By Fr Don Chambers
In last week’s article, I posited that the Church’s ministry of hospitality is grounded and shaped by our friendship or relationship with Jesus Christ and each other. In this relationship, the Church plays the role of both host (giver) and guest (receiver). In this week’s article, I argue that while the Eucharist is the pinnacle ritual of the Church’s hospitality, the Church is called to live out the spirituality of hospitality outside of the Eucharist.
As Catholics, we believe and celebrate the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. By virtue of the Incarnation, the Eucharist celebrates Christ’s presence in God’s Word, the priest, the assembly, and the Body and Blood of Christ. Hence, the Church is invited to be hospitable to Christ’s presence in the Word of God, the priest who acts in Anima Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, and members of the community.
At the end of the Eucharist, the community is mandated to “go and announce the Good News”. This mandate exhorts the community to enshrine a spirit of hospitality in our human relationships—in the parishes, families, schools, societies, and workplaces. With respect to the parish, its vocation is to form its members in a spirituality of hospitality that permeates the parish’s ministries, the physical environment of the parish, and the parish office, and the attitude of community members.
In order that parish ministries are open or hospitable to new ideas, new membership and new approaches to ministry, there ought to be ongoing formation in the spirituality and art of hospitality. While the entire faith community has the responsibility of exercising hospitality at liturgical celebrations, wisdom dictates the training of a designated group of persons to exercise the ministry of hospitality at all liturgical celebrations.
This ensures the formal execution of hospitality is visible and vibrant. In the spirit of hospitality, the physical environment of the parish property ought to be well-maintained and organised that it invites and soothes the spirit of those who enter. These properties are to become an oasis for visitors. Finally, the ambience of the parish office and the welcoming attitude and disposition of the office staff create a hospitable environment for those who enter the space to transact business and telephone respectively.
In summary, the mission of the parish is to form a hospitable community so that the Church can become, in the words of Pope France, a “field hospital” in the world.