rockies. We were enjoying a day of leisure after two full days of meetings. Scenes at our campground bore witness to the delights of simple joys. One couple photographed each other overlooking the cliff edge of the mountain top. A child stirred coals of the campfire with a stick and then drew charcoal pictures on the ground. Families enjoyed meals amid the gentle breezes and warm sunlight of the day.
In the trip up the mountain, we paused to view the fossilized footprints of dinosaurs on the hillsides; on the way down, we stopped for a nature walk in the woods, where we encountered a tiny mule deer watching our presence unfrightened. Recalling the pleasures of the day led me to gratitude for the earth's hospitality to her many species, both long ago and today.
I also pondered the recent events of the past week: how two very different women -- Mother Teresa and Princess Diana -- had captured the hearts of so many people worldwide. Their lives of compassion, receptivity to the marginalized and vulnerability to suffering bear witness to hospitality to the strange and stranger within and among us.
In driving by the Federal Prison twice each day, four of us exchanged stories of sisters and monks we know, who convey hope, compassion and counsel in penitentiaries, juvenile facilities and detention centers around the country. This ministry of hospitality is a call I can admire, while admitting hesitation to engage in it myself.
Most of our experiences of hospitality are more ordinary -- the daily hellos and goodbyes to visitors, the offers of meals to guests, the shifts inside and out when schedules, agendas and plans need changing. Both the mundane and profound encounters of hospitality are reflected upon by the contributors to the Pre-Convention Reflection Papers, which will soon be published. My hope is that your reading of them will entice you to reflect on your own participation in exchanges of hospitality, as they have mine.
Mary Forman, OSB