Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about “presence” and the various forms it takes. When I participated with 200,000 people in the Women March last week, we made our presence known in Chicago, along with women all over the world – a big presence.

I just finished reading a biography, When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who self- diagnosed, stage four lung cancer. When he became too sick to finish the book his wife completed it. During his final days this parents and brother arrived and Paul’s bedroom became the center of their home.  His family read to him, played is favorite music and his eighteen month old daughter  snuggled against him in his bed.  The presence of his entire family nestled in with him for his final journey deeply touched me.  I cried through the last two chapters.

A very dear friend recently sent me a amaryllis plant and told me I should water it and watch it grow. And watching it sprout , I should be reminded of the new seed of health care chaplaincy God has planted in my heart.  Everyday  I marvel at the presence of this plant in my life, and give thanks for new growth occurring in me.

Recently I was  in a hospital working as a volunteer spiritual visitor.  When I knocked on the door and asked the patient if he would like a visit, he declined as he was in too much pain.  I told him I understood and would hold him in my prayers.  Then he waved me in and asked if I would hold his hand; I did.  After a few minutes of silence he began to talk and for the next twenty minutes brought me up-to-date on his family.  I believe by the time I departed his pain had subsided.

Over the past year I’ve become acquainted with the silent presence of Jesus in my morning meditation. Initially the stillness was uncomfortable, I’m not use to being quiet. But in time I settled into the  healing power of His presence.  As an extrovert, I never knew being quiet could feel so good.   And then there is the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; his body broken for me, his blood shed for me.  I’m truly overwhelmed by this unconditional, unwavering love.

All of this is to say, I encourage you to become aware of your presence, your surroundings and how you draw  energy from those around you and in turn how you emanate the love of Christ by your presence.



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3 Responses to Presence

  1. Dave Jarvis says:

    Good thoughts, Toni. I think that God is always present with us, but that we are not always receptive. So practicing that receptivity has been helpful to me, as has Brother Lawrence’ book on the topic, “Practicing the Presence of God.” In the best of times, my presence with others reflects God’s Presence with me. “Lord make us instruments of Thy peace …”


  2. Sue Nebel says:

    Also,there is yourself as the presence of God, especially in your chaplaincy work. Often, it is sitting with someone who is alone, and perhaps “non-responsive” and being the visible sign of God’s love to them. In my chaplaincy days, I often used the phrase, “Don’t just do something, sit there.”


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