The Art of Accompaniment: Theological, Spiritual, and Practical Elements of Building a More Relational Church reminds us that, “Accompaniment is not for a few ordained or specially commissioned lay ministers; it is a call put forth to all the baptized by the Spirit of God.” I hope that our campus ministry programs are finding ways to accompany students in these times through personal communication when feasible, opportunities for virtual community, and streamed prayer opportunities. These are important and stress the nature of community within our campuses and the desire for students to regain a sense of normalcy in a situation that is so abnormal. The efforts of our campus ministries cannot lead us, the baptized- students, friends, and community- to sit passively. The call that we as students receive in this time of crisis is a call to accompaniment, empowered by the Holy Spirit in Baptism, strengthened at Confirmation.
We turn our attention to the dimension of spiritual friendship that the Art of Accompaniment reminds us is, “Like two friends who travel together, this spiritual journey is not undertaken through the sharing of experiences, a character of warmth and tenderness, and involves catching sight of the action of God in the lives of one another.” We are all, in some way, grieving the loss of the life that we once held to be normal; we are all experiencing change, uncertainty, and unrest; and we are called to accompany one another through that. This distinct dimension of accompaniment reminds us that accompaniment is not a hierarchy, that there are not ranks or levels, but that we can accompany in mutuality and reciprocity, as friends, as Jesus calls us to be.
St. Vincent Pallotti believed that in our spiritual weakness, God communicates his infinite mercy to us. But in times of great unease, it can be hard to hear him. Accompaniment allows us to dialogue together so to best hear his voice, to pray together for the greatest needs and hopes that we hold, and to witness hope to one another—hope that springs eternal from Christ himself who is alive, who loves us, and who saves us.
Here are some suggestions for how college students can accompany one another during COVID-19:
- Call each other, not just text or email, but call. Hearing someone’s voice and, even better, seeing their face is comforting!
- If you have friends who have confided in you a struggle with mental health, poor home or family situations, or even addictions or habits that can become worsened in times of stress- check in on them. Remind them that they’re not alone even if there is physical distance!
- Try to have, what I call, a hermeneutic of charity. A hermeneutic is a way of interpretation- everyone is handling this situation differently, so if a friend isn’t responding as frequently, is short or seems a bit off, respond with charity, it’s a tough time. Remember, life goes on- the realities that we faced before COVID-19, in many cases, continue despite the pandemic.
- If you have routines that you can continue (i.e. regular dinner or coffee, shows that you watch together, books you were reading) continue to do so via Facetime, Skype, or other means!
- Use virtual means to create new community through shared prayer, reflection, or recreation!
For other reflections to accompany you during this time, please click here.
Brian Rhude is the Project Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center where he works in developing Center programming, assists in updating and creating new resources on the Center's website, collaborates on the development of social media content, and provides other services and collaborates including participation at and facilitation of various events and conferences.