Tag Archives: compassion

Ordinary Kindness

29 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Heath Brandon

Photo via Flickr user Heath Brandon

There is no spiritual practice more profound than being kind to one’s family and neighbors, the cashier at the grocery store, an unexpected visitor, a stray cat or dog, or any other of the usually irrelevant and invisible beings who may cross our paths in the course of a normal day. Certainly there are spiritual mysteries to explore, but as we mature it becomes clear that those special experiences are only meaningful when they arise from and return to ordinary kindness. –Bo Lozoff

I love this idea of ordinary kindness being the normal, every day buzz that extraordinary moments arise from and return to, the status quo, the baseline, if you will. I love that being kind to neighbors and clerks is a profound spiritual practice.

I’d like to think I am good at being kind to cashiers and stray cats and my family. I think about giving my best love to my family all the time and often follow through, yet from a very young age my parents taught me how to have compassionate peripheral vision and to humanize people in small encounters who could potentially feel invisible. I could stop there and feel pretty good about myself.

Then again, this morning I heard Dorothy Day and her Catholic Worker houses mentioned on the radio, and it gave me pause. Is ordinary kindness enough as the zone from which we live? If I had an unexpected visitor at my front door, my idea of kindness would be much less generous than Dorothy’s. She would invite the person to move in with her as long as he or she needed a place to stay. I just can’t say I’d go so far.

How far does our faith call us to go?

I can’t seem to shake a quick encounter I had at work a few weeks ago. I was cleaning out a closet that had net been tended to in years. I was in the mood to sort things between recycling, donating, reusing or trash. I stopped one of our custodians to apologize for hoarding the trash bins and ultimately giving him more loads to take to the dumpster. His response has played in my head again and again, “It’s okay,” he said earnestly. “If you don’t create trash, I don’t have a job.”

This man is from El Salvador and doesn’t speak English very well. Every time I see him I stop and have a conversation with him in Spanish. I show him ordinary kindness all the time. I could stop there and think myself profound and my work complete. And yet. We currently live in a world where my role is to create trash and his is to clean up after me. In that case, I’m just not sure that ordinary kindness is cutting it.

I do believe, like Lozoff said, that ordinary kindness it is a profound spiritual practice. True. I’m going to keep practicing it. I also believe that my co-worker, without knowing it, is calling me to more.

 

Gospel Reflection for January 31, 2016, 4th Sunday Ordinary Time

27 Jan

Scripture Readings: Jeremiah 1.4-5, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 13.4-13; Luke 4.21-30

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

(Luke 4.21)

These words begin Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Luke’s gospel. In last Sunday’s gospel Jesus read a passage from Isaiah that describes a prophet whom the Spirit anoints and appoints to bring good news to the poor, freedom to captives, sight to the blind, to proclaim a jubilee in which those who have lost out in society get a new chance to thrive. Jesus invites the congregation in the synagogue to hear Isaiah’s word not as an ancient, someday promise but as a present claim. Jesus is the Spirit-filled prophet called to make the human race a whole, flourishing community. Pope Francis has proclaimed 2016 a Jubilee Year of Mercy, when we remember Jesus is the human face of God’s love, love we don’t deserve and doesn’t run out.

For whom are you good news? Who is good news for you?

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Give Love

22 Jan

Don’t you love the inspiration that comes from unexpected places?

Last week, David Bowie died and the airways filled with his voice, DJs paying tribute to his life and art. Although I love music, I have never been one to become an avid, swooning fan of anyone in particular, David Bowie no exception. I had a vague sense of his fame, talent, creativity, breadth, ability to reinvent himself and speak to the downtrodden, all sprinkled with glitter. I knew his face, his voice and many of his songs. Yet I don’t think I could even claim that I am actively a fan.

It surprised me, then, to enjoy these career tributes on the radio over the last week. His lyrics made me stop, on several occasions, and lines rang over and over again in my mind throughout the day, like these lines of his with Queen:

Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love, give love…

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure

I love this visual of caring for people on the edge of the night. Our world needs more of this type of love. And it is a dare, isn’t it? It’s no easy ask. It’s a straight up dare, because caring for people on the edge of the night like Jesus did will change my heart and necessitate some life changes, too. That love will change my heart and life. It’s easy to hibernate in our comfort zones all winter. Or we can accept the dare out to the edges.

