The community leader, along with the guest quarters and kitchen, act as a kind of buffer between the community and guests. In fact, it could be said that the community leader throughout this chapter is acting as a guardian of the communal life. As they welcome guests, spending time with their personality and inclinations, the community leader can discern what kind of influence different guests are having, as well as what the communal response could be.
This is all part of the balance between how guests are received and the preservation of a healthy enough contemplative and communal life. In choosing to welcome all, all sorts are welcomed. Some may not yet understand the importance of preserving the rhythm and spirit of a contemplative lifestyle; others may be more receptive. Reception is a two-way street; while a contemplative and a contemplative community are willing to receive and welcome guests in all their variation, a guest is not necessarily ready to receive what contemplative means.
A guest is not a community member. In time, some may become members as their motivations and calling are tested. Whatever is happening, Benedict is asking that members walk a middle way between real welcome and the preservation of lifestyle. This is done kindly and gently. Over time contemplatives are about losing their rigidity as the divinity within is welcomed more and more. As this happens, it becomes more a natural thing to welcome guests as a part of the contemplative way of life. Separateness falls away as divinity moves and is welcomed.
What grows in us is an acceptance of difference. The challenge is to not allow this acceptance to have free influence over the daily rhythm. Acceptance of difference is not the compromising of a way of life. Visiting friends, family, and others may be used to having the TV or the radio on all the time; they may find eating together somewhat alien; extended periods of quiet may disturb them; stopping everything to meditate may be a strange thing. If our guests feel welcomed amid what is different for them, then this is a sign that we are genuinely welcoming of what is different about them for us. This is what hospitality is.