“… A compassionate heart beats freely, supple enough to take in another’s pain, be moved, and respond with acts of kindness, goodwill, healing and justice,” wrote Frank Rogers in Compassion in Practice: The Way of Jesus. (1)
Compassion is expressed when people feel the suffering of others and long to alleviate that suffering. But how do we remain engaged when the issues and concerns of our times seem so overwhelming"?
How do the compassionate, the "feelers", those who serve others avoid burn-out? I turn to prayer, prophets of the ages, and good companions for comfort. For instance, I find solace and energy in these words: “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.” wrote a favorite Michigan son, Fr. Ken Untener, in a 1973 homily that was quoted by Pope Francis in 2015.(2)
Thomas Merton wrote about interdependence and compassion: "The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.” In our wisest moments, we realize that staying in that compassionate space allows our commitment to take shape. Yes, there may be moments of overwhelm. But walking with others, faithfully, can be a balm in times of overwhelm or despair.
Beginning in February, Spiritual Director Teresa Burns and Sister Kateri Schrems OP will be leading a series of gatherings focused on cultivating compassionate presence to bring healing in the world. "Compassionate people all around the world are caring for their brothers and sisters and shining the Light of Hope to overcome the darkness. If you want to discover more about the transformational power of compassion, join others in-person at Dominican Center Marywood for the Compassionate Kinship Circle series," encourages Teresa Burns, co-facilitator.
Beginning Tuesday evening Feb. 6, new companions will explore the concept of compassion as a response to the suffering we experience in ourselves and in our world and how we can cultivate compassion in our living. Using Joyce Rupp’s book, Boundless Compassion, as our guide, we will engage in prayer, reflection, and conversation to encourage and inspire one another in our desire for and growth in compassion.
I hope you are able to join us for this opportunity to feed your heart and soul and deepen your love for yourself, others, and all of God’s creation.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
~ Fr. Ken Untener
1Compassion in Practice: The Way of Jesus, by Frank Rogers, is an introduction to Christian compassion. Jesus was a spiritual teacher who demonstrated personal and social transformation. His earliest disciples were first known not as Christians but as followers of the Way. Jesus' Way was a spirituality of radical compassion. He taught how to love and be loved by an extravagantly compassionate God; how to cultivate love for ourselves; and how to love our neighbors by extending love to the outcasts, the offensive, and even our enemies.
2 from... Prophets of a Future Not Our Own
This prayer was first presented by Cardinal Dearden in 1979 and quoted by Pope Francis in 2015. This reflection is an excerpt from a homily written for Cardinal Dearden by then-Fr. Ken Untener on the occasion of the Mass for Deceased Priests, October 25, 1979. Pope Francis quoted Cardinal Dearden in his remarks to the Roman Curia on December 21, 2015. Fr. Untener was named bishop of Saginaw.