Yesterday I wrote about a visit to a church in the novel Still Alice. That scene stands in sharp contrast to the church visit described in Life of Pi by Yann Martel, the other novel I am reading. Whereas Alice receives little spiritual comfort from her short visit , Piscine (Pi) takes a much more patient approach to his visit. He is a young teenager, who is on a spiritual quest in his native India. While his family is on vacation, he climbs a hill to a Christian church and walks around it, afraid at first to enter. Behind the church he discovers the rectory and from a hiding place, he secretly observes the parish priest inside. After a period of observation Pi states,
“I was filled with a sense of peace. But more than the setting, what arrested me was my intuitive understanding that he was there -open, patient – in case someone, anyone, should want to talk with him; a problem of the soul, a heaviness of the heart, a darkness of the conscience, he would listen with love. He as a man whose profession it was to love, and he would offer comfort and guidance as best he could.” p. 52
Pi eventually walks into the rectory and has several long conversations with the priest. Those conversation may be worthy of other posts, but the main point today is how does one prepare such an open, receptive setting for those who come on spiritual quests? Would those seeking even come to a church today? How do we practice true hospitality?