Tag Archives: presence

The Gift of My Presence

Loneliness is something every human being has to face, for it is the hunger for perfect union. Even happily married people know this loneliness, for we cannot penetrate another’s innermost being. Loneliness ultimately comes from not knowing that God loves us, for as St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
— Servant of God Catherine Doherty, Dearly Beloved (Volume 1)

In regular life one may feel lonely at times, and appreciate the company of friends. But I have never quite felt the enormity of the gift of human presence until recently, especially on the day I visited both my fiancé in prison and my friend in a psychiatric ward.

When visiting a prisoner, you cannot bring anything with you — no gifts, no cards or letters (mailed and examined, as in a convent or monastery), no food, no books. All you bring is yourself.

For an hour twice a week, family and friends can visit their loved ones in prison. This begins with non-contact visits, through a glass. After background checks have been cleared — usually after a month or more — we can have contact visits. The gift of human touch is never so appreciated as when it has been denied for awhile. My fiancé could barely contain his joy, saying, “I feel like running around the room in excitement!”

One of the first things in facing loneliness, especially that of old age, but any kind of loneliness, is to understand that Christ calls some people to share His loneliness. This calling is redemptive! For if we share in the loneliness of Christ we can also share in His redeeming of the world.
— Servant of God Catherine Doherty, Doubts, Loneliness, Rejection

Each time you visit, there is a chance you may not see the person you have come for. After being identified, you have to check that you have nothing prohibited on your person — no watches, no phones or tissues in your pockets, no bobby pins, no jewellery except wedding or engagement rings. A lady’s first contact visit with her son was almost cancelled when she realized she still had her watch on, under her sleeve.

Then the drug-detecting dog sniffs you; you have your shoes scanned; an officer examines your hair, your heels (not sure why — if someone wanted to hide anything in his socks, it would be between his toes, right?), your pockets, your ears for piercings, and your mouth (recently added to the litany of places to check for contraband). Then you step into a machine which checks your fingerprint (which regularly malfunctions), and on the other side an officer with a wand checks for drugs again. The other day a high school teacher was unable to have a contact visit with her son because the wand picked up something on her clothes.

Finally, you step through a series of doors into the visiting area. Then you have one precious hour to spend with the person who has been anticipating your visit all week. In this corporal or bodily act of mercy, you truly realize how humans are made for communion, especially through the physical presence of another. We can receive phone calls daily and letters weekly, but nothing compares to actually being with someone and being able to comfort them with a simple touch.

Prisoners are often moved from prison to prison, and some visitors sadly miss seeing their beloved. On two occasions I witnessed or heard of a visitor traveling from afar, only to find their loved one gone — and with the booking system, you often have to book visits a week ahead. I found a lady sobbing outside the reception area — she had driven an hour to see her husband, only to find that she had been mistakenly booked in for the prior visit and the bookings system did not allow her to enter for the current one. She also discovered that her husband was being moved to a prison much further away. With children to care for at home, she was overwhelmed at losing this precious hour, and completely brokenhearted.

Indeed, prison is hard on the families of the incarcerated. So is hospitalization. When I visited my friend, the other patients crowded around us, thirsting for human connection. From their manner of speech, I discerned that they had lived rough lives, and they probably didn’t receive many visitors. How many solitary people are out there in institutions, aching for a friendly voice? In prisons and in hospitals, chaplains bring the precious gift of their presence and the Real Presence, a selfless act which in turn acknowledges the inherent worth of each prisoner and patient which cannot be erased by sin, sickness or suffering.

Love is not abstract; it is a fire. It must spend itself in service. What you and I have to be is a flame, a lamp to our neighbor’s feet, a place where he can warm himself, where he can see the face of God.
— Servant of God Catherine Doherty, Restoration

Can you think of someone who may need your presence today? Find in him the Face of Christ, as he will find Christ in yours.

For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.
— Matthew 25:35-36

Image: Saint Paul in Prison

Advent: The Coming of the Lord

Mary's Ultrasound

Happy New Liturgical Year! With the First Sunday of Advent came a new year in the Catholic Church. Advent is an important time of spiritual preparation for Christmas. Just as we prepare for the glorious joy of Easter with Lenten fasting and penance, so do we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ with the quiet contemplation of Advent.

“Advent” is derived from the Latin ad venio, “to come”. This liturgical season anticipates the Adventus Domini, the coming of the Lord. The sublime secret is that Christ is already here: He has been present in Mary’s womb since the Annunciation on 25 March.

Pope Benedict XVI taught us in his book Dogma and Preaching:

“Advent” does not mean “expectation,” as some may think. It is a translation of the Greek word parousia which means “presence” or, more accurately, “arrival,”, i.e., the beginning of a presence. In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also for the god being worshipped, who bestows his parousia on his devotees for a time.

“Advent,” then, means a presence begun, the presence being that of God. Advent reminds us, therefore, of two things: first, that God’s presence in the world has already begun, that He is present though in a hidden manner; second, that His presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing toward its full form.

His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom He wishes to be present in the world. Through our faith, hope, and love He wants his light to shine over and over again in the night of the world.

That night is “today” whenever the “Word” becomes “flesh” or genuine human reality. The Christ child comes in a real sense whenever human beings act out of authentic love for the Lord.

A beautiful Advent prayer is the St. Andrew Christmas Novena, which encapsulates a deep longing for God’s arrival in the dark night of a world in need of a Savior, a world hungering for Love. This Advent, let us be open to God’s quiet presence amidst the hustle and bustle of life, making room for Him to be born in our hearts so that we may bear Him to every person we meet, irradiating their lives with joy.

St Andrew Xmas novena

In many people Christ lives the life of the Host. Our life is a sacramental life.

This Host life is like the Advent life, like the life of the Child in the womb, the Child in the swaddling bands, the Christ in the tomb. It is a life of dependence upon creatures, of silence and secrecy, of hidden light.

— Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God

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Images: National Catholic RegisterYoung and Catholic.