Those who offer reflections for St. Anthony’s are assigned particular dates when articles are due.  When I realized that my article would appear on July 28, I was very pleased.  This is the date of my mother-in-law’s birthday.  She has been deceased for a number of years, but her presence in my life taught me about the wonderful virtue of hospitality.

Whenever we visited the farm, she made me feel so very welcome.  She was a marvelous cook and prepared something simple but special.  One of her specialties was “criss-cross through the garden soup.”  She would go to the garden and gather vegetables of any kind and make a delicious soup.  Having come from Germany, she knew her way around the kitchen.  It was more than just what she served us for supper; it was her attitude toward me that made the visit special.

Recently, I have been reading the book, In God’s Womb” by Edwina Gateley. Edwina Gateley is a poet, artist, writer, lay missioner and religious educator.  She founded the Voluntary Missionary Movement in Britain and the Genesis House in Chicago.  As she began to find her way into a conscious discipleship in the way of Jesus, she spent time in Africa.  In her book, she shares that she came to understand God in her childhood as a God who was “all-enveloping, huge, mysterious, and yet very real.”  She realized that a relationship with God was more than simple Sunday worship but a lived experience.  She goes on to say, “I learned that we are suffused with God.  I came to understand that we walk in God and God gets bigger to the degree that we are open and expectant.” Her experience in Africa confirmed this understanding because of the great hospitality that the people showed her.  They invited her into their homes and shared with her whatever food they had. She writes, “Even though they hardly knew me, they made me feel like I was the most significant person in their lives. The African people demonstrated to me the reality of the gospel mandate to love one another.  Hospitality is fundamental to the gospel.”

Hospitality was what I experienced when we went to visit my mother-in-law.  She made me feel like I was the most significant person in her life.   She was not what we would call a “churched person,” but she was able to convey hospitality which is fundamental to the gospel. We called her Mutti, German for mother.  Today I wish you, Mutti, a Happy Birthday and thank you for the wonderful hospitality you always extended to me.