If you’ve spent any time around the Franciscan Spiritual Center, you know that Sr. Mary Jo, Sr. Celeste, Sr. Emma and Sr. Theresa exude being present - being attentive, holding space, and welcoming all whom they encounter to feel alive in the here and now. I know that I’ve experienced this welcoming presence and invitation to be who I am for over a decade now - in Spiritual Direction, Peer Supervision, on Hermitage retreats and now as a part of the wonderful staff team at the Center. I’m always grateful for the invitation to be present to what is present to me - even if what is present to me is my scattered thoughts and swirling anxieties. Even there, if I am gentle towards myself, I always find truth - I find a path, I find God within.
I remember once during a spiritual direction session, Sr. Mary Jo asked me, “So what is is you want now in your life?”
I responded, “Do you mean now as in this season of my life or now as something else?”
And with her gentle look of love and deep connection she gazed into my eyes across the room and merely replied, “The only now is now. What is it you want in this moment?”
I don’t remember my answer and it is not relevant. But I never forgot that is it is always THIS moment that matters most. And, for most of us who struggle to live in this present moment - to be attentive to what is, not what we think should be, this is Good News. And, it is something I continue to embrace in my everyday, ordinary life - trying to live fully alive in the present moment.
It is said that we can only experience God in the “what is” - the what is now, the moment before us, what is at hand. It is suggested that the original French word for presence meant “to be at hand” and the Hebrew word for presence (conjugated slightly differently) is the same word for “Face.” In other words, “face” and “presence” equate the same concept and invitation - and God’s desire to be “with” (and present and face to face) with all of Creation is a thread of God’s heart throughout the entire Christian Scriptures. Presence, then, is knowing that the Loving Gaze and Embrace of God are always with us and among us.
For most of us, we spend far too much time dabbling in “what was” or “what will be” or even “what we fear might be." But I’m learning more and more on my faith journey that “what is” - what is present to me in the right here and now is all I need to lean into in order to take the next step. The only now is now.
For all of my fellow pilgrims on the journey - if you struggle with living too much in the past or too much in the future - take a deep breath and notice what most wants your awareness in THIS moment. Be present to what is with gentleness, non-judgment and compassion. Take another deep breath and notice what God is inviting you to be present to in THIS moment. And continue to open your heart to trust that God’s Loving Gaze and Embrace is with you always - especially right now.
Blessings to you on your journey.