In the new year, it is also time to reflect on how we care for ourselves and change. This is also a dare, maybe a double dare for some of us. Loving ourselves at times is nothing short of subversive and counter-cultural. Love dares us to care about ourselves. It can’t stop with others. We are called to love God and our neighbor and ourselves.

Give love, give love, give love keeps turning like a mantra. Love is an old fashioned word, and turning that phrase over and over, putting love being the verb give is just enough to keep it fresh in my mind. To the people on the edge of night.Give love. To ourselves. Give love. Give love. Give love.

Gospel Reflection for January 24, 2016, 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

19 Jan

Sunday Readings: Nehemiah 8.2-4, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12.12-30; Luke 1.1-4, 4.14-21

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; God has anointed and sent me to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty for captives, sight for the blind, release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”

(Luke 4.18-19)

Prisoners make the list along with the poor, the weak, and the disabled — the people about whom it is easiest to say, “not worth it.” Perhaps some of these undesirable folks may open important places inside us, like the towers of arrogance, the locked doors of self-deception, or the vaults of false pride. One of them may transform us.

Who has been surprisingly transforming for you in your life?

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Gospel Reflection for November 29, 2015, 1st Sunday of Advent

24 Nov

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 33.14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3.12-4.2; Luke 21.25-28, 34-36

“Stay watchful.”

(Luke 21.36)

Advent begins with a gospel that imagines Jesus coming in glory. The gospel fairly froths with frightening images. Scary gospels can hardly worry us more than our everyday headlines and breaking news. Refugees swarm north across border after border, seeking a safe future for their families. Climate change threatens our planet.

Beginning next Sunday in Paris the United Nations sponsors the 21st meeting among nations to negotiate a limit on global warming to 2 degrees celsius. We are inextricable bound together on our home planet. We are all neighbors profoundly called to cooperate and survive together. What we know we want for our own families is what refugees and immigrants are seeking – safety, education, a future. Jesus insists that the loving actions he teaches and lives will get us through not only every day but any day.

Who do you see as a source of hope we humans can help build a world in which all can thrive?

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Refugees Are Dear Neighbors

19 Nov

Good Ground Press is a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  Our congregation has published the following public statement in regard to Syrian refugees:

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are heartbroken and outraged by the recent violence perpetrated around the world in places like Paris, Beirut, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

As we join the world in grieving those killed and injured in these attacks, we refuse to allow the actions of radical groups to push us to respond with anything but love and mercy. We urge people around the world and their governments to embrace the refugees fleeing violence and hatred and welcome them into the sanctuary of our countries. Syrian refugees, fleeing a brutal civil war, are themselves victims of ISIS.

Certainly, preventing any future attacks is of utmost importance, but refusing the deserving, carefully-vetted Syrian refugees who are in the process of being resettled in the United States is not the answer. These refugees go through multiple layers of interviews and rigorous security checks. These measures ensure that we can both welcome these refugees and ensure our national security.

We were challenged by Pope Francis in his address to Congress on September 24: “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. … We must not be taken aback by their numbers but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation in ways that are always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

Our charism calls us to love God and love the Dear Neighbor without distinction. We will not distinguish people by religion, color or creed when they cry out for mercy. Let us all respond to our Dear Neighbors with love in their hour of greatest need.

The sadness of so many killed in the terrorist attacks spreads through families and coworkers and touches us all.  In response to our expression of solidarity with our French colleagues at Bayard-Presse in Paris, we heard today:
“Thank you for your message which provides warm thoughts.  The week has been quite chaotic.  One of our freelance editors has been killed in the concert hall Bataclan.  We keep hope that peace will recover but the middle east is fully at war and we pay a very high price in front of this situation.”

War brings with it so much to mourn on every side.

Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ
Good Ground Press

Year of Mercy

17 Nov

Our Year of Mercy begins December 8th!

jubilee-of-mercy-poster

Pope Francis wants each of us to be “an oasis of mercy.” Keep his wish alive in your home, school, or parish with this beautiful poster. Together we can bring Jesus’ spirit of love to our world.

Click here to download your FREE poster and forward it to a friend. Help the oasis creep into the desert.

 

Keeping Faith

4 Nov
Photo via Flickr user Michael W. May

Photo via Flickr user Michael W. May

My memories of the notorious sixties are not the free love and abandon of the sexual revolution but the incredible revival of the Catholic Church at Vatican II and the civil rights marches upending Jim Crow.  In that decade we experienced finding a way where there is no way.  The impossible can come to be.

