Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Hospitality as a Life Stance in Mission: Elements from Catholic Mission Experience in the Twentieth Century

Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Hospitality as a Life Stance in Mission: Elements from Catholic Mission Experience in the Twentieth Century

Article excerpt

Through Jonathan Bonk's gracious invitation, I became a senior mission scholar in residence at the Overseas Ministries Study Center in spring 2008. Little did I realize what the semester would hold in addition to research, a public lecture, and the weeklong seminar I gave as part of my residency. In April I broke my leg and had a slow recovery of many weeks at OMSC. As I considered the myriad professional interactions Jon Bonk and I have had over twenty-five years and the themes of this Festschrift, I immediately recalled the diverse expressions of hospitality from Jon and Jean Bonk, the OMSC staff, and residents as my physical mobility expanded that semester. The English word "hospitality" derives from the Latin hospes (a host/hostess, a guest-friend), as do hospitality, hospitable, hospital, and hospice. (1) Missionaries have learned from experience the many cultural expressions of hospitality around the world. Through a brief consideration of three such experiences of Catholic missionaries from the twentieth century, I will draw out some underlying dispositions of hospitality in relation to mission. (2)

H. A. Reinhold and the Apostolate of the Sea

The first story is that of German-born Hans Ansgar Reinhold (1897-1968), who joined the German army in 1914, was wounded in action, and then was assigned to translating French and English codes as a member of army intelligence. (3) After the war, while a student at the University of Freiburg, he read The Spirit of the Liturgy, by Romano Guardini, which became a crossroads in his life, for in it he glimpsed Christianity as a living experience. He met the liturgist Dom Odo Casel at Maria Laach Monastery, a noted center for liturgical renewal since the late 1910s. There Reinhold experienced missa recitata, or "dialogue Masses," as they were called, which involved full participation of the people in song and responses during the Eucharistic celebration, rather than their passive presence as onlookers of what was "going on" at the altar. His liturgical experience and the consequent social dimensions of living the liturgy shaped the rest of his life and mission.

Four years after his ordination in 1925, Reinhold was appointed port chaplain of Bremerhaven, "the ugliest of cities," he remarked--"a stark unoriginal industrial city of unbelievable drabness and functional utilitarianism." He was then named port chaplain in Hamburg and became cofounder of the International Apostolate of the Sea, an organization of port and sea chaplains and others who ministered to men of the sea. (4) But a mission perspective that entwined liturgy and social action toward and among seamen who labored on cargo, cruise, or fishing ships brought him exile. At the 1934 International Congress of the Apostolate of the Sea that he organized in Germany, he refused to open the gathering with the required salute to Hitler and the accompanying song. On April 30, 1935, five Gestapo agents came to his office and forced him to sign the receipt of a decree that, he wrote, "banished me from all contacts with the sea and her men, 'according to Section I of the law of the Reich President for the protection of people and state.' [I] had to leave the coast that very afternoon." (5) After three years of peripatetic exile in Europe and the United States, he was named port chaplain in Seattle, Washington.

During his college years Reinhold had worked aboard cruise ships and had observed the divided "worlds" on the upper and lower decks and in the ship's hold. As a chaplain in two German ports, he witnessed firsthand the difficulties of a sailor's life. Mariners were a commodity while on shore to be exploited by prostitutes, vendors, innkeepers, pub owners, and other entrappers, who sought sailors' hard-earned wages. The men of the sea, gone from their home for lengthy periods of time, were not members of land-based parishes, nor were they even on the parish horizon. Not all sailors, of course, were practicing Catholics or any other kind of Christian. …

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