Becoming Beholders: “The Brother’s Bench”

“The Brother’s Bench”

During this historical time of the COVID-19 pandemic the Scripture passage Esther 4:14: “Perhaps you were born for a time such as this” motivates me to share my spiritual practices of beholding, meditation and journaling that help promote my spiritual well-being. “The Brother’s Bench” is one of my favorite works of art on Lewis University’s campus. Although we are not able to see or sit on this bench in person due to social-distancing, this image provides an opportunity for connection, beholding, meditation, and reflection. Last summer I was invited by Dr. Kurt Schackmuth from Lewis University’s Office of Mission & Identity to attend the Collegium, a colloquy on faith and the intellectual life held at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota https://www.collegium.org/collegiums-mission. Our pre-reading included Becoming Beholders: Cultivating Sacramental Imagination and Actions in Catholic Classrooms https://litpress.org/Products/8271/Becoming-Beholders?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIn4TYlbvM6AIVx_fjBx1FOguwEAAYASAAEgIw4fD_BwE I hope to read this together when we are reunited in the Fall.

It was a gift to spend a week at St. John’s University with faculty from different universities, disciplines, cultures and faith traditions. Our hearts and minds were transformed as we discussed Catholic higher education, vocation, and mission. One day we were invited to Behold something on the campus for thirty minutes followed by journaling and small group discussion.  I chose The Mabon Madonna located in the St. John’s Abbey https://collegevilleinstitute.org/bearings/mabon-madonna/. This experience has influenced my teaching and vocation as a Catholic and LaSallian nurse educator.

From the comfort of your home, I invite you to take a seat and Behold this image of “The Brother’s Bench.” Fix your eyes on the image. What do you see? What do you feel? What is emerging within you? Meditate on the words of St. John Baptist de La Salle engraved on the bench “To touch the hearts of your students is the greatest miracle you can perform.” What word or phrase speaks to your heart? Consider your vocation and the mission of Lewis University as you work from home and teach online. Take time to reflect and journal.

When I Behold “The Brother’s Bench” I see the Christian Brother illuminates attributes of a caring presence which includes pausing, sitting, listening, and eye contact. A nurse’s caring presence facilitates provision of spiritual care https://www.nursingsimulation.org/article/S1876-1399(17)30227-X/pdf. The words “To touch the hearts of your students is the greatest miracle you can perform” illuminates the impact a teacher can have on the student entrusted to their care. I have learned that no matter the forum, a teacher’s caring presence promotes connection. Miracles do happen when the teacher can touch the heart of a student, and the student can touch the heart of the teacher. I imagine that is was what St. John Baptist de La Salle experienced when he was with his students whether in his home school or in a formal school building.

 “Perhaps you were born for a time such as this” Esther 4:14. Feel free to post: What word or phrase touched your heart? How do you illuminate a caring presence in the online setting? How did this time of Beholding transform you?

Mary-Beth Desmond, PhD, RN, AHN-BC College of Nursing & Health Sciences Watson Caritas Coach

About Dr. Mary Desmond

Dr. Mary Desmond is an Assistant Professor for the Lewis University College of Nursing and Health Professions.

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