Last week, in one day I had two cousins visit me at the rectory. Mary from mom’s side of the family and Brenda from dad’s side. St. Benedict writes in the Rule of St. Benedict, the document that describes his vision for the community life of his followers, that be received as Christ. In Chapter 53 Benedict says,
Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ,
for He is going to say,
“I came as a guest, and you received Me” (Matt. 25:35).
And to all let due honor be shown,
especially to the domestics of the faith and to pilgrims.
I was trained in the seminary by Benedictines at St. Meinrad School of Theology and Archabbey. So the spirituality of the Benedictines has always been a part of my life. I’ve always found the Order to be attractive and it’s members people I admire. Yet, the Rule needs to be read with some adaptions for circumstances. I don’t follow the instruction of a later passage. I have a feeling my guests would find it odd if I prostrated myself before them in adoration of Christ.
In the salutation of all guests, whether arriving or departing,
let all humility be shown.
Let the head be bowed
or the whole body prostrated on the ground
in adoration of Christ, who indeed is received in their persons.
My cousin Mary had called earlier suggesting we go out to lunch since she’d be in the area for the afternoon on other business. By the time she got to Trenton I’d decided to do the Benedictine thing and make lunch and serve it on the pergola, since it was a beautiful day. (Oh, I did have some things in the refrigerator that I needed to eat soon or throw out. Wait…is that treating the guest as Christ, giving them food a couple of days away from going bad….opps!) Anyway, it was a lovely lunch.
Later in the day, Brenda arrived on her Harley Davidson motorcycle. I fondly call her my cousin, The Biker Chick, when describing her to parishioners when letting them know she’ll be staying at the rectory. Brenda was passing through town on vacation. She’s from New Jersey and on her way to join up with a Harley’s Owners Group®sponsored tour of the southwestern United States. Brenda spent the night at the rectory and we were able to catch up on each other’s life before she left in the morning for the next leg of her trip.
Brenda is a lawyer who works for a legal services agency. That’s a agency that represents people in court and legal matters who otherwise could not afford legal representation. This is not the same as a public defender in a capital case. She deals with issues like landlord/tenet disputes and other civil cases. My cousin has always had a desire to defend the poor, needy and disenfranchised. Before she went to law school, she was a social worker. She is motivated by a strong sense of social justice. In a way, she is a minister of the Gospel, working to build up a more just life for the children of God, but in the secular realm instead as a minister of the church. She is doing what Vatican Council II’s DECREE ON THE APOSTOLATE OF THE LAITY says is the role of the laity in the church, to bring the Gospel into the secular world.
One of her passions is an organization she has begun called Tools for Justice. The organization is attempting to raise funds to support and promote the work of legal service agencies like the one Brenda works for. Most of these agencies are privately funded or struggle to support themselves. In order to raise funds, she took a leave of absence from her job to author and self-published a book, “Eavesdropping on Bar Talk”, that she and the organization Tools for Justice are promoting. A sizable portion of the sale of each book is sent to the legal service organization that serves the geographic area in which the purchaser lives. I recommend you check out the website and maybe consider buying the book. I’ve read it and the book gives you a good picture of what legal services lawyers deal with everyday. They provide a valuable service to the poor. More importantly they are proclaiming Gospel.
As Brenda travels on this trip, she’s displaying a sign on the back of her Harley advertising the web site for Tools for Justice. By the way, start seeing motorcycles and watch out for them while your driving your automobile out there. And, if you happen to see an adventurous women on one of those bikes with a sign for Tools for Justice, wave at her. (Honking is not good. It can scare the rider!)