From The Blog

Mission Monthly – October 2007

“Well done, my good children. Hospitality is one of the first Christian duties. The beast retires to its shelter and the bird flies to its nest, but helpless man can only find refuge from his fellow-creature. The greatest stranger in this world was He that came to save it. He never had a house, as if willing to see what hospitality was left remaining amongst us.”

The Vicar of Wakefield

Hospitality has been on my mind as of late—most likely due to all the planning surrounding Rachel and Miguel Angel's wedding and the coordination of hospitality for the many out of town guests. Much was brought together in preparation for this beautiful day, and many were involved in providing a warm welcome to both personal and cultural strangers. And in the end, after the hospitality was extended, we found that we are not really strangers after all, but truly brothers and sisters in Christ.

Every October we are asked by the Archdiocese to remember our youth and to rededicate ourselves to the sacred ministry of raising God-pleasing children, in the hope and manner that the children entrusted to our stewardship will grow to be God-pleasing men and women. While this seems a most obvious goal for any Christian parent, Godparent, Grandparent, and other relatives and friends, I am skeptical that many today—even Orthodox Christians—are convicted and willing to enforce the needed direction and consistent discipline to accomplish this end. I know this is a delicate subject, and as a father of one and the father of many I can attest to the fact that there is little if any consensus on Orthodox Christian child-rearing; it is not my intention here to present a “one right way” to raise children.

The burden of our youth is one that has weighed heavily on my heart since our Lord mercifully woke me up from spiritual slumber during my college years. I was lulled asleep by many of the same forces that are acting upon our youth today; only today I believe these same forces are exponentially stronger. What words would one use to describe today's youth culture: active, entertained, scheduled, busy, electronic, comfortable, self-interested, passive, amoral, sexual, a-religious, carefree, moody, bored, disconnected, materialistic, impatient, segregated, lonely, ambivalent, ambitious? What is most intriguing to me is the passivity with which many adults today—even priests—demonstrate in detecting and fighting against the negative influences of “youth culture” attacking our own children! One priest with whom I had a challenging conversation many years ago told me that I shouldn't worry so much about our kids when they quit coming around late in high school and through their college years. He concluded by saying, “They'll come back when they get married and start having children.” I still feel sick when I think about the spiritual ignorance and irresponsibility of this attitude!

As a parent of a six year old I have a long way to go before it can be determined whether or not I have “managed my household well and kept my child submissive and respectful in every way” (1 Timothy 3:4); I am aware that the challenge before both Kh. Vanessa and me, like all parents, is a great one! Nevertheless there are a few points of child-rearing that I believe can be stated clearly: 1) I cannot be afraid that my child might resent me when I demand certain things of him or discipline him with love. 2) Prayer is more effective than words, action more valuable than intention. 3) Children have the capacity to achieve very high standards of expectation, and we sell them short every time we compromise because we do not want to press them or because we're exhausted from all of e's demands. 4) Children should never be allowed to use the word “bored” and we have a great responsibility to keep them engaged and far from the temptations of despondency and laziness. Isn't it interesting how these points pretty much require constant parental involvement and vigilant leadership?

There are many starting points to nurturing this right spirit in our children, but I believe thatpractical, hands-on serving may be the most beneficial, especially the virtue of hospitality where our children are taught directly how to come out of themselves by serving others. “He who grasps that charity is an active virtue, not a passive one, and begins to fulfill it after this manner, will soon find that heaven and earth reveal themselves to him in many colors. He will soon come to know both God's charity and man's. Charity is the striking of stone with stone that always produces a spark. He who strikes this blessed spark and he who receives it will both feel God's presence with them. At that moment, they feel God's caressing hand on both their hearts” (St. Nikolai Velimirovic).

I am still very hopeful that the generations placed in our care can be raised in faith and remain faithful their entire lives. Our dedication to this divinely consecrated ministry, as 19th century author, Charlotte Mason, put it, is as important as that of the bishop! Ours is an inspired work of inspiring our children to the love of God and neighbor, and to recognizing the beauty of this world and this life—not in the base allurements of sensual materialism, but rather in the heights of heavenly brilliance! Ours is the inspired work of helping our children understand God's hospitality towards us, and to nurture in them a thankful response and a conviction to love! May the virtue of hospitality be more diligently sought after by each and every one of us, for the love of our neighbor, for the sake of our children and for the glory of God!