Franciscan Spirit Blog

The Sacrament of the Present

As an adult, I realize now, looking back, that no one ever asked me, “If you were to live today, how would you savor this gift you’ve been given?” “If you were to live today, how would you embrace this sacrament of the present moment?”

Here’s what I do now know: When we stop the noise, the distraction, the compulsion to perform, the fear of rejection, we make (meaning allow) space to practice this “new” sacrament.

The first-grade class assignment: to name the seven wonders of the world. Each student compiles a list, and shares that list, aloud, with the class. There is ardent interaction as the students call out entries from their lists: the Pyramids, the Empire State Building, the Amazon River, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal and the list goes on. The teacher serves the role of cheerleader, “Class, these are great answers. Well done!”

One girl sits silent. She is asked about her list. She says, “I don’t think I understand the assignment.”


“I don’t have any of the right answers,” she tells the teacher.

“Well, why don’t you tell us what you wrote on your paper, and we’ll help you?” the teacher encourages her.

“OK,” says the little girl, “I think the seven wonders of the world are to see, to hear, to taste, to touch, to smell, to love, to belong.”

Somewhere along the way, we have buried this little girl’s wisdom.

With these seven wonders, we make the choice to be open, available, curious and willing to be surprised by joy. We know there is power in the word enough. We carry this capacity to honor the present into every encounter and relationship, meaning that we honor the dignity that is reflected by God’s goodness and grace. Every encounter, every relationship, is a place to include, invite mercy, encourage, receive, heal, reconcile, repair, say thank you, pray, celebrate, refuel, and restore.

A seminary student body participated in a day of recollection and reflection. As the seminary president introduced the guest retreat leader—on a beautiful Saturday morning in spring—he apologized to the seminarians, “I’m very sorry for the distraction and the noise.”

This Saturday—on the seminary grounds sports field—happened to be youth soccer day. It seems that the president had forgotten to arrange for the local youth soccer program to play their games elsewhere on the day of the retreat. Hundreds of children were on the seminary grounds, and the sounds of play and laughter could easily be
heard, echoing and reverberating inside the lecture hall.

But when the retreat leader stood up to begin his first talk of the day, he said, “I think it’s wonderful that the children are here with us this morning. I will not have done my job if you aren’t able to have a good retreat while you see and hear the sights and sounds of children playing on our soccer fields today.”

It sounds good, doesn’t it? I’m just not sure how easy it is to practice.

Practicing the Pause

I received a call about a job, asking if I would I be willing to give a motivational talk to a group of health care professionals. The caller explained, “Our people are very busy. Their life can be crazy. They juggle and multitask. So, your power of pause message sounds just right.”

“Thank you,” I tell her.

“But,” she asks (and this is always the caveat), “How do we actually practice it? The pause part? How do we make this work in real life? In the real world?”

That is the issue, isn’t it? Life tilts, and turns left when we least expect it. And we want someone to give us the answers. Or to try to balance it all. We want someone to give us the “how.” And, on a day when we pray for motivation, reassurance, and illumination, we are told that it is enough to take delight in the play and laughter—the noise—of children, and the savoring of a Cinnamon Twist.

Yes. It is enough.

Living intentionally and fully alive—from a place of groundedness, being at home in our own skin—is not a technique. Nor is it a kind of mental Rubik’s cube, to be solved. There is no list. But if we demand one, chances are, we pass this life by—the exquisite, the messy, the enchanting, the wondrous, the delightful, the untidy—on our way to someplace we think we ought to be. On our journey together in this book, we will be learning new paradigms.

There is meaning—consequence, value, import—only when what we believe or practice touches this moment. Belief is all well and good. But there must be skin on it—something we touch, see, hear, taste, and smell. In other words, it’s the small daily stuff that does really matter.

So. Today, let us practice the sacrament of the blessed present.

– This is an excerpt from Terry Hershey’s new book This is the Life, about embracing life’s present moments. Click the image below to learn more.

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