This is the saintly excuse you need to ditch plans for a fancy meal.
Last week a gaggle of 16 sweet cousins graced my home for the better part of a week. By summer’s end, between weddings and baby showers and birthday parties, my already large family will be welcoming a wide variety of guests. And while I love a party, sometimes filling the role of “homestead mom” leaves me overwhelmed.
I’d rather be the toddler sitting in the grass eating s’mores, or the great aunt sipping tea in the shade; I’d rather be anyone else than the one in charge of making sure we don’t run out of food, toilet paper, clean sheets, towels, etc. and so on …
These feelings were getting me down recently, when my eyes landed on a passage from The Rule of St. Benedict. It’s a 6th-century book I read often for spiritual and practical guidance because while it was written for those in the religious life, its wisdom applies greatly to any group of people living in community – for me, that’s my husband, myself and our seven sons.
So the other day, as I was preparing for a cookout, St. Benedict nudged me in the right direction:
All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35). Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims. Once a guest has been announced, the superior and the brothers are to meet him with all the courtesy of love … All humility should be shown in addressing a guest on arrival or departure. By a bow of the head or by a complete prostration of the body, Christ is to be adored because he is indeed welcomed in them.
Ironically, I was relieved by the suggestion I prostrate my body to my guests in order to “adore Christ in them” (of course, I took the advice figuratively). I had been so focused on the meal and the cleaning — and while these things certainly are important, they’re nothing a full crock pot and a quick spray of Clorox can’t solve.
St. Benedict’s wisdom led me to ditch my fancy meal plans in favor of a supper I could prepare ahead of time. This left me more available to welcome my guests and to truly seek Jesus in the light of their eyes, to listen attentively to their stories, and share in the blessing of simply being together.
In the end, I felt honored to fulfill my role as “homestead mom.” Also, I sensed the mercy of answered prayer – God was pouring out the many graces I needed to host such a large group.
On a similar note, I’ve heard it said in relation to the time Jesus visited Lazarus’ sisters in Bethany: “Prepare like Martha; pray like Mary.” (Luke 10) And while I refuse to let Martha get a bad rap for making sure Our Lord had something to eat, Jesus Himself indicated that Mary chose the best part when she chose Him.
Sometimes, in spite of my valiant efforts to provide food and comfort to a house full of loved ones, I simply can’t juggle it all. And I’m learning that’s okay, too.
Like the other day when a few guests arrived just as some were leaving. I followed my heart and spent the time enjoying the newest addition to our family, my 2-week-old nephew Peregrine. My sister-in-law had had a dramatic early delivery and I wanted to sit beside her and marvel over her baby rather than slap sandwiches together for 20 people. The problem was we were short on time. We had a wedding to attend where there wouldn’t be food for hours. So I set out a few boxes of protein bars and hunkered down on the couch with my precious nephew. All my guests were incredibly gracious. No one batted an eye that I rocked a baby rather than set out a meal.
I have a strong feeling that protein bar hack, along with St. Benedict’s wisdom, is going to get me through this season of marathon hosting.
I also have a strong feeling it’s the very reason you’ll find me exactly where I want to be this summer – sitting beside the campfire, reveling in my role as “homestead mom,” and having as much fun as the kids roasting marshmallows.