In her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Benedictine author and contemplative Joan Chittister works through an alphabet of words meant to open up reflection on holy living day to day. Each short meditation offers a word, followed by a story from the Desert Fathers and Mothers, followed by an application of the word and the story to modernity.
Coming up with a term beginning with X is a challenge in all such endeavors, but this book offers Xenophilia—the love of strangers. Here is the brief anecdote Chittister shares: Amma Sarah said, “If I pray to God that all people might be inspired because of me, I would find myself repentant at the door of every house. I would rather pray that my heart be pure toward them than that I changes something in theirs.”
Chittister goes on to write, “Our goal in life is to convert ourselves from the pernicious agenda that is the self to an awareness of God’s goodness present in the other. It is no idle prayer. The beauty of the open soul is not easy to come by in a world where the other—the alien, the foreigner, the stranger—threatens my sense of security and the pyramids of social control.”
No idle prayer, indeed! Published 21 years ago, these words could not be more applicable (or more challenging!) today. As with all aspects of faithful living, engaging this idea is more process than achievement gained and put aside. But there are people we recognize as being farther along in said process than most. We call them saints, and we celebrate them every year on November 1.
Our Sunday celebration of All Saints is this weekend, on November 7. I hope you will join us, either in person or online, as we remember and rejoice in the great communion of witnesses who embody xenophilia and so many other holy habits, offering them to the church and to the world.