Sunday, August 24, 2014

Universal (Catholic) Hospitality

The readings for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time remind us about the universal opening of God's call to all peoples found in both the Old and New Testament. They reminded me of a story I wrote many years ago. I re post it below.


Years ago, in a more formal culture, than our own, a young woman married the youngest son of a very well to do family. The patriarch had died and his widow, the young woman’s mother-in-law, guided the family fortune with a tight grip on the reigns. She had made it clear that her children and their families would inherit a share of the families wealth only if they led a cultured and aristocratic life. The young couple moved to their own estate many miles from the mother-in-law’s home as had the husband’s brothers and sisters at the time each married.

Now the mother-in-law would travel around to visit her children’s homes but she would try to surprise them with her visit. She felt that in the surprise they would reveal if they were living the life she thought suitable for those of great wealth.

The fact was the that the young wife had come from a family of somewhat less means than her new family. Thus every visit of the mother-in-law Was pure hell. She would only have a few day or hours notice. She would run around and borrow good plates and buy her mother-in-law’s favorite tea. She would brief the butler and the cook on special measures to be taken during the visit and so on. After each visit she would feel great relief and things would return to normal. At first she thought that she would have to do this only a few times as her mother-in-law was quite old.

But after a few years it got to be quite a drag. She tried getting a cook in her mother-in-law’s house to spy for her in hope of getting a little more notice of a visit. Since communications systems were not what they are today this didn’t help much.

After a while she came up with another tactic. She began buying lots of the special tea so that she would always have it on hand. She instructed the butler to always announce "dinner is served" at exactly the right time each day. She had the cook and kitchen staff serve each meal with the all the right plates, utensils and in the right sequence every day. And she bought enough good dresses that every day she could be dressed as though an important visitor was coming. Now she began to relax, she was always ready and could not be surprised by her mother-in-law.

Her mother-in-law lived for many years. After a while the young woman grew older and became famous for her hospitality and manners. You see she welcomed and treated every person that came to her home as though they were the matriarch.

When the matriarch lay dying her financial advisor asked her how she would carry out her long planned decision on which of her children would inherit the family wealth. As they went down the list she already had enough data to drop some from the list. Others it was not clear and more data needed to be collected.

When they came to the youngest son the matriarch said, ""I already know the answer"". You see she had been hearing for years from friends and relatives of the younger woman’s great hospitality and style. Even strangers reported, ""she treated me just as though I were you!""

And so it came to pass that the youngest son and his wife inherited the bulk of the family wealth.


My friends each of us is called to be a Universal Christian. I challenge each of you to get in shape for a Christian life worthy of the inheritance that our God has planned for you. So that at the end of your race the Lord will welcome you home, just you welcomed peoples of all nations as though they were Christ himself.

© Copyright 2014 Joseph E. Hilber. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission of the author.

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