“Friendship binds past and present and makes bearable the uncertainty of the future. Friendship is…always and everywhere eternal mystery, eternal desire. It is a grasp at the ultimate, the quest for human understanding.”

Joan Chittister, The Friendship of Women

Friendships, both old and new, are a treasure, a gift of hospitality, a welcoming of another into your life. Friendships create space for coming home to oneself, an opportunity to be fully seen as who we are and who we want to become. Friendships are an opportunity to accept the hospitality of another as well, to see ourselves through the eyes of our special friends. Friendships with women are all-at-once sistering, mothering, armchair counseling, and spiritual direction.

Friendship is sacramental, an “outward, visible sign of an inward, invisible grace,” as defined by St. Augustine. Friendship is an invisible grace, a soul connection, that lives on even when friends are not together, when time or distance separate, and even after a dear friend passes. It is a sacred gift to have an old friend, one who has seen you through decades of life. Beth and Judy, friends from “Circle” had that kind of friendship for fifty years.

A short “Circle” story (the longer version HERE) that inspired a new card and brought new insights about hospitality, humility, and friendship:

I met Beth through Katie and then Judy through Beth. Colleen shared her friend, Joyce, with me and she eventually introduced me to SoulCollage. I shared my love of SoulCollage® with Beth, Judy and our Circle through several retreats and social gatherings.  Judy and Beth loved to create cards together—finding images, cutting them out, and when the time was right, pasting them into collages. They looked forward to weekly conversations and new insights. In 2016, their weekly ritual came to an end when Judy passed away. Recently Beth gifted me a bin of SoulCollage® supplies with folders of carefully trimmed images. SoulCollage® was an intimate memory she treasured with Judy, and not something she wanted to continue. Those images came with me on my last retreat.

Now I Become Myself

Sorting through Beth’s images, I came across a photo of Judy and Beth from some 50 years ago. I placed the photo on my table as inspiration, the younger Judy and Beth standing witness to our weekend creativity and to the conversations and insights of the ten women attending.

Judy (left) and Beth (middle), accepting an award on behalf of the Lincoln Mayor’s Committee for International Friendship in Washington DC.

Several of the images I gathered came together in a special way to make a card titled “Another Kind of Hospitality.” I felt the essence of Beth and Judy that weekend and as I work with the meaning of my card. They were not at the retreat, but there were definitely present.

Another Kind of Hospitality–card made from images that Beth had collected.

Reflection: Another Kind of Hospitality

Take off your shoes. Stay awhile.

Join me at the table, there is always an extra place. Break bread with me.

Or sit on the floor. Let’s play, watch, listen, create.

I see you, the One and the Many. I see you in all your many selves—your playfulness, your fear, your loneliness, your becoming. I see that you see me, too.

Welcoming you, I meet a part of myself that perhaps I didn’t see before.

Being with you teaches me about who I am, more of who I am becoming.

I take time to stand still, to be here, to look within. I see me and I see you.

Take your shoes off and stay awhile.

The angels in the icon of the Holy Trinity (Andrei Rublev), the central part of the card, symbolize the three strangers that Abraham welcomes into his tent in Genesis, a gesture of hospitality. (More about Hospitality and the Holy Trinity.) The angels share room at the table for another who may join.

St. Benedict insisted that hospitality be one of the highest values for monasteries, writing “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ.” (RB 53:1) Perhaps the “guest” is a stranger or those in our community who are marginalized, but the “guest” may also be our closest friends. We must welcome each other over and again, forgiving each other as we grow together or apart, giving grace and space as we become. The “guest” may be a friend in the making as well. Beth and Judy had a special and enduring friendship, but they did not limit friendships to just each other. Not exclusive, they shared themselves with others, opening their circle of friendship . We need not draw the circle closed—perhaps a better image is a spiral, a welcoming of women into the Circle as we go through the seasons of life.

Card Title: Threshold of Wisdom.

“This Table is not reserved exclusively for the Three, nor is the divine circle a closed circle: we’re all invited in.”

The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell

An openness to share our friendships with another requires humility, a trust that I lose nothing by welcoming another, and generosity, a trust that sharing with others expands our connectedness. Hospitality, when we open ourselves to others, adds value to our community and results in a creative and caring synergy in our old and new friendships.

If our hearts are open to practicing another kind of hospitality, there is always room at the table.

Beth shared Judy with us when we were creating our Circle several years ago; the photo I found was returned to Beth, but not after I made a duplicate to create this Circle card.
The ten women who attended Now I Become Myself, December 2022. It is a sacrament, a grace, to have met so many women through the years while leading retreats. They become part of the sacred spiral. Many of the same women come over and over, but nearly every retreat has someone new as well. We are blessed by the sharing that happens on retreat.
Making room at the table is the Benedictine value of hospitality. Carrie Newcomer, Room At The Table

Reflections on the opening session of Now I Become Myself HERE.

More to come…