In a Time Like This…

April 13, 2020

By Sister Pat Kenny

There is a time for everything according to Ecclesiastes; perhaps this is a time for us to say “Namaste.”

Namaste is a customary Hindu greeting widely used on the Indian subcontinent and among the Indian diaspora around the world. When you take the word apart, nama means “bow,” as means “I” and te means “you.” So literally the word means “bow I you” or “I bow to you.” Christians have added another layer of meaning: I bow to the God in you, and when persons say “Namaste” to one another, it implies we bow to the God in each other.

an image of a praying statue with the word "namaste"

As we attempt to navigate the restrictions and apprehensions of this social upheaval in our world, perhaps “Namaste,” the meaning of the word and the gesture exchanged between those who say it to the other is as meaningful and comforting as anything we can say. When both persons understand the meaning, the gesture itself—hands folded as in prayer and a gentle respectful bow—may be enough.

I thought today of those who have no voice, or no understanding of the other’s language or those who have never heard of Namaste. I thought of people isolated in their homes, apartments, places of refuge; they can see their neighbors through their windows and doorways, perhaps, but are not near enough to exchange a verbal greeting. I know people who no longer understand the meaning of words, but they can see my expression, my smile, my wave or outstretched hand that cannot reach them in their isolation, my bow. Even if they have never heard of Namaste, I rather think they do understand what it means.

I remember my sister, born with Down Syndrome, who never learned to talk. Her speech center never developed, and we were told and she would never speak. She made sounds we, who knew her well, could interpret and “sang songs” that imitated a rhythm we recognized, but she could never say words. Yet she understood, better than we did, what was going on and responded with expressions that said, “I’m so happy to see you!” or “I told you so,” and gestures like a hug or a gentle pat on the arm or shoulder. She would have understood the meaning of a bow and folded hands.

In times like these, anything we can do to communicate our respect, concern, admiration and love for one another means even more than it might in ordinary times. We all need affirmation and confirmation that we are important; important to God and to one another. I say to you, “Namaste.” Imagine the bow.

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  1. Anne connolly

    Hi pat
    Yes, the perfect greeting, always and now absolutely. A profound Namaste to you from south TX. anne

  2. Fran Repka

    And…”Namaste” to you as well, Pat.
    Thank you for this article.
    Also a helpful and positive reminder that 85% of communication is non-verbal. We cannot not communicate…in good times and in challenging times.

  3. S. M. Amadeo

    Beautiful, Pat! Namaste to you with a bow. Hope you had a lovely Easter (though very unusual one). Thoughts and prayers, S. Amadeo

  4. Mary Daly

    Thank you, Pat, for your heartfelt words.

  5. Rachelle Haroer

    I love your shared remarks, Pat! I use Namaste often, sometimes silently. It is a ‘way’ for us now. Mandate to you!

  6. Richard Mary Burke

    Pat, I am deeply moved by your reflection and witness. “Namaste” is a powerful message and ritual for us all. Thank you for reminding us of its richness…Namaste, Pat!

  7. Elizabeth Burns

    Thank you, Pat,
    A timely reminder; deeply appreciated as we experience new and renewed relationships.
    Elizabeth Mary Burns

  8. Marilyn Lacey

    Thank you, Pat, for reminding us that we learn so much “of God” from other traditions and cultures!

  9. Mary Sullivan

    Thank you for the beautiful reflection and Christian interpretation of Namaste. At Mass some months ago during the Kiss of Peace, a gentleman folded his hands and reverently bowed to me. I was so very moved by the gesture that I filled up. I felt truly blessed and peaceful. It was so much more meaningful than the casual wave of the hand that has become common for the Kiss of Peace. I wish that after this time of Covid, we would incorporate the gesture – and meaning – of Namaste at the Kiss of Peace. I bow to the God in you and in each other.

  10. Sarah Halter

    I agree it doesn’t always take words to express our meaning, especially if it is extended in love.

  11. Colette Baldwin

    A profound Namaste to you, Pat, and thank you for the reminder of how little we have to say. And a Namaste to all who read this and remember our deep connection to one another.
    Colette Baldwin

  12. Michele Schroeck

    Namaste is the only Hindi word I know for working the Bhutaneese/Nepalese families we serve. They are a very peaceful people who are close to the Earth. They all have garden plots around their public housing unit to grow their own herbs and foods.

  13. Susan Evelyn, RSM

    Thanks very much for this reflection, Pat. I am going to share it with our Bon Secours Charity Health System. It is so appropriate at this time!

  14. S.Rosemary Hudak

    Thank you Pat. I have always appreciated Namaste and your beautiful words just deepened my love for this gesture. Namaste

  15. Kathleen McAlpin

    Thank you for your beautiful reflection, Pat.
    Namaste !!!

  16. Ann McGovern

    Thanks, Pat!

  17. S. Peggy Noone

    Thanks, Pat. I hope Louise is saying Namaste to me from Heaven..

  18. Judy Carle

    I am so impressed with your beautiful reflection. With a bow and an “I see you” we can deeply honor the person before us. I appreciate the personal reference to your sister who would have understood this beautiful greeting.

  19. Patricia A O’Donnell

    Beautifully expressed

  20. Sister Rose Mary Malague

    Thanks so much for your beautiful thoughts. I love seeing them in our mail.

    Sister Rose Mary