Frank and Presence

Frank and Presence

by Kathy Olenik Henry

As the weeks of summer unfold, my schedule has become increasingly packed and my to-do list ever lengthening. So much for the lazy days of summer. This morning I found a few disposable hours and included a bit of garden therapy in my routine.

My roses have been badly neglected, so that’s where I started. I pruned, weeded, and sprayed. Luna, the cat, kept me company, following me from the roses to the native garden, to the Mary garden, and around back to the patio pond. She chased me to the compost pile, wandered among the tomatoes in the vegetable garden, and waited as I washed the mud off my bare feet. She accompanied me inside when the work was done.

As I puttered and Luna played, I thought about Frank and others who have provided companionship in my life. The roses always remind me of Frank. Frank was a unique combination of Catholic priest and OB/GYN, who spent several years as a missionary in El Salvador, spoke fluent Spanish, and ministered in tangible and intangible ways to rich and poor alike. He had a passion for roses, for people, and for the Eucharist.

Most people who knew him, including me, will say there was never anyone like Frank. When having a conversation with Frank, I would feel simultaneously like I was the most important person in the world and like he wasn’t fully listening to me. We would be interrupted by a phone call he would answer in Spanish, and he would turn his attention completely to the person on the other end of the line. When I shared my concerns with him, I felt he knew my soul. At Mass, his passion for Scripture and sacrament enveloped me and nourished me. When I received a blessing, I felt connected with the divine.

Some years ago I had the opportunity of spending a day making communion calls to nursing homes and shut-ins with Frank. As we drove between locations, we shared our concerns for ministry and the Church. When we entered homes to bring Eucharist, I observed a man so focused on bringing Christ to others that nothing else existed. His profound sense of presence in all things became clearly evident as he removed the pyx from his pocket, prayed, and said, “I’ve brought you Jesus.”

My rose garden is no English charm. It is often untamed and needy. On a regular basis, it needs to be weeded, watered, fed, sprayed, and pruned. Frank’s ministry to others reminds me that our faith needs personal attention, just like my rose garden. I no longer attend the church where Frank served, but I occasionally drive by and wonder who is tending his roses and his people. I miss his companionship and his witness, but I also give thanks for the gift his presence was to my family and to our community.

Luna, the cat, has fallen asleep next to me on the couch. She reminds me that Christ is always near, offering companionship and presence at all times, in all things.

In what ways has Jesus’ presence been revealed to you?