Monastic hospitality links firmly with green burial – both things we’re fans of here at Melleray Farmstead, the cottage industrial home to Piedmont Pine Coffins.
What’s the link? Well, we are all guests, we are all just passing. You might say that we are guests passing through this magnificent Earth. Both stewardship (in our context, green burial) on the one hand, and on the other, hospitality, flow from the same primary experience – that of being a visitor here on this planet. The attendant sentiment is properly gratitude. When you are grateful for something, you’re more likely to take care of it and pass it on in good shape for the next person to come along.
I’m not a Christian, and there are no monks here, but in our life at Melleray Farmstead, we take inspiration from monks and monasteries — not to mention homesteads and farms — down throughout the ages. One big piece of this is monastic hospitality. In a harsh and hostile world, hospitality is the hand of God holding the door open for a traveler or a stranger in need.
The Rule of St. Benedict for Christian monasteries famously enjoins monks to open the door to visitors as if opening for Christ himself. Furthermore, monks are encouraged always to consider themselves guests of the monastery, even if they have lived there for 50 years, so that they always keep the correct attitude of gratitude and never let “ownership” mentality take them over. Owners appropriate and indulge. Guests are polite and humble.
In our guest cabin this summer we’ve been hosting a family-of-four at need and so have had occasion to reflect on monastic hospitality a lot. I’ve also had a chance to think about green burial and our coffins during our at-capacity building month of mid-June to mid-July.
Piedmont Pine Coffins — as a project that encompasses monks and farms, hospitality and stewardship — braids my life story like a rope, with different strands wrapping and twisting and now all pulling in the same direction.
Hey, I’m grateful for that.