Healthy Soul/Living Out Your Faith/My Life I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me by Abbey Staub “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13). This past spring I studied abroad with Aquinas College in Italy for my final, senior semester. I went with seven other students and learned so much about the Church and just about life while I was there. One of the biggest things that stuck out to me was the Italian people’s radical hospitality. Since I’ve been back in the states I’ve thought a lot about how the hospitality they showed me was exactly that which Jesus described to His disciples. What the Italian people taught me was never being selfish with one’s time or inconvenienced by another. One example was when I had just got to Italy we were hanging out in this little town called Rocasecca (Where St. Thomas grew up). The guys from my school were teaching young Italian boys how to play American football. After this, one of the boys told us to come meet his family. The family invited all seven or eight of us college kids into their home. They then started feeding us little cookies and making us espresso. The family all hung out in the one room with us asking us questions and telling us stories. Most of the time we ended up laughing uncomfortably at each other because no one knew what the other was saying! What I could tell was that they truly desired to know us as persons and delighted in our presence. They literally did as the Bible tells us countless times to do which is to, “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:1-2). I had never felt so loved and welcomed by complete strangers in my life. They did not know us and they were not expecting us yet they welcomed us into their home and into their life and offered us what they had. They gave us cookies and espresso but most importantly they gave us the love of Jesus Christ by welcoming us in and desiring to know us. I think in these times we have lost sight of what it actually means to be radically hospitable. I feel that these days we as a generation have become so selfish. We have become so absorbed with ourselves and our image that we forget about the other person right next to us. How often do you see other people (or yourself) surrounded by a bunch of family, friends, or strangers and they are on their phones texting, or on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter? Because we are turned inwards towards ourselves, we often forget about our neighbor and investing in them. Oftentimes because we are turned in towards ourselves being hospitable seems burdensome, C.S. Lewis warns against this in his book The Screwtape Letters. (For those of you who have not read this, it is a great book!) It is written from a demon, Screwtape’s, point of view. He is giving advice to another demon (Wormword) on how to tempt the humans. (If you want to read it yourself it is in chapter 22!) Screwtape advises Wormword to tempt humans into thinking that every moment of every day is their own and that it is intended simply to serve one’s own personal desires. We are angered not because someone coming unexpectedly is actually a wrong done against us; rather we think it wrong because of this idea that we are the holders of our own time. I desire something relaxing (such as having a quiet evening and watching a movie) and then someone asks for my help or comes unexpectedly for example. Sometimes it is really hard. Often I feel ‘cheated out of me time’ or that I am being inconvenienced from my plans, whether that is work or relaxation, and heaven forbid my house not give the impression that I am perfect and have it all together. However, in Hebrews it says, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (13:16). I simply realize that when I change my attitude and say, ‘this is an opportunity God is giving me to love and be eagerly hospitable,’ it makes all the difference. Never be tired of giving of yourself to someone else because we are called to “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). So brothers and sisters we need to welcome others into our homes, dorm rooms, lunch tables, and into our lives. We need to be more generous and realize that our time is not our own. We need to be more selfless and more ready to give of myself to another person. We need be hospitable all for the greater glory of God.