In Catholic parishes, the sacraments give rhythm to our lives, along with the days, weeks, months, and years of the liturgical calendar. Yet, even as the liturgical calendar punctuates our daily lives, the forward movement of time can feel deeply impersonal. Parish life, however, offers ways of accompanying universal experiences—even ones as complicated as death and grief—with tender rituals and personal touches. Throughout the month of November, we focus on death and grief as common human experiences through which God and parish companion us. Ministers and fellow parishioners accompany each other through moments that matter, even when those moments are hard.
For nearly a decade I’ve coordinated a dedicated and deeply faithful group of parishioners who visit the sick and homebound of our faith community. Whenever a new volunteer worries that she or he lacks the knowledge to be a minister to the homebound, I advise them to trust in the importance of their presence. When visitation ministers fear they don’t know how to console, I assure them that their mere presence conveys caring and love—words are secondary to presence.