Signs of Compassion

Recently a group of us Sisters met and talked about compassion. Using quotations about it as a springboard, we reflected on how Jesus told us to be compassionate as our Father is compassionate, how God’s amazing compassion was shown in sending Jesus and ways Jesus had compassion, and how compassion is an infinite ocean of love that spills over into all of creation. All who studied Latin are aware that our word “com-passion” comes from two Latin words meaning “to suffer with.” We women especially liked the fact that the Hebrew word for compassion (rachum) is comparable to “womb.” This implies that being compassionate is life-giving, nourishing, and protective. Compassion means being responsible for the needs of others both near and far. Sister Carol McHenry put a lot of thought into preparing for our conversation. She asked herself, What does it mean to be compassionate. Here is the list she shared with us that I found insightful and inspiring, and you might too:

To be compassionate is . . .

to feel with another

to look them in the eyes

to listen without talking

to love the unlovable

to affirm someone

to go out of my comfort zone

to give a helping hand

to pray for those in need

to simply be with

to take action

to console and challenge

to weep and hold

to truly love like Jesus

Pope Francis has given us a new encyclical called “Rejoice and Be Glad.” In it he makes a solid case for compassion as the key to happiness in this world and the next.

Jesus showed compassion by giving sight to the blind, healing lepers, opening the ears of the deaf, and bringing the dead back to life.  Performing miracles such as these is beyond our power. And sometimes the needs of people in the world are so overwhelming that we have compassion fatigue. We feel helpless in the face of so much misery. We know we can’t do much to relieve all the suffering in the world. However, we have countless opportunities to show compassion in small ways, like holding the door open for an overburdened mother or shopping for a housebound person. Even smiling at someone can be an act of compassion in that it brightens that person’s day.

Can you add to Sister Carol’s list? When have you been compassionate? When have you benefited from someone’s compassion?


  1. Colleen Mallette on April 19, 2018 at 9:16 am

    So good to hear Sr. Carol McHenry’s name again! We miss her at St. Michael’s (especially the Wed. Book Club), where she exemplified the meaning of compassion by the way she gently led the group by listening more than talking and affirming any comment as worthy. Thank you for sharing her list, the only other thing I’d add is to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”

  2. Vincent Winslow on April 19, 2018 at 10:52 am

    We are reading a book by Nolan, “Jesus before Christianity”. His main point is the compassion that Jesus shows to those rejected by society, and to those who show a willingness to change.

  3. Kathleen Glavich, SND on April 20, 2018 at 6:49 am

    I have that book, Vince. Think I will read it again after your comment. Thanks!

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