The Present of Presence


I woke up this morning with the phrase, “It is in giving that we receive,” and then remembered that it is St. Francis of Assisi’s famous line. As I mused about that, I could not help but reflect on Advent and Christmas 2018, because they were definitely not what I anticipated.

Being present to others is in my DNA, so it is instinctive to offer a helping hand to those in need. Since 1999, my husband and I have been singing Christmas carols in Long Term Care Centers with our group during Advent.

Our attempts at bringing the true meaning of Christmas through song, has taken us from Scarborough, to Richmond Hill, Brampton, Mississauga, and as far away as Burlington. To see senior’s faces light up with joy when they recognize a familiar tune like “Silent Night” gives us joy.

While the malls are busy with people dashing around for that perfect gift, we linger with the lonely, sick, and tired, and try to comfort them as best as we can.

The giving tradition was rolling along until I hit a major road block, ill health. Then there was a role reversal. Instead of being the giver, I became the receiver. That was foreign to me. I valiantly stumbled forward through Christmas, till I landed in hospital. Suddenly there were doctors and nurses, family, and friends helping me!

Talking about presents, their presence in acts of kindness, numerous prayers and Masses being offered for me, humbled me. It was a lesson in humility. I was forced to receive, and it felt uncomfortable at first.

I slowly began learning how to embrace my cross, because imbalance rendered me helpless, totally dependent on others. Not being able to drive my car since mid December has taken away my freedom, and it is a slow dying to self.

I happily say, “Jesus, I trust in you” when all is going well. Now I ask myself, “Am I willing to follow Jesus even though I don’t know where he is leading me?” Following Jesus means absolute trust, and in it comes the surrender, “I don’t need to know.”

What does all this have to do with presents, and Christmas, and gift giving, and the frenzy of the season? I have received a BIG gift, the infant Jesus, the Prince of peace, who has brought me peace in the midst of what has been an anxiety ridden time.

I made friends with the other patients lined up along the wall in the Emergency area. I was admitted, but the lack of beds forced me to be housed for days and nights with no privacy, constantly woken by the noisy PA system shouting colorful codes, blue, white and…

As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said,

“Give Jesus not only your hands to serve, but your heart to love.

   Pray with absolute trust in God’s loving care for you.

   Let him use you without consulting you.

   Let Jesus fill you with joy

   that you may preach without preaching.”


Viola Athaide is a student in the Windows of Theology program at Regis College, Toronto. She currently teaches Scripture at her local parish church.

  • Susana P Que, MD
    Posted at 09:17h, 06 February Reply

    Thank you Lord for being a present to my dear friend Viola who has dedicated her life serving you through leading us in all our Scripture Studies and Prayer group which I dearly missed having gone back to my country. This is a gift that through her illness she still see You in all the people she met during her difficult journey.

  • Bernard Carroll, SJ
    Posted at 13:31h, 06 February Reply

    Thank you Viola. What a turn-around you have experienced. I will join with others in praying for you.

  • Ana Maria Rodriguez
    Posted at 15:06h, 06 February Reply

    Viola is my teacher and after this happened to her she is an example to follow. I keep praying for my top teacher to get better and better!!!!
    Thank you Viola for your constant faith & trust GREAT TESTIMONY!!!!!!!!!!

  • Carol von Zuben
    Posted at 15:17h, 06 February Reply

    That was very generous of you Viola, to share this with everyone . I think that it is really difficult to let others know that you are not as strong and capable as you usually are.
    Not only were you missed with your goings and comings with your music but it was very obvious that you were not present in our Parish at this beautiful time of the year.
    And you found peace in all of this which says to me that you were very accepting of God’s will. Thank you .

  • Suzanne renaud
    Posted at 20:43h, 06 February Reply

    Thank you Viola…very inspiring!

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 22:36h, 06 February Reply

    Thank you Viola!

  • Jacqui Hubbard
    Posted at 10:34h, 07 February Reply


    Once again you have touched my heart with your poignant use of words and reminded us all of what it means to have absolute trust in our Lord. I feel truly blessed to call you “Friend”.

  • Bonnie azevedo
    Posted at 18:12h, 07 February Reply

    You will be always be in my prayers be strong Jesus is with you Viola God bless.

  • Teresa Correia
    Posted at 16:56h, 10 February Reply

    Thank you Dear Viola for sharing
    May God continue to bless you and heal you.

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 19:54h, 21 February Reply

    Viola, thank you for reminding us that Receiving – in a spirit of humility and gratitude – is as commendable a virtue as Giving.

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