Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ignatian Hospitality

"Do you know her story? She is one of us," one Jesuit told a lunch-table of Jesuits this afternoon. "Her father was a Jesuit novice." They all laughed and made the same time-tested jokes about Jesuits -- never arrive late to lunch because there will be nothing left, or they will only allow  me to interview them if I offer drinks first. They asked me about my Bible tattoo and we all laughed when no one could tell me what the verse was.

Wherever I travel with JRS, this has been the case. I am received with such great hospitality and warmth. In Nepal, Fr Amal insisted on buying me cigarettes and sharing his good vodka with me after knowing me all of one hour. Sister Mary sewed me two pairs of pants and took me to the hospital when I was sick. In Thailand, Fr Bernard was always happy to go find some jazz or blues music with me when he was in town.

Today I was sitting in a nearly-dark lunchroom because of a power-outtage. Saying I stuck out like a sore thumb, isn't quite the right simily. Let's just say I stuck out like a Molly in a room of Indian Jesuits.

But still, they wanted to know all about me. And one thing I have learned is that if you know one Jesuit, you know them all. That is to say, this is how the conversations always go. "Oh, you're from Omaha? Then you must know Fr Greg Carlson." Or Fr Andy Alexander, or the infamous Fr Roc O'Connor.

Yes, I do!

And these conversations prove two things. One, that Omaha is, in fact, the center of the universe. And two, the Jesuits is truly one big family.

…Albeit an incredibly dysfunctional one. But I am happy to be part of it, in whatever way.

Last year, Fr Aldolfo Nicolas, the superior general of the Society of Jesus, wrote about Ignatian hospitality in a letter to JRS. “How can we advocate and promote more actively the Gospel value of hospitality in today's world of closed borders and increased hostility to strangers," he wrote.

Well, Fr Nicolas, I can report back that I have seen this hospitality in action. While I am not seeking asylum in these countries, I come to these Jesuit houses and colleges as a stranger. And I am received like family. In some projects I visit, I cannot tell the difference between the Jesuit staff, the refugee staff and the lay staff. JRS shows its hospitality by valuing its staff, regardless of life's circumstances.

I now hope I can take the lessons learned from these men and translate it into my work. I hope I can be just as hospitable as the people I meet and promote hospitality in the regions where I serve.

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