Ko tangata takahi manuhiri, ko te marae puehu:
Insult the visitor and you contaminate the marae.
This magnificent whakatauakī (saying) reveals an understanding that something connects us with each other. The wairua (spirit) of each us comes from the same Source. Because of this understanding, in the Māori world, manaakitanga (hospitality) is key to welcoming visitors onto a marae. Real hospitality is when you are made to feel you belong. Anything less in the Maori world is an insult to those who visit and this reflects on their marae.
In her book, Aroha, Dr Elder suggests that manaakitanga is experienced with the provision of food, always plenty and delicious and that it is evident in the touch of a hand, a hug and expressions of kindness. I’d like to suggest that this is living out what is symbolised in one of the formalities on the marae, namely the hongi: “hōmai tou iho, kia whakakotahi to taua wairua, give me your nose that our spirits might be one”.
Thinking in terms of our spirits being united takes us beautifully to something in Catholicism we term ‘The Mystical Body of Christ’. Through our baptism and the Resurrection of Jesus our spirits are united in a sacred way. We are one body in Christ.
In my current parish we had a baptismal font carved from a tree trunk. It was heavy and difficult to move around. After two Māori parishioners altered it to make it easily movable we decided to cut a piece off the trunk to correct the height. At the rededication one of the craftsmen explained that the piece taken off must always remain beside the font, for the wairua of those who had been baptised at this font is always around. Such understanding and belief shows an incredible depth of humanity’s oneness with each other, both on the natural and spiritual level.
In the Catholic world we often say: “I will pray for you”, especially when someone is facing some hurdle in life. Nowhere is this more appreciated than at the time of death or serious illness. We do this because we believe we are one with each other in Christ. We take literally the words of Jesus: “As long as you did this to the least of my brothers and sisters children, you did it also to me”.
So you see, to fail to care for the poor with reverence and love, is to contaminate that marae to which we belong, namely, ‘The body of Christ.’
For Vincentians, how, specifically, might we insult the people we serve?
By showing us the sacredness of humanity
We see the sadness of sin
Committed by the way we insult one another.
Fill us with compassion
Let us be a body that welcomes, feeds and reverences
All you have created.