Reflections 28th June 2020

A Reflection for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

MT 10: 37-42 (

‘The Guests’ begin to gather from 18h30 outside the Spiritan house in Cologne.  Drug addicts who would otherwise spend the night on the streets, they are welcomed as guests for a night by a team of lay Spiritans and volunteers of the Notel project, given a hot meal, the possibility of a shower and an overnight clothes-laundering facility. They have a safe place to sleep for the night and can have breakfast in the morning before going back out on the streets.

This practice of hospitality has happened every night for over 30 years. The team prays together before opening the doors and welcoming their guests. Recently a space in the building was converted into an infirmary staffed by volunteers with a medical background. There are five beds to welcome those without easy access to medical care. Lacking the resources or the expertise to do so, no attempt has been made to turn it into a rehabilitation programme. Rather, it is based on the recognition that even if we cannot do everything, we can do something.

A stranger like myself in their midst has them wondering what I am doing there.  Once they learn that I am a Spiritan, and what is more a foreigner on a visit, the innate sense of welcoming the stranger kicks in.  Those who can, try out their English in order to engage me in conversation.  Others with no English carry on in German.  The conversations don’t usually last very long, because the drugs kick in and heads begin to drop at the dinner table. Nonetheless, in turn, those being welcomed into the house welcome the stranger.  “I don’t think I’ve been in a church since my First Communion”, a 22-year-old said to me.  “And after all I’ve been and done, I don’t think I’d be welcome into one”. 

Without knowing it, he was being welcomed into a “sacred space” which mirrors the themes of hospitality and welcome in today’s scripture readings.

Richard Olin C.S.Sp. – A past-pupil of Templeogue College who ‘prefected’ for 2 years in Sénégal, Fr. Olin has served in Ghana and Brussels. The holder of an MBA, he was Irish Province Bursar and has led the Spiritan Community attached to St. Mary’s College since 2017.