Love bade me welcome

Wednesday November 6, 2013

Early this morning I carried a cup of oatmeal down the hall from the front parlor area where the microwave is into our dining room. I sat in the same quiet place where I have eaten oatmeal for years, looking out the window toward Health Professions and Briggs. My first breakfast there, a place that means home to me, since late May. Being welcome matters a lot. Oatmeal and stillness put me on to today’s poem.

Some years ago George Herbert’s “Love Bade me Welcome” (1633) reminded me of Marion Sweetser. Marian lived in Minneapolis a widow with 6 or 7 children and loads of grandkids. One day in summer 1965 I and 3 other young Jesuits showed up at her door. We were driving from Wisconsin to Pine Ridge South Dakota to begin the year’s teaching at Red Cloud Indian School and she cooked lunch for us. The 25 year old she saw at her doorstep was a wreck — underweight, on the verge of colitis, intense. Marian recognized instantly that I needed welcome and wasn’t good at being welcomed. She was a master at both and that day began a magical friendship. For 25 years I stopped by any chance I could to spend time with Marion. Until she died, in her nineties, in 1994.

George Herbert’s poem helps me remember Marion, and the women and men who have welcomed me into their places. I am posting G Herbert today to dance a little at the rebirth of my house’s kitchen, our place of hospitality, and to celebrate the mutuality and playful hospitality on which each of us depends as we live our commitments.

I’ll be gone til Sunday, next post Monday. Have a good weekend.
john sj

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back, .
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d,’ worthy to be here’:
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste My meat.’
So I did sit and eat.
George Herbert 1633


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