A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Beauty of Touch

By Bridget Taumoepeau

We use touch, one of our senses, in many ways. To explore how something feels; to push away; to hurt; but also, to connect, to show our love. Mothers will tell you that people always want to touch their babies, if not scoop them up and hold them; children will run to us and embrace us; we touch sacred objects, or the photos of our loved ones. It is a way we can show gratitude or tenderness.

Touch is not just physical, it is emotional. We often talk of being touched by something we have heard or read. We realise that not only our skin can be touched, but also our innermost self.

In John Lynch’s book, Woman Wrapped in Silence, which is a book-length poem about Mary, he writes about the return of the Holy Family to Nazareth and Mary’s reaction and apprehension.  One line caught my eye – “Till he dared to catch the drawn look white upon her face, and note her hand that imperceptibly had sought unnoticed for the touch of Him.” Mary’s instinct to reach out and touch the Child Jesus.  

Recently, because of COVID we have been restrained in our contact with people. We have had to stand back; to wear a mask; to apologise for greeting people in a distant way and, when we couldn’t help ourselves, giving each other a hug and hoping no-one had noticed. ‘Contact’, if it has occurred, has been virtual – by phone, or email or some of the social media apps.

Now, at the Sign of Peace, there is the added joy that we can embrace someone or shake their hand, although conscious that some are still apprehensive about this. Closeness has become commonplace again, but hopefully we have realised how important touch can be. We hear a lot about touch in the Gospels – Jesus reaching out to heal people with his touch, including the most despised of all – a leper. He raised the daughter of Jairus by her hand, and touched the coffin of the son of the widow of Nain, bringing him back to life. One of the most dramatic accounts related to touch is the invitation by Christ to Thomas, to put his hands in the sacred wounds. 

After any suffering there is a time of joy. For us, it is the joy of being close to one another; of being able to touch one another by our gestures or our kindness. Jesus understands what this is all about and rejoices with us – don’t let these moments pass without celebrating. 

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