…you can’t pretend to be there

when i worked in campus ministry in san marcos texas in the 1990s, i had a top notch financial council. the members were all accomplished professors at the university and cared deeply for the catholic center that was the hub of our ministerial presence there.

one night, we had a finance meeting scheduled but only the chairperson and i showed up. the chair’s name was dr. daryl piersol. he was a gracious man and a retired IBM executive who became an adjunct professor in the business department. daryl was genuinely embarrassed that no one else showed up since he confirmed the meeting with them all. there was no miscommunication about the meeting itself.

i will always remember his words that assessed that situation. he said, “you know father, i learned a bit of wisdom from my time at IBM–you can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to be there”

you can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to be there

i have appreciated those words over the years because they can be applied to all sorts of scenarios. this wisdom of presence is at the heart of relationships. presence is primary. being there means a lot.

the opposite of course, is feeling abandoned. in time of need, no one wants to be left alone– especially by people who claimed to care. abandonment is most hurtful when others are needed because of emergencies or illness. not being there for someone is the opposite of love; abandonment is a betrayal of being present.

positively stated, in time of need, we know who really cares because they are there for us.

we tell one another that we do care and we should let it be known. with communications these days, there are various ways to communicate care and concern. for me, there are important differences in how we are present to one another. social media posts < texts < emails < snail mail < phone calls < brief visits < cup of coffee conversation < sharing a meal

relationships are built over listening, understanding which take time. time is a precious gift that is shared with others and sharing time is one aspect of real love. if we look at what we spend our time with, it sheds light on what and who we love. (i know from these past two months that i really love nba playoff basketball!)

it is no accident that in john’s gospel, remaining with jesus is a major theme. to remain with (actual being there) is a faith response. we can have faith in one another in love– we can have faith in God’s love in remaining in us despite our unworthiness. the faithfulness of God is really the key.

presence is the heart of chaplaincy ministries. although there is very little that a chaplain can do in a hospital or prison to change one’s physical pain and situation, the very presence of a minister can be enough to being some comfort, healing and peace. someone cared enough to be there and we are not alone. grace from the Spirit works through presence.

so, let’s keep these words of jesus in john 15 in our hearts:

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”


  1. Jesse Molina says:

    Thank you


  2. aez3030 says:

    I love this! I remember Dr. Piersol very fondly. I actually took a graduate class with him. He had so much knowledge to share!


    1. frarthurcmf says:

      san marcos had/has a lot of wonderful people there!! thanks for reading my stuff


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