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Day 7: Hospitality

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Editor’s Note: On this seventh day of our Advent blog series “Hidden Joys,” Overseas Lay Missioner Mari Snyder reflects on a hospitality practice that she is leaning into this Advent.

I have 21 days to make my newly created Advent hospitality practice into a habit. 

This is the hardest time of year for me to remain faithful to a prayer routine, but I need it more than ever as I prepare to head to the U.S.-Mexico Border in six weeks. I’m not decking the halls; I’m clearing the decks. And my “2021 Holiday To Do List” is hefty with the names and ETAs of George, aka miracle-worker/repair man, a chimney refurbishing team, property manager and three organizations for household donations.

Well into this past Tuesday, and well past my foregone morning prayer and reading routine, I knew I needed to shake the overwhelm and get grounded. Now was the time to go out to my garden in the morning sunshine, snip a few greens, and create a wreath in this walnut-stained box my brother-in-law crafted a few years ago. It took me just twenty minutes, and it brought peace and ease. It was a morning prayer of sorts, a hospitality of welcome not only for God but for the soon-to-arrive crew who would work on the fireplace liner.

So began my “Welcome, Presence and Gratitude” daily practice of hospitality this Advent. As I turn on the simple battery-powered lights for my wreath, mantle, and front door in the pre-dawn mornings this season, I sit with my coffee and ask Jesus to expand my capacity as He has done before when I ask too much of a 24-hour day. I read the mission statement I offered at our Commissioning Mass, and I choose a reflection from the handmade book of prayers and good wishes offered by my Casa housemates.

Who better than Mary and Elizabeth to model a “Welcome, Presence, and Gratitude” Hospitality for us in the story of the Visitation as they care for each other and prepare for their soon-to-be-born sons? What heart-to-heart talks they must have had over the course of those three months, given all the amazing revelations that had transpired in such a short time and the unknown they were stepping into for the rest of their lives. It offers a lot to contemplate…the wonder and awe they must have shared, the joy and comfort in being together, as well as the queasiness and exhaustion, the concern and angst, the future. Mary and Elizabeth show us who to focus on, who to trust.

It seems fitting, then, to move a simple throw pillow inscribed with the word “peace” to my bed with the peace prayer alongside it…I need big, visual clues in times like these. It helps me end the day in gratitude and begin anew with an assurance that all will be well, that it’ll all get done. 

I am also practicing presence – a quiet attentiveness of hospitality and a Franciscan model of ministry – with all who are coming to my home to help me prepare it for renters. For me, this has always included a warm welcome; an offer of coffee, water, a pastry; some kind words and gratitude, a laugh; sensing when to be on hand to troubleshoot or plan for the next day. It brings me joy that I am handling stress so it isn’t contagious. Or I can help absorb someone else’s.

In A Franciscan Christmas, Kathleen Carroll points to Mary, saying “This Christmas, let’s remember that who we are matters far more than what we do. In the creche, Mary is not braiding the straw into garland, she is simply present and prayerful.” That is the purest meaning of hospitality. 

What is your Advent practice that helps create the time & space for Jesus to enter your world each day? 

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Mari Snyder was introduced to the Franciscan charism that deepened her Catholic faith during her college years at St. Bonaventure University and Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Community in Western New York. A native of Scranton, Pa., Mari has lived and worked in the Washington D.C. and suburban Maryland area for more than twenty years. She began her career in sales and public relations, which grew to a global leadership role in corporate social responsibility with a focus on human trafficking prevention, sustainability, and youth employability. Most recently, Mari was in leadership with a small, dynamic nonprofit where she launched an economic empowerment program and worked directly with human trafficking survivors. She serves with FMS as a missioner on the US-Mexico border.