The Second Vatican Council proved to be a crack that let the light of the modern world into the Church and let the Church loose in the world to do the work of justice and mercy.  The most revolutionary document of Vatican II called the people of God to solidarity with the least among us—“the joys and hopes, the griefs and anguish of the people of this world especially the poor and afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anguish of the people of God” (Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, #1).

Many Catholics have learned to put their faith into action and do the works of mercy and justice that Gaudium et Spes calls forth.  Liberation theologies arose in Latin America and spread as ways to give voice to people at the base of society and work with them for justice.  Pope Francis deliberately set the Jubilee Year of Mercy to begin December 8, the golden anniversary of Gaudium et Spes, which passed at the very end of the Council.  Pope Francis wants Vatican II to live and evolve.

I hoped the Synod on the Family might turn out to be a mini-Vatican II.  It met in October for three weeks after meeting for its first session in fall 2014.  After the first session Pope Francis called for consultation and listening sessions with the people of God in dioceses throughout the world.  Although the official consultation questions proved unusable, people found ways to communicate their insights and family issues to their bishops and Rome.

At the synod Pope Francis called for bold and frank talk.  He had bishops work in small groups to interact more.  The heads of religious orders auditing the synod ceded three of their six seats to women, so their three minutes each are in the record.

The 270 bishops who gathered aren’t exactly family men.  Some note they hear about family problems in hearing confessions.  Perhaps some have carried the smell of the dirty diapers or a baby’s spit-up from helping out with nieces and nephews or friends’ children.  Perhaps they have stood in for grandparents or aunts and uncles, corralled two year olds, lived their drama with adolescents, and scrounged rent when a boss cut back work hours.  Perhaps they have paid the rent for a person at the backdoor of the parish house.

I hoped that 270 bishops would bless remarried couples.  Pope Francis sped up annulments. The synod kept the door open by urging pastors to work with couples case by case and respect their consciences.  I hoped the 270 bishops could hear the sensus fidelium on the issue of contraception and pronounce the time of death.  The people of God have widely exercised their consciences on this issue.  I hoped the 270 bishops could accept that moms and moms and dads and dads can love and commit to each other and raise children.  But that would have been a surprise and – shock in some African countries where homosexuality is illegal.

Perhaps for a bishop it is hard to go forward without making past judgments seem fallible.  But in an evolutionary cosmos God comes to us from the future, urging us to all we can become, not just from the past.  The Holy Spirit has been at work in our world, making it new from the beginning.  The gospel has been at work for 2000 years, teaching us to keep the two great commandments.  We keep on.

These are the hopes of an educated white woman in North America.  I’m not a widow in Kenya who wonders what will become of the ten AIDs orphans she has taken in, nor am I a dad carrying a child on his back on the walk from Syria to safety in Germany.

Many cannot imagine marriage or civil union between same sex couples.  Since the seventies I have wondered why the Church and society doesn’t expect fidelity of same sex couples just as we do of men and women.  This is happening now that GBLTQ relationships are more out and public.  Partners I know reveal everyday they can love each other, their children, their parents, their friends.  The word is out they can keep the two great commandments of Jesus in the gospels.  We of the Church need to work at realigning moral law with biological science, Jesus’ gospel message, and people’s lives today.

“We discover the possible from the real.”  Karl Rahner

Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ

Gospel Reflection for November 8, 2015, 32nd Sunday Ordinary Time

3 Nov
Photo via Flickr user Tiger Pixel

Photo via Flickr user Tiger Pixel

Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 17.10-16; Hebrews 9.24-28; Mark 12.38-44

“I want you to observe that this poor widow gave more to the treasury than all the others.”

(Mark 12.43)

Widows and orphans were among the poorest people in ancient Israel. The law made care of widows and orphans the measure of Israel’s commitment to keeping the covenant. Like ourselves people throughout history have found forgetting the vulnerable easy and taking advantage of them tempting. The widow is the person in the story most like Jesus; she gives wholeheartedly all she has.

The widow in Sunday’s first reading also gives her all. She uses her last bit of flour and oil to make cakes for the prophet Elijah. She takes Elijah at his word and finds her jar of flour never goes empty and her jar of oil never runs dry.

What is the measure of your generosity?

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All Souls’ Day Prayer

2 Nov
Photo via Catholic Relief Services Facebook page.

Photo via Catholic Relief Services Facebook page.

 

Today we remember and honor the memory of our loved ones who have passed on, as well as for those who have passed on around the world. Click here to view the full prayer from Catholic Relief Services.

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