The beginning of a new year brings with it a sense of introspection and reflection. We look within . . . and make “resolutions” to change and improve ourselves. We look to the world around us . . . and hope (and pray) that things might be better for the peoples and cultures that inhabit our common home.
If I could change one thing about the present situation of our world and church, it would be to make compassion grow.
Compassion isn’t much in vogue these days. The flood of refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries of the Middle East found little of it at the borders of Europe, nor have immigrants from the south felt it at our doors despite America’s reputation for being welcoming and philanthropic. We live in times of mind-boggling wealth for the 1% while the poorest among us grow ever more desperate. Our political parties and the machinery of government are paralyzed by partisanship and rigid ideology, with almost a year remaining before national elections. Even the church is beset by battles between “liberals” and “conservatives,” between those who espouse Vatican II and those who advocate for a “reform of the reform.”
There is harshness and stridency in all of these realities. Is it any wonder, then, that Pope Francis has called for an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy?
The English essayist and poet Anna Letitia Barbauld wrote, “The well taught philosophic mind to all compassion gives; casts round the world an equal eye and feels for all that lives.” Shouldn’t the same be true of the “well taught religious mind”?
Compassion makes mercy possible.
If one sees another only as different, as alien or, worse, as an enemy, mercy will never happen. Only when we can look upon another person and feel compassion for a fellow human being will mercy come about. Compassion enables us to encounter the other without prejudice or judgment, to respect his or her dignity as one fashioned in the image and likeness of God, and to build bridges of understanding and empathy. Compassion tempers our words; shapes our thoughts and attitudes; moves us to act.
A compassionate church, Pope Francis reminds us over and over again, can counter the tenor of the times: “You are the salt, leaven, and light that provides a beacon of hope. . . . You . . . help to change the course of your local communities, your states, your country, and the world by your witness to that encounter with the Lord Jesus who gives us abundant life and joy.”
In truth, “The well taught religious mind to all compassion gives; casts around the world an equal eye and feels for all that lives.”
In this Issue
We hope you are enjoying and using Carmelite Sister Mary Grace Melcher’s powerful intercessions and concluding prayer on mercy and the Eucharist for the Sunday and solemnity Universal Prayers of the Year of Mercy. These are meant to complement those you prepare and pray locally.