In June 2002, a gunman entered Conception Abbey in Missouri and killed two monks before killing himself. The man had no known connection to the abbey or any of its monks. No motive has yet been discovered.
St. Benedict instructed his monks to receive all guests as Christ, “for he will say, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’” (Rule of Benedict, 53:1; Matthew 25:35). This application of Jesus’ words has had a notable impact in inspiring Benedictine hospitality since then. Benedict did not originate this practice of monastic spirituality, which has always been a part of the monastic vocation, but his emphasis on the guest as Christ gave a powerful focus to the practice.
Benedict’s own era was not a good time for open hospitality. He was born four years after the traditional date of the fall of the Roman Empire (a.d. 476). Institutions had broken down and the roads were not safe. Though many of the visitors to monasteries were pilgrims, you never knew who might show up at the door. Given the suspicious…
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