AS REFUGEES Amanda Martinez Beck tells the story of her family: forced to flee Cuba after the revolution for offering medical care to the wounded, they were saved by the generosity of Catholics in Columbia.
Lately, I have been struck with how completely the Christian life revolves around the welcome and the hospitality of God. God is persistent in his welcome—He continues to invite us in and to come closer and closer, to know Him more through the sacraments. My husband and I were welcomed into the Catholic Church as converts, and the more I practice the sacraments, the more I see the hospitality of the Gospel. I especially feel the welcome of Jesus when I go to confession. I am received with joy in the confessional as I confess my sins to God and to my priest. It brings me such gladness to know that nothing I confess will cause me rejection. I receive the hospitality of God when the father speaks the words, “Go in peace; your sins are forgiven,” and I am knit once more even further into my local parish, the fabric of God’s Church around the world. What an honor it is for me, then, to extend hospitality to Jesus himself, through the Eucharist. I prepare a place for him in my soul through confession and my body through fasting before Mass. Being Catholic has deepened my understanding of just how central this Christ-like welcome is to the Kingdom of God. It makes me pause and consider how the hospitality of others has affected my life and the lives of the ones I love. I think of my parents and how they welcomed me into the world, and how they fed, clothed, and nurtured me—and continue to do so even as I am grown with 12
children of my own. I only have to look back one generation to see the effects of the Christ-like hospitality that was offered by countless people unknown to me, who welcomed my refugee family after they fled Cuba and the Castro regime in the early 1960s. These people, whether they knew it or not, were living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as a result my life is forever changed. My grandfather was an only child, raised in the tropical paradise of Cuba. His given name Radamés was an unusual one on the island; he was named after the brave Egyptian general who sacrifices his life for love in Aida, his mother’s favorite opera. Life wasn’t easy, but he was smart and he worked hard, eventually earning his degree in medicine, specializing in orthopedics. He married my grandmother Lilia, full of passion and smart as a whip, who had her own degree in pharmacy. They started a family, and life was good. They lived in an apartment in Havana that had a poured marble porch, which stayed nice and cool in the tropical air. One of the bedrooms in the apartment was converted into an exam room for my grandfather’s medical practice. The living room doubled as a waiting room, and my father and his siblings were banished from indoors when school was not in session, spending their days on the cool marble porch. The only time they went back inside was to come to the kitchen for lunch, in shifts,