Being Present and Being a Channel in Any Relationship

Carolyn Shields

It was one of the last times I met with my one friend before she graduated that she gave me The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything by James Martin. The following are some of the most beautiful insights to friendship I’ve ever received, paraphrased a la moi:

So FOCUS has this thing, and of course I can’t remember the name, but the name isn’t important. It’s about how crucial it is that we win others to Christ by being ourselves. Because that’s the purpose of any relationship: to draw that person into a closer union with Christ. Become genuine friends first, and then allow Christ’s love to work through you as a channel so that they fall in love with Him. We should do this in all things, as St. Francis wrote in one of the most well-known Catholic prayers, “Lord Make me a Channel of Your Peace.” We need to understand that it’s never us doing the good, but rather Christ working through us (yes, I just quoted verbatim what Seth wrote in the letter he asked me out in).

Here’s a prayer by St. Teresa of Avila to clarify:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Yeah, Christ works through us in every relationship. For us Catholics, we believe that relationships is one crucial way that God communicates His own friendship.

James Martin nailed it when he wrote, “Compassion is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another person’s life.” Again, as women, we see the need, so we must meet it. But we can’t rush, because before anything else, we must be present for the other. Sometimes we want to jump in there and just fix things, but first and foremost we must listen.

“Paradoxically,” Martin writes, “admitting your own powerlessness can free you from the need to fix everything and allow us to be truly present to the other person, and to listen. A cartoon in the New Yorker had one woman saying testily to her friend, ‘There’s no point in our being friends if you won’t let me fix you’…Besides not being able to solve all of your friend’s problems (and recognizing that your friends won’t be able to solve yours), admitting your own shortcomings is critical if you want to nurture healthy relationships…Being open to challenge is not just something we expect to do for our friends, it is something to expect from our friends. Can you accept the occasional challenge from your friends—that you have acted selfishly and may need to apologize from time to time?”

Christ has no body now on earth but yours. Be present, be patient, be a channel.