The Sacrament of the Present Moment

Catepillar1In response to a photo I posted which captured a moment of connection with Linda, a friend, Betty Cloyd, replied with the title of a book by the eighteenth century priest Jean-Pierre Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment. The phrase captures the profound and transcendent nature of each moment.

Sacrament is often defined in the words of St. Augustine of Hippo as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” The English word comes from the Latin sacramentum, which means to make holy, or to consecrate. The term is also derived from the Greek New Testament word “mysterion,” or mystery.

So, how does the present moment rate as a sacrament? Each moment becomes a mysterious gift within which the holy and transcendent is present as grace, the loving power of God to create, renew, reconcile, and transform.

Pastoral theologian John Swinton contends that people with dementia do not lose their “sense” of time; they lose their “tense” of time. The real time is the present moment. Those who care for them must learn to be present in the moment.

Regrettably, I have never been as contemplative in my spiritual quest as I have wanted to be. But people with dementia, including my wife, are teaching me to be truly present in the moment. It’s hard work! I have to slow down, concentrate, pay attention to little movements and subtle expressions.

Celebrating the present moment is an art and craft. It is learned and honed with practice, requires disciplined attentiveness, mindfulness.  It is one of the gifts Linda is giving me now! She is teaching me the sacredness of the present moment.

We often speak of the ministry of presence. I frequently hear pastors, laity, and family members express hesitate about visiting people with dementia. “I don’t know what to say! They don’t know me when I arrive or remember when I leave. So, why visit?”

It is a devilish temptation which robs people with dementia, their pastors and family members of the sacrament of the present moment. From my experience as a caregiver and pastor, I am convinced that the feeling/experience of a momentary connection lasts far beyond the cognitive awareness.

People with dementia are hyper sensitive to emotions. Linda senses moods of which I am unaware. I cannot hide my frustration or stress from her! It may be that as people with visual impairment become more sensitive to sounds, people with cognitive impairment develop added sensitivity to feelings/emotions/attitudes.

With very few exceptions, the one reality to which people with dementia respond is LOVE, even those in the severe stages. And you can’t fake it! They know if you care! They sense if you are afraid of them or uncomfortable with them. They sense if a caregiver really values them as persons or only relishes the paycheck or if a pastor or family member is only visiting out of a sense of duty.

What is the sacred within the present moment? It is LOVE! Love transforms the present moment into a sacrament!

A gentle touch, a clasp of the hand, a warm embrace, a silent presence, a  spontaneous smile, a compassionate act—these become sacraments, outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace.

As we fill a moment with compassion we experience the sacrament of the present moment. After all, we experience God, the source of all love!

(Photo by Norma Smith Sessions)

8 thoughts on “The Sacrament of the Present Moment

  1. Wow! Thank you! You have connected us to a spiritual classic, gleaning from it a treasure of insight for living today–and leaving us right where we need to be: ready to enact Jesus’ words, “Go and do likewise.”

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  2. Ken, this reminds me of the many “sacred [trans-formative] moments Sylvia and I experienced while visiting residents with dementia in Oak Ridge centers of caring while doing pet assisted therapy with two dogs who were “HABIT” [Human Animal Bond in Tennessee] certified as therapy dogs.  Truly on of the great experiences of retirements.  Poems about Sam and Topsy are in my collection. Keep up the good writing. Bill

    “I’m not an optimist, but I’m a prisoner of hope.”  Desmond Tutu

    From: shiftingmargins To: wcmooney@att.net Sent: Friday, June 30, 2017 9:52 AM Subject: [New post] The Sacrament of the Present Moment #yiv2501080179 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv2501080179 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv2501080179 a.yiv2501080179primaryactionlink:link, #yiv2501080179 a.yiv2501080179primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv2501080179 a.yiv2501080179primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv2501080179 a.yiv2501080179primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv2501080179 WordPress.com | kennethcarder posted: “In response to a photo I posted which captured a moment of connection with Linda, a friend, Betty Cloyd, replied with the title of a book by the eighteenth century priest Jean-Pierre Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment. The phrase captures the p” | |

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  3. Bishop Carder, you continue to teach us about God’s ways. Just as I learned from you about “ministry to the poor and marginalized” during my active ministry, now I learn from you about “ministry of presence” in my retirement. (I knew more about the latter, but you continue to enrich my understanding). Thank you for your blog.

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  4. Thank you, Ken. I was fortunate enough to learn this long ago as the pastor of Oakwood, a congregation where the young adults were in their 60’s. I spent most of my time visiting nursing homes, homebound, and sitting with families during surgeries. It really was a “seminary” extension……considering how much I learned. Your words challenge me even now, as I sit with broken pastors, to simply receive their story.

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  5. Thank you, Dr. Carder. I am grateful for your words this morning as I try to slow down and to be attentive to my children who are also highly emotionally sensitive and much more likely to honor the sacrament of the present moment than I! Thank you, also, for being an encouraging presence through your words. You are a pastor to pastors, even long distance. Blessings be!

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