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The Witness of Christian Hospitality

alec vanderboom

(For Little Joann's Amusement)

I'm not a natural hostess. I suffer with social phobia and my house is always messy. Yet I'm training myself how to be a good hostess because I'm finding the virtue of hospitality is central to living the Christian Life.

"I was a stranger and you welcomed me."

Lessons from the Field

1. It's a gift if anyone at all comes to your party

 We live in a world where everyone is rushed and busy. One of my kids had a birthday party where no one came. We had the party decorations out. The perfect cake was made. The craft supplies were neatly placed on the table. I had sent my husband away with all the younger siblings. After 75 minutes, no one was there. My daughter didn't have a good concept of time, so she kept asking me "when will my friends get here?" There was this moment, when I was actually trying not to cry in front of her. It was so painful to host a party and have no one show up.

Then one of her friends and her mother showed up.  We were SO happy. We chatted. We played. We ate tons of cake. It was a while before they figure out that they were "it". I mouthed a giant "THANK YOU" to the Mom. The two ladies left happy and uplifted. Then I went into my bedroom, reread that verse where God throws a wedding party and no one comes, so he invited the lame from the roadside, and I truly cried this time.

Crazy as it sounds, that party failure experience has really made me better as a hostess. I know it is a gift if anyone comes to your party. I don't take rejection personally. And I also make sure to GO to people's parties. People I don't know well. There are so many times that I have to say no because of my family obligations (like I'm super pregnant and can't drive), that if there is anyway I can say "yes", I do.  In my heart, I know that the saddest feeling is to have a party where no one is there--so I just give the gift of myself.

2. There is something intimate about having people over to your house

If you have a friendship that you are trying to work on at church, invite the family over to your house. If someone drops something off, invite them in. We do too much of our socialization at neutral sites, like parks or Starbucks coffee houses. But as soon as someone comes to your house, they feel like they "know you." The window treatments (or lack there of!) you've got on your windows, the type of table you chose in your kitchen (or inherited from your Mother) that all says something intangible about you. I can have an in depth conversation at a Carmel meeting with someone for three years, but they still know me less than if they spent three minutes inside my house.

3. Be Persistent

People will say no. Keep asking. But also know, if someone never comes to your house--that's a sign. Don't worry that they like hate you personally, but just know that don't really have space in their life for friendship, so don't get your heart broken over their inattentiveness.( I think this is especially important since a lot of times Catholic families have super dynamic stuff going in their lives like post-NICU babies or kids newly diagnosed with autism. So truly you can't take rejection of your cute party invitees personally).

4. Invite the whole family

Sometimes I like to do "Moms Only Teas". Which is probably selfish, but I just enjoying being able to carry on a long conversation without chasing after a toddler occasionally and I assume other Moms do too. But other than my selfish teas, any time we invite someone over, we invite the whole family. Catholic families are so cool because sometimes they are huge! It is a delight. One six invited over, makes an instant party! Usually I know the Mom and kids, more than the husband. I love getting to know the "Dads".

 I think that large families  (or smaller families with lots of tiny kids) rarely get invited over because its such seen as such a burden to host them. Nothing is farther from the truth. Large families are self-entertaining, content with hot dogs, AND the guests will take care of entertaining your kids. A calm Catholic middle school kid will go lead a game of hide and seek outside entertaining all of your own little ones for hours.

5. Invite a Priest to your house.

Priests are also incredibly busy--so snag them early. Invite over a seminarian (who always needs a home cooked meal) or a newly ordained priest. They have more time and more excitement. And my dear priests, I wish you would schedule more home visits. Invite YOURSELF over to our homes. That's how you get to know us and how we get to know you!

6. Fuss, but not too much.

When you do a little prep work (pull out the nice china hiding in your cabinet, buy flowers at the grocery store) you immediately put the guest at ease. I remember a priest was very worried about imposing when he came to follow up on a religious conversation with coffee at our house. The fact that I had set a nice table, put him at ease. He was expected. He was wanted. All of this effort would have gone to waste if he hadn't shown up.

At the same time, don't be fake! If you have a colicky baby, do not straighten up the living room before the nice lady comes with a hot meal for you. She's bringing you dinner because you have a new baby. You can open the door with a smile and invite her to sit at a messy breakfast table. (which I did this week and had a delightful one conversation).

Ridiculous "over fussing" makes you grumpy. It makes women "hate to entertain."

Tag. You're it Joann. (You can just write some comments b/c I think your so gifted in this area, but right now you're busy entertaining a newborn son)