Hospitable Grace: a book review and recommendation

Paraclete Hospitality My exploration of the Christian practice of hospitality changed the trajectory of my life. My exposure to hospitality came when I read Christine Pohl’s book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. Before that I had no concept about what it meant to welcome and love people on the margins. From my church experience, all I knew about hospitality as a Christian practice is that involved bad coffee, saying, ‘hi’ on Sunday morning and forcing people to wear name tags. What I discovered was a robust vision of welcoming the stranger drawn from the Bible and the monastic tradition. Pohl demonstrated convincingly the need to recover the richness of the tradition, the way hospitality operated on the margins and gave sage advice as to how to practice it. I also read Daniel Homan, OSB and Lonni Collins Pratt’s Radical Hospitality which drew heavily on the rule of St. Benedict. Less than a year after first exploring the theme, I found myself living in community in inner city Atlanta seeking to love my neighbors and neighborhood and put hospitality into practice. I was able to share the love of God with people, by welcoming them into my life.

The Paraclete Book of Hospitality is a small but thoughtful volume which treats this theme. If you want to learn about hospitality as a Christian practice, one of the best place to start is the Benedictines. Paraclete Press, a Benedictine publishing house staffed by the membership of an ecumenical Christian community, The Community of Jesus, has produced a short book to help people explore hospitality and ‘deepen their lives with Christ.’ Drawn from their experience as a community in offering hospitality, the wisdom of the Rule, and generously peppered with quotations of Paraclete’s many fine books which treat the theme, this book inspires and gives practical advice about how to live more welcoming lives.

There are stories here about how the simple act of welcoming, or offering something special touched someone’s heart in a special way. there are also ideas, and practical advice about incorporating the rhythms of hospitality in your daily life. There is advice about meals, seasons, prayer for enemies and people we find difficult to welcome. The many quotations, scriptures and passages of the Rule of St. Benedict (and other communityrules) invite reflection on how we can incorporate hospitality into daily life.

My Hospitality Shero, Christine Pohl says of this book, “Grace-filled, wise, beautifully written and practical, this book welcomes readers into the life-giving practice of hospitality. It’s a treasure!” I couldn’t agree more and warmly commend this to any one who wants to discover (or rediscover) this practice. This book brought me back to my first encounter with this Christian practice and got me to reflect anew on the ways I can be more welcoming with those around me and the context I currently find myself in. We who are recipients of God’s hospitality in Christ Jesus need to grow in extending welcoming love for others. This book is helpful toward that end.

Thank you to Paraclete Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.