An upholding presence

Charles Causley describes some ghastly and unhelpful visitors to a hospital patient in his poem Ten Types of Hospital Visitor. One has the ‘neon armour of virtue,’ another ‘a melancholy splurge of theological colours’ …

But the poet also describes the saintly visitor:

The sixth visitor says little,
Breathes reassurance,
Smiles securely.
Carries no black passport of grapes
And visa of chocolate. Has a clutch
Of clean washing.
Unobtrusively stows it
In the locker; searches out more.
Talks quietly to the Sister
Out of sight, out of earshot, of the patient.
Arrives punctually as a tide.
Does not stay the whole hour.

Even when she has gone
The patient seems to sense her there:
An upholding

Women, mothers, often give comfort – ‘upholding presence.’ Most people have experience of this. The Bible also gives many examples. Ruth travels with her mother in law, a guide and support as they journey into the unfamiliar. Mary Magdalene, whom one tradition says was a prostitute, supports Jesus in his work. Above all Mary, the Mother of Jesus, stands at the foot of the cross in Jesus’ dying moments.

This comfort, presence and care, typically feminine, is found throughout our world today. It frequently involves sacrifice by the woman.

16th century representation of the martyrdom of Ss Fusca and Maura

St Maura and St Fusca were 3rd century martyrs, (feast day 16th January). Maura was the older woman carer of 15yr old Fusca. Fusca’s brutal father tried to force his views on Fusca and when she resisted he tried to kill her in his anger, she escaped accompanied and supported by Maura. Eventually the two were captured and martyred. Maura accompanying Fusca on her road to martyrdom.


Remember women who like Maura have been ‘alongside’ you at difficult times.

Pray for women who care for children in difficult circumstances.

Act: Read again the verse above of Charles Causley and consider to whom you could be a reassuring presence. Plan how to do it.

There are far too few women saints honoured in the calendars of the churches. In a modern calendar of saints and holy ones of the Church of England 80% of those honoured are men. (Click here for more on this) This is one of a series of posts currently being posted on our blog on women saints who do not appear in the Church Of England’s calendar.

About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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