First of all… Bill, Father Tom, and I wish you all a Happy and Blessed Saint Patrick’s Day.
As you might decipher from the title of our post today… it concerns both friendship and hospitality…
The Irish Proverb, “May your home always be too small to hold all your friends,” sent my spirit into the wonderful worlds of Irish and Biblical Hospitality, where welcoming the ‘stranger among us’ was the heavenly call.
The ancient Jewish and Arabic worlds always had a hospitality code to welcome strangers. Biblical Father Abraham welcomed and entertained three strangers, who happened to be angels sent by God. Abraham and Sarah were then blessed with a child in their old age. Biblical Mother Mary welcomed the stranger, the Angel Gabriel, who then announced God’s blessing on her to bring Jesus into the world. Mary, “in the holy moment of supreme hospitality,” (as spoken by Father Michael Doyle) accepts this invitation and blessing with her YES… her “Fiat.”
God also directs strangers and angels into our lives. It is up to us to welcome these visitors. Be assured a blessing will follow. One of my favorite passages in Scripture is from Hebrews 13:1-2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
How many times have each of us encountered these visitors, sent from God, in the person of strangers?
In the 1970s, while ministering in a Black Parish in North Philadelphia, I welcomed a young boy of about 8 years of age. Unknowingly, I condescendingly asked him what he knew of the Bible, thinking his knowledge was limited. He then proceeded to quote John 3:16 verbatim, which states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” I believe God sent this young stranger to teach this arrogant deacon with 7 years of theology a lesson in humility and to be aware that all people I would meet have God’s presence and knowledge.
Toward the end of my ministering days, I welcomed another stranger into the confessional and, at the end, asked him to pray for me. A year later, as I walked into my first 12-step program, this same stranger… this angel welcomed me, became my sponsor, and taught me humility, honesty, and sanity.
In my years of counseling high school students and then attempting to be present to those dying patients and their families in hospice, I have met “angels” who taught me about facing life and death with faith, hope, and love.
Bringing this to the present, this past year, my wife and I have welcomed 3 foster children at different times into our home. These “strangers” were a blessing and taught us the beauty of innocence and dependency. Their smiles, laughter, and spirits were a great blessing from God.
I want to conclude by returning to the Irish Hospitality. St. Patrick himself taught us that divine hospitality entails being aware that every person that we meet has the divine presence in them, as he prayed in the
“Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”
Lastly, a tribute to a local Irish priest who died this past year. His name is Father Michael Doyle. He welcomed so many strangers into Sacred Heart Parish in Camden for over 50 years and he did it in the spirit of an Irish Pub.
In his words, “We have tried to keep the Fire going in the ‘Hearth’ of our Church. A Church that would be welcoming and would create a bit of nourishment and hope for all people. At Sacred Heart, we are trying in our own little way to keep the lamp alive in Camden’s battered times. We keep doing it, saving the school for the children and rehabbing abandoned houses for the people, both waiting for a window in every sense of the word. We strive to keep the lamp alive.”
Truly, Father Michael was an angel sent among us to see Christ in the poor, and to keep hope alive in troubled streets and spirits.
And May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand!
Being both an Irish Humorist and a Scottish & English serious bloke… I have some news to share “wid” all of you.
Aye… Now… that there got your bloody attention, eh?
And I’m not kiddin’ ya at all.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve had 5 cardiac stents placed in me main coronary tree. The last one was placed in the “Widow Maker,” as they call it.
If that’s not dyin’, what is? The bloody Widow Maker!
Me cardiologist, to cheer me up, I’m sure, told me after the last stent was put in said, “George, you’re genetically screwed.”
Years before, I had an orthopedic surgeon say to me after me umpteenth surgery, “George, you’re genetically ‘hosed’.” Hosed is nicer than screwed. You don’t want to know the list of hardware that can be found in me body.
So, as noted… I’m dyin’.
AND…Since this post is about friendship… and all of you being me bloody friends, I thought before I go, I’d share some of my philosophies about “friends.”
Without me friends, I truly have no one to tell me my faults.
With me friends, I readily discover me faults… whether I want to or not.
Without me friends, I have no one to share God’s creation with.
With me friends, I share the ocean, the forest, the beaches, the sunrise, and the sunset. I get to walk in the rain, catch snowflakes on my tongue, and make snow angels with those who love me and those I love.
Without me friends, I have no one to share my deep secrets with.
With me friends, I can share them, knowing they hold those secrets in trust.
Without me friends, I cannot share my sorrows.
With me friends, I can weep openly and grieve.
Without me friends, I stand in the garden alone, feeling betrayed.
With me friends, we can break bread together, and if the spirit moves me…I can even wash their feet… and they mine.
Without me friends, there is no one for me to ask for forgiveness.
With me friends, not only can I forgive… but I can be forgiven.
Without me friends, my life is a desolate and barren Golgatha.
With me friends, together, someday we will ascend to the Father.
So… why would I say to all of you, my friends…
Okay… I am hopefully not going to die anytime soon. But when the time comes… you’re all invited to me wake!
However, there has been many an author, philosopher, and theologian who has stated that… “Since we breathed our first breath as a babe… we’ve been dying.” And both you and I know this to be true.
Full circle now… since this is “The Good News Blog,” I can leave you with these words from John’s Good News… said by the Nazarene…
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: v.13)
My conclusion on this Saint Patrick’s Day…
The Lord’s Home may be small… but it can hold a lot of bloody people in it… His friends… room enough for you and me.
May the Carpenter from Nazareth continue to bless you and yours.
Pax in Chirsto
Blessings to all on this most sacred of Irish holy days. For me personally, memories of my “Pop” (my grandfather) place themselves front and center in both my mind and heart. Yes, he was born in Ireland and emigrated to the United States. I remember him being a “man of the earth.” A humble being… who loved to laugh and who loved life and all it had to offer.
When he came to America from Erin, he brought his treasured Faith with him. This was the gift he eventually passed on to me through my mom and dad.
When I was 11 years of age, he wrote a poem for me… that, unbeknownst to me, touched my very soul and still resides there today.
So, rather than wax poetic about the Irish, as I’m sure Bill and George will do, here’s the poem from my Pop… John Joseph Heron, to his little grandson.
“A little boy went into church and up the aisle he walked
He knelt down at the altar rail, to the crucifix he talked.
‘Say, do you really love me, God? My mother says you do.
Then, how much do you love me God if what she says is true;
Do you love me more than a penny’s worth or more than a dollar can buy;
Could it be a hundred dollars worth? I guess that’s going too high.’
The little fellow listened then; He wanted to hear God’s voice, and God
Just had to answer him; He had no other choice.
Oh, yes, I love you Tommy lad, what your mother says is true;
and more than all the world’s great wealth is the love I have for you.
And, you know, I’d like to reach my hands And clasp you up to me.
But I can’t–because of love for you, they’ve nailed Me to this cross-shaped tree.
So never forget I love you, boy.
May I ask one thing of you?
Because I love you, Tommy Lad,
Won’t you try to love me, too?”
I believe I’ll see my Pop again when the Lord calls me home… along with all my family members, friends, and possibly a few enemies thrown in to keep the mood light.
Again, I wish you all a Blessed Paddy’s Day. And… YES… may your home be too small to hold all your friends.
In Corde Christe
We’ve kept this video to the end. We pray you enjoy it. Filmed during the pandemic by a group of Irish students.
““Rath Dé ort.” / “The Grace of God on you.”