(L-R) Pietro, Alessandro, Marco, Elisabetta, Marta, Benjo, Valeria, (below) Raffaella, and Erin.

Cometa and Hospitality: An Emptying of Oneself

Forty people spent a weekend together in Washington, DC, with a couple from Cometa. The theme of the gathering was hospitality.
Raffaella Mariani

“Hi Eli, would you and Marco like to come to America for a short vacation?” I asked my friend Elisabetta last fall with the desire that everyone may see what I saw.

Elisabetta and Marco live in Cometa, Como. I met them a few summers ago and we immediately became friends and last summer, we spent some vacation days together when I visited Italy.

Around the same time, back in the US, we were invited to work on Fr. Carrón’s book Disarming Beauty. This work was a tool for me to look deeply into that reality of hospitality that I find so attractive. This attraction is due to my realization that hospitality is not just a personal dimension of life for those who adopt or foster children; It is a “yes” that places no restrictions on reality and applies to all circumstances. It’s a “yes” to your husband, your kids, your friends, and situations you couldn’t have imagined, and maybe didn’t even want.

Elisabetta and Marco accepted my invitation and we decided to meet on February 16-18 in Washington, DC. The theme was the broad sense of the experience of hospitality. We invited about 40 people from several different states and the families invited were, in some way, involved in some form of hospitality toward the “other,” either through adoption, foster care, or an illness.

Preparation for that weekend was very beautiful. I was very struck to notice the great desire and anticipation present in all of us. We were excited about the theme and looking forward to the time we would spend together. We got in touch with each other, even though we were strangers at that point, and we shared our stories. The relationships that flourished made us say, “I can’t wait to meet you!” The families in the Washington community even gave their availability to host those who were coming in from other states.

(L-R) Keith, Melissa, and Andrea during lunch.

During our weekend, we spent the days together and heard some reflections on the theme of hospitality. Our work started from Fr. Giussani’s book The Miracle of Hospitality, of which we read the first two chapters. Marco and Elisabetta gave a witness, we asked them many questions, and we dialogued about our circumstances and desires. What we had before our eyes were not two heroes with great attitudes and special skills to help them live extraordinary lives. Instead, we saw two spouses who showed us that ordinary life—being a dad or a mom, having a job, etc.—can really be extraordinary if we allow Another to mold it. Theirs is a story of many consecutive “yeses” said in concrete circumstances, and seeing their story confirms that it is better to abandon our own ideas and projects to make room for God’s initiative. That weekend, Fr. Jose` used this beautiful phrase to help us understand this: “The circumstances that are given to us and the story each of us is immersed in, are continuous invitations for us to enter in the life of God.”

Over the weekend, we also spoke about communion educating us to open our arms to receive, welcome, and learn that the other is valuable and good just because he exists and is worthy of love just because he is. We learned that beauty is a sign of love and hope. This way, we understand that the theme of hospitality is not only pertinent to those “fit for the job,” but it’s for each one of us, whatever form our life may take. Hospitality is, above of all, an emptying of oneself to welcome the will and the initiative of Another and be recreated by Him.

Two weeks ago, The New York Times published an editorial by columnist David Brooks, in which he reflected on his encounter with Cometa. Fascinated by its families’ openness to let their existence be transformed, Brooks writes, “Some of the people who do the most good have a willingness to be radically changed. They are sensitive to the problems around them, which a lot of us are, but they are also willing to transform their lives to address them, which a lot of us don’t consider.”

This is a great sign that shows us that the world is in need, is thirsty, for a more human life and a more human reality, and that, when man collides with it, he recognizes it as corresponding.

Download "The Miracle of Hospitality" ch. I & II