Faculty and Staff Meeting, May 2017
“We must go out in hospitality. We must be willing to leave our homes and make our hearts a dwelling place.”
Eduardo Arroyo was the most difficult student I have ever taught. He was an obstinate and argumentative fifth grader in my classroom at Guardian Angels School in Denver eight years ago. In my more patient moments, I would remember the many difficulties of his home life and family situation and temper my reactions to his outburst with compassion. In other moments, I struggled to summon the joy and cordiality that St. Jane describes in this month’s quote.
One spring afternoon, as we were reading a beautiful novel called Esperanza Rising, a book I’d recommend to anyone with middle school readers out there, Eduardo interrupted me. “Miss Fitzpatrick, Esperanza reminds of that woman who shouted to Jesus, Ravioli! Ravioli!” I was speechless. There is no such gospel story. The rest of the class laughed and I wondered if this was a silly attempt to derail my lesson. Once Eduardo mentioned the empty tomb, I realized he spoke of Mary Magdalene and a resurrection story we had read together a month before. In John’s gospel, when Mary Magdalene grieves at the empty tomb and is comforted by a man she thinks is the gardener, the Risen Jesus calls her by name and she sees him for who he truly is. Her astonished and joyful reply is one Hebrew word, roughly translated to, “My dear teacher.” Rabbouni. Not ravioli. Eduardo’s connection between Esperanza and Mary Magdalene was not just relevant but very astute.
As Providence would have it, I taught that exact same gospel story during my interview here five years ago in Father Franco’s Religion I class. I again taught that resurrection story a few weeks ago in my own class and realized, on St. Jane’s reading, this is a story of hospitality. As is always the case with Jesus, he goes out, finds the brokenhearted, and “supports, assists, consoles, and comforts with a spirit of joy and cordiality.”
My little Jack is responsible for teaching me my more recent lessons on hospitality. Like most little ones his age, he is obsessed with trucks. I think he would say that garbage trucks are his favorite but he doesn’t discriminate. Delivery. Utility. Construction. He’s a fan of all of them. We have been known to chase them down and sit and watch them at work for longer than I would like to admit. Recently I have begun to see his enthusiasm for an approaching truck mature into a friendly and cheerful interest in the driver behind the wheel.
Jack has forced us to slow down. Sometimes he is not content with a passing wave but insists we stop, observe, say hello, introduce ourselves and strike up a conversation. We have become Marvin the UPS truck driver’s fan club. As I delight it watching Jack open his beautiful heart to these drivers, I also wonder how often I rushed past or looked beyond these men who have become so much a part of my daily life these last few months. At best, I was too busy to meet their gaze and say hello. At worst, I was too self-absorbed to care about them.
I suppose this is what has transformed my understanding. We must go out in hospitality. We must be willing to leave our homes and make our hearts a dwelling place. In the early moments of Resurrection shock and joy, Jesus went out and tracked down the disciples shuttered away in the Upper Room. He shared with them the most hospitable message of Easter I can imagine: Peace be with you.
And so we pray together in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit:
Make of our hearts a home that joyfully welcome and give shelter to our students, our family members, our friends, and the stranger. Make of our hearts a home for the Holy Spirit to dwell in and radiate from.