Book Review: The Paraclete Book of Hospitality
Author: The Editors of Paraclete Press
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557256652
I have just finished a genuinely heart-warming and seriously challenging book. I found the Paraclete Book of Hospitality a remarkable book considering that it was able to achieve both responses from me; that is “warmed” and “challenged.” I don’t believe those feelings are mutually exclusive, but it is rare that I put down a book feeling as significantly challenged (maybe even spanked a bit) as I did and still have the very real sense that I was loved deeply in the process. I know I sensed a special nearness of the presence of God as I was reading.
This is a small book; at less than 120 pages, it is also short. It is not a difficult read, nor does it take long to read… but I recommend taking time to chew the content slowly. The content is best digested along with thoughtful self-examination or it was for me.
The book is based upon the teachings of hospitality from the Bible; “love your neighbor as yourself.” The inspiration for Benedict’s Rule and the subsequent teaching that focuses on the subject of hospitality (see The Rule of St. Benedict 53:1).
All who arrive as guests are to be welcomed like Christ, for he is going to say, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
I found an especially challenging quote in chapter three from Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Dan Homan who reflect in their book Radical Hospitality the following:
“Benedict finds God in people. You can’t ignore people when God is looking out their eyes at you. In the tiresome, the invalid, the rebellious, we are faced with God. It is our own failures to love that we have to deal with when we talk of hospitality.” (pg.41)
Page after page, chapter after chapter, raising-the-bar challenges are seasoned with loving examples and practical suggestions to enter the practice of a life-giving hospitality. There are suggestions for practicing hospitality at home (probably one of the places it might be needed most…), there are creative ways suggested to care for others, and a chapter I especially enjoyed (Chapter Five) teaches ways to celebrate and practice hospitality through the seasons of the year (the Church Calendar).
“Every human encounter I holy.” (page 76)
Chapters Seven and Eight are also full of great suggestions for integrating hospitality into the dailyness of our lives. These are also very challenging chapters as the editors include additional teachings from the Bible and other monastic rules of life. A couple of quotes I will continue to ponder…
“Do not be nowhere in your effort to be everywhere, or attentive to no one simply because you are running after everyone.” And “Welcome God. Unless you are God-filled there will be no sharing and giving, unless he lives in you, you will be unable to welcome people sincerely.” Both quotes from -Jerusalem Community Rule of Life.
This is a delightful little book…and one not to be taken lightly. There is wisdom for the ages found in these pages. We can learn much by putting to practice the words and suggestions from this Paraclete Book of Hospitality.