In the Dying Healed Seminar, held this past March 14 In Norquay my co-presenter, Jackie Saretsky, and I spoke to participants about the “power of presence” . What is the power of presence? Well it is simply what the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention(CASP) advocates as an “…important means of aiding vulnerable people in their darkest hour.” (Dying Healed, 2nd Ed. Leaders Guide, 23) the CASP tells us that it is in those dark moments that we most need hope… and “…hope can be as simple and as profound as the voice of another human being who appears to hear our fear;…When despair seems to overcome us we feel disconnected, isolated, lost. What we need most in those moments is a means of reconnection, relationship and belonging.”
The global pandemic and it’s terrifying health and economic concerns along with the social isolation required to prevent its spread have lead many to feel great anxiety along with isolation and fear, especially the vulnerable and alone. Many in our communities are feeling this way. Yet there are many more who would like to help and they do not know quite how they might do this at a time when we are being told to keep our distance.
First, do not underestimate the value of a phone call! With all our connectivity online we often forget that the elderly in our community may not have seen our latest post on social media.
Second, let’s start with our family and neighbors but don’t stop there. Consider mobilizing the groups that we might be involved in–Parish/Pastoral councils, UCWLC, Brotherhood, and Knights of Columbus –to create a phone tree where members are given a list of people to call on a weekly basis to check in. Ask even marginal members to participate–they may have time on their hands right now that they do not usually have. This is a great way to build community. We cannot expect that our clergy will be able to do this alone–right now it is our opportunity to be church for each other.
Viktor Frankl, survivor of the nazi death camps, put it this way. “He who knows the why for his existence…will be able to bear almost any ‘how’. At this time someone may need to hear your voice…even at a distance to give them hope and affirm the ‘why’ of their existence.
If you cannot contact someone you can certainly offer a prayer for them…even if you do not know who might especially need your prayer, take 10 minutes, offer a decade of the rosary, chant a Psalm or pray the Jesus Prayer asking for God’s mercy and healing love to be poured out upon the lonely, the suffering and the dying, who because of their isolation or quarantine do not have the comfort of friends and family with them. St. Padre Pio used ask his guardian angel to go to be with those in particular need. Ask him or other saints to pray with you. If for some reason you wake up in the night that is a wonderful time to pray for those who are suffering. Perhaps you have been awakened by the Spirit for exactly that purpose. I know this happens every now and again to me. If I can manage to pray for whomever it is who needs my prayers, I always know that the time of lost sleep was full of purpose and meaning. That makes it so much easier to endure, even if there are a few extra yawns in store for you the next day. That is what the ‘gift’ of coffee is for!