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With my eastern roots and Western branches I have had the opportunity and good fortune of being able to visit quite a few countries in the world and encounter a wide diversity of cultures and customs. From these visits I have learned much. In some countries, almost on arrival they ask you as to when you are leaving! They are so businesslike and almost give you the impression of wanting to get rid of you as soon as possible. They seem to have lost the human value of hospitality. In other countries they make you feel so welcome and want to know whether you can prolong your stay and if that is not possible, at least as to when you would be returning. Parting here is painful!

My own experience has taught me that usually it is the poorer countries that make you feel so very special and treasure hospitality. The guest is almost treated like a king. He is offered the very best from the little that they have. The poor might not have a decent tea-set but they will surely offer the best cup (which may perhaps be without a handle) as they entertain the guest. Everybody seems to vie with the other to be at the service of the guest and to make his stay as comfortable and memorable as possible. Their attitude is so very Christian. Does not St Benedict say: "When a guest comes, Christ comes?”

My stay in Rome has offered me the opportunity of playing host to many visitors to the Eternal City. Arranging board and lodge for them at the most reasonable rates, showing them round the various churches and shrines of pilgrim interest, shopping with and for them – all this has been time consuming and tiring no doubt but it has given me much joy! Often my experience has been that of those two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Like them I had been walking with the Lord and in the breaking of the bread of hospitality I have recognised Him Who remains the unseen Guest at our table and the silent Listener to our conversation!

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