CONFIRMATION PREPARATION sessions with a perfectly lovely group of people, together with a number of “Growth Action Planning” discussions in the parish have made me more particularly aware than usual of the Church’s vocation always to have a weather eye to the needs of “the other”.
I’m immensely heartened that this year’s cohort of confirmation candidates really do seem to care about one another, and about the people around them, and about our wider, pluralist world. It’s not always the case – and there are clear traces of the “me first” creed in our Western contemporary Church and society.
Many parish priests develop a degree of noticing that is not always entirely welcomed by themselves. Many would rather not have the gift! They notice when people “switch off”. They notice, painfully sometimes, when people don’t notice “the other” in their midst, or care about them very much, animated only by their own immediate concerns, likes or dislikes.
The wonderful Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh in his glorious little book True Love writes about “Recognizing the Presence of the Other” (“God Other” or “person other”? – you might well be asking. And my own mind turns to Jesus’ reminder that God is often to be found in “person other” … What you do for even the least of these … you do for me)
When you are really there, you have the ability to recognize the presence of the other. To be there is the first step, and recognizing the presence of the other is the second step. To love is to recognize: to be loved is to be recognized by the other.