Is your life a welcoming table?
Some of you may know that I am 100 percent Irish and proud of it. My grandmother used to say there are only two kinds of people in the world—the Irish and those who wish they were. But I’m going to let you in on a bit of a secret. There’s no wishing necessary. If you’re not Irish and want to be, the clan will welcome you with open arms. Despite the impression some may have of the Irish because of St. Patrick’s Day, it’s a culture that’s about more than parades and pubs and pints of Guinness. In fact, I think the greatest hallmark of the Irish is their hospitality.
Despite the impression some may have of the Irish because of St. Patrick’s Day, it’s a culture that’s about more than parades and pubs and pints of Guinness. In fact, I think the greatest hallmark of the Irish is their hospitality.
When I visited Ireland, it seemed every doorway I entered had a sign at its entrance with these three Gaelic words—Cead Mile Failte (kay-ed meelah fall-cha). It translates to “a hundred thousand welcomes.” This is no exaggeration about the kind of hospitality I experienced there. It also mirrors the hospitality my own Irish family modeled as I was growing up.
They gave the gift of hospitality to make visitors feel welcome, comfortable, and safe. Writer Kathleen Norris contends that hospitality is life-giving to the recipient and also to the giver. St. Francis told us this, too. “It is in giving that we receive.”
Hospitality is more than just an action—it’s an attitude. When you cultivate it as a habit, you take on the world with a whole different mindset. It can become so deeply planted within you that your entire life becomes a welcoming table.
Norris told this story in her book, Amazing Grace:
Not long ago, I heard a young nun speak about of an elderly nun with Alzheimer’s in her community, who every day insists on being placed in her wheelchair at the entrance to the monastery’s nursing home wing so that she can greet everyone who comes. “She is no longer certain what she is welcoming people to,” the younger woman explained, “but hospitality is so deeply ingrained in her that it has become her whole life.
I hope you’ll take some time today to reflect on the hospitality you give and receive in your own life and the blessing it has been for you. And each time you offer or receive hospitality let your heart sing, “Cead Mile Failte—100,000 Welcomes.”