St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
11th June 2023
“To be or not to be present”
One of the potentially most enduring effects of Covid is hybrid working – working from home or indeed working apart/away from your employer or place of employment.
As things are still being worked out by employers and employees it is simply too early to tell whether its working or not. Some employers have made it clear that people must be present at their place of work and they have done so because they have determined that personal presence is required for an effective and well organised company.
For many others though both employers and employees the jury is still out on the question. There’s no doubt it suits individuals and families to have flexibility of schedules along with avoiding a long commute and the waste of time and energy it necessarily entails.
On a deeper level it raises the question of our presence and engagement with the world ‘round us, indeed most important with the people ‘round us.
The question of presence goes to the heart of the human experience – sociability, our interaction with one another, is an essential element of who we are as human persons. For that reason, it needs to be part of our reflection and prayer on this feast/festival of Corpus Christi – in which we celebrate the bodily presence of Christ Jesus to his people, the Church, and through him the Divine Presence to the world.
This question of how we are present to each other and the world has become a real concern as we try to cope with the impact of technology on our interactions with one another. The most observable effect is seen in the insidious way that mobile phones are determining how more and more are engaging both in work and recreation. It has taken on the character of an addiction for many – no less destructive and controlling as gambling, drugs or alcohol. These developments are akin to many young people sinking into quicksand – suffering a great void in which they lose a sense of their own presence to themselves – suffering the loss of their own personal agency and authority.
That loss of the power of presence was acute during Covid – when some wilted and faded for the want of companionship. For us, for whom Mass, the Eucharist is central to our faith we felt it too. We tried to bridge the gap with live streaming which was great as a contingency for that Covid time. But it is not the full and true nature of our prayer together ‘round the Eucharistic Table. The real, full and authentic experience of Mass requires that we be present in body, mind and spirit. It is our presence to one another in faith and charity that we enable and enhance the celebration of Mass, Holy Eucharist for one another. Together with the priest celebrant we enter anew the Divine mystery of his presence to us in the Eucharistic Bread and Wine consecrated to become the Body and Blood of Christ for us and the world.
We call it the Real Presence – to identify its unique nature for the person of faith.
Our procession to-day is to give witness to this extraordinary gift in the life of the Church.