Being Faithfully Present by Face-to-Face Relationship

by Mark Votava


It is so easy to escape face-to-face relationships through all of our technology today.  Texting, facebook, iphones, surfing the net, blogging, emails, twitter, TV and video games all keep us at times from real face-to-face community in everyday life.  I have been overwhelmed by the temptation to always check my facebook, email or twitter accounts.  Being glued to a screen of some sorts is becoming more common and is wearing me out.

When we are drawn to life through our screens we will have a hard time being face-to-face in faithful presence to others.  Practically the only time I ever get headaches in my life is when I spend hours on the internet.  It is too much for me.

  •  Relational presence to others

The communal imagination is one of relational presence to others.  When we are physically together with others, but not emotionally present, this is not relational.  It doesn’t foster love.  It is treating people as less than human.

  • Being faithfully present to one another

What a tragedy that in so many of our relationships we are not truly present to one another.  God wants the body of Christ to be faithfully present to one another in the parish.  If the body of Christ cannot be present it cannot love.  And this presence to our parish is what will shape us as we live, work and play there.

  •  Presence begins with attentiveness

David G. Benner writes, “Presence begins with attentiveness.  This demands that I focus on the other person…  This attentiveness to the other involves setting some things aside. It usually means setting aside my own interests and preoccupations.  It also demands that I stop analyzing what I am hearing or rehearsing how I will respond.  And… it also involves resisting the impulse to solve problems or fix things that appear broken.”

  •  Stop trying to change or fix others

We need to stop trying to change or fix others.  This is the call of being present to others out of love for them.  Presence has an attentiveness to it.  We need to be present to one another as friends who care deeply and love.

  •  Letting go of the cliché that we can “change the world”

We will have to let go of some control.  We will have to let go of the cliché that we can “change the world.”  This vision is too big, too abstract.

  •  Getting down to what is right in front of us

Let’s get down to what is right in front of us: real people in real life contexts who live in our neighborhood.  These are the people we are called to love and become faithfully present to relationally.  Faithful presence takes time.

  • Real face-to-face relationship in the context of everyday life

It is slow.  It is organic.  It is not a project or program.  It is real face-to-face relationship in the context of everyday life together.  This is such a challenge and this relational presence will test our faith as the body of Christ.

How can we be faithfully present in the parish?