Busted Halo

Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons reflects on his formation experience and his life as a seminarian right now. Along the way, some questions will be will be answered, and a lot more will come up.

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January 21st, 2010

The Buddy System


Chart_DoctorIn college I was a member of student government, which often meant that I found myself in situations where people knew my name without my knowing theirs. During those years, I learned to rely on something I called the “Buddy System.” It sounds glamorous, but all it really came down to employing the use of the term “Buddy” whenever I would blank on the name of a person who was saying hello. In the world of college relationships where being casual is a value that is held in high esteem, it often seemed to carry me through many a social situation. But something deep inside told me that that was not going to be as effective this past summer as I began my summer assignment as a hospital chaplain.

Buddy_ChristIf it was not obvious before, hospital rooms are dramatically different environments. On more than one occasion, I found myself utterly forgetting the patient’s name when praying for or with the patient. Somehow praying for “Buddy’s” recovery and for God’s presence in “Buddy’s” life in this time of trial seemed less… personal.  I guess some theology could be developed that the use of such terminology that causes patients to view God as a friend who would not leave them hanging—after all, Kevin Smith introduced the idea of “Buddy Christ” in the 1999 movie Dogma.

By the second day, however, I began to notice a pattern. It is not as though I consciously employed a “checklist” mentality when walking into each patient’s room, but in that time in the hallway, it is sometimes difficult for me not to look at my census as a “To Do” sheet, a set of tasks by which I could evaluate the success of the day.  And it was only the times when I set aside my “tasks” and prayed over the names of the patients I would be encountering that I ended up remembering their names when it came time to pray.   In other words, it was usually the times when I checked in with my good Buddy Christ that I was able to go beyond generic nicknames.

The Author : Fr. Tom Gibbons
Since 2009, Tom Gibbons, CSP, has shared insights on faith, pop culture, and seminary life in the Kicking and Screaming blog here at Busted Halo. On May 19, 2012, Tom was ordained a Paulist priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. He will begin serving St. Peter's Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada beginning in July 2012.
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  • Patty Collier

    Hey Tom, Thanks for coming to our Paulist Assoc meeting tonight. Sorry it deteriorated a bit at the end. I’m never sure how to facilitate those kind of conversations. I just saw your blog on Bustedhalo. Are you doing chaplain work at Seton Med Ctr? That’s where I work as a PT. I actually referred a patient’s mom to the chaplain services last week. If you helped her out, thanks! Patty

    • Tom Gibbons

      No, I am not doing any chaplaincy work in Austin. This past summer in New York I did a program called CPE that’s a chaplains-in-training program that many clergy (of different faiths and denominations) go through. It was a great experience.

      Good seeing you at the meeting tonight!

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