Every year, since we purchased this house seven years ago, we’ve hosted a large party and invited pretty much everyone we know in the local area. Our first year here, it was a Michaelmas party, held close to September 29th (because Fulton had just been born and we moved in a month later at the end of July.) But since then, we’ve always held a Nativity of St. John the Baptist party complete with Vespers and a bonfire.
Saturday, the forecast was dismal, but we’ve always had perfect weather, no matter the predictions so we forged ahead, sending out cheerful reminders like “Rain or shine!” and “Don’t worry, it’s a go!”. As we set up, it continually drizzled so we decided to set up our food, beverages and seating in our barn, rather than on the deck. It was just to be a temporary measure, until things cleared up.
As guests started to arrive, the sky opened up and buckets of water poured from the sky, pounding on the barn’s metal roof, drowning out conversation. The kids ran around in the rain, becoming soaked and muddy; the adults ate and drank and laughed as they would usually do outside. Tony kept saying, “It will soon let up and the kids can try the obstacle course and I’ll get the bonfire set up!” Thankfully he grilled all the food in advance so he didn’t need to stand soaking wet at the grill.
But, it never let up. More families arrived. Some hung out in the house, near the desserts. Some kids tired from playing in the rain crashed on the couches or floor and read books or played with toys. “Any minute now, it’s going to stop and well get the bonfire going!” Tony continued to say. He broke out the Vespers sheets and they prayed in the barn, raising their voices to combat the sound of the rainwater. During the hymn, you could hear them in the house.
People kept coming, though some left a bit earlier than usual. I assumed once everyone got the text that flash flooding was breaking out on local roads, things would wrap up, But some lingered, their children splashing in the water that was now creeping into my old basement. Eventually, the party did wind down with the last families leaving around 9:30 p.m. Still early for one of our parties, but pretty good considering the circumstances. All in all 83 people showed up, the large majority children.
At Mass yesterday, some people said they hadn’t come because of the weather; they’d assume we’d cancel. However, the invitation was rain or shine, and we meant it. Maybe cause we’re crazy, but also because I think we knew people would enjoy themselves anyway. Our family certainly did, though Fulton and Teddy we upset the weather kept them from driving around as much as they would have liked.
I think many people see perfect parties on Pinterest, and think “I don’t have time for that”, and because they can’t achieve perfection, they never host parties of any size. Even with a steady downpour, our guests had fun and it was wonderful to converse with so many other families.
We didn’t offer fancy themed food or have fantastic decorations. I forgot to buy tablecloths, so I draped old sheets on the serving tables. I didn’t have time to dust in the house or wipe all the fingerprints from the glass. Certainly, it would be great if I could find time to do all those things, but none of them are necessary to offer hospitality. While the rain chased some people away, it wasn’t because I had a lack of side dishes or my kitchen sink was cluttered with party prep.
The benefits to hospitality extend beyond the tasty selection of food and beverage.
Like the early Christians, we must also rely on and offer hospitality as a means of sharing the gospel. By creating a welcoming home, we make the Christian life attractive. With further insight, John Paul II writes, “Welcoming our brothers and sisters with care and willingness must not be limited to extraordinary occasions but must become for all believers a habit of service in their daily lives” (Address to volunteer workers, March 8, 1997). -Emily Cook (read the whole piece if you have time)
When we welcome people into our homes joyfully, we are sharing our faith in a wonderful way and we are sharing in a tradition that goes back into the old Testament as Kendra shares so well in this post.
While I knew the importance of hospitality, it took Saturday’s rainy party to show me how well hospitality works even in the worst circumstances. And if you can share and laugh during a rainstorm, it shouldn’t be too hard any other time right? Any future party will seem down right easy after Saturday’s muddy mess.
Don’t wait for the perfect day to extend an invitation. Just open your home and see the benefits that hospitality brings to your family. At the very least, your supply of desserts and alcohol might exponentially increase.