Present through a Different Lens

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM September 23, 2018

How encouraging that our prayer can transcend the boundaries of space and time and offer us new ways to be in communion with the Holy.

For me, one of these ways is what I call photopraying. I have a box of loosely organized prints that I occasionally rummage through, then select one as the focus of a day’s intention. This practice lends itself just as easily to photos stored on one’s phone or on social media, photos in a frame in one’s living room, or photos on memorial cards. Simply gaze at the chosen photo for several moments, take in all the details of face and scenery, and return in memory to when and where the scene occurred. Breathe compassion for the people and places in the photo and place all in the heart of the Holy One. Sometimes a song or poem or a phrase from Scripture may be stirred up by the image before you. Pay attention to all that fills your consciousness.

Today the photo I randomly selected brought me back to the year 2000 and my third trip to Haiti. That year on the feast of Corpus Christi I was awakened at sunrise by laughter, clapping, and joyous harmonies. Hurriedly dressing, I followed the sound of excited voices outside, gasping aloud as I took in the scene unfolding before me. There the Little Sisters of St. Therese and children from the village had decorated the road with the outline of a heart, a ciborium, and a host formed by the lush, colorful petals of  hibiscus, orchid, and other tropical blossoms. I was truly fed by what was at hand, by the creativity and resources that could be summoned to the moment.


I was struck by the gospel (Luke 9:11-17) for that feast, one of many occasions when Jesus fed a crowd. When the disciples called his attention to the reality that there were no supermarkets, no 7-11 or McDonald’s in that desolate, lonely place, Jesus told his followers, “Give them some food yourselves.” Picture the puzzled disciples hanging their heads, averting their gaze, and wondering if anyone had snacks to pool or coins to dig out of their pouches.

How different the moment captured in my photo from Haiti. In that place, on that day, the disciples–those creative neighbors who had scarcely enough food to sustain their own bodies–were undaunted by this command of Jesus, “Give them some food yourselves.” In their desire to celebrate and honor the Body of Christ, they tapped into their own creativity and imagination, offered their time and their labor, and fed me with exquisite natural beauty that both nourished and inspired my soul. All this was stored in a single photo.


Perhaps today might offer us a call as well, an invitation to look within at what we have to offer that might feed a hungry crowd of another sort: feed with hospitality, with a spacious and generous heart, with a deepening sense of belonging and community, with the gift of our time and presence.

“Give them some food yourselves,” the Holy One invites. Can we picture it now?


Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Place before yourself a print or image.
Notice what moves within you as you gaze at it with an open heart.
Hold in your prayer today whoever and whatever this image awakens in you.
Give thanks to the Holy One who is present in your remembering.

Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, in Riviere Froide, Haiti

Please hold in your prayer all who will be part of these coming days: 

October 3:  Mining God’s Dream for Us: Autumn Day of Prayer, Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth, Wernersville, PA  

October 5-7:  Directed Prayer Weekend, Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth, Wernersville, PA. I will be one of the directors for the weekend.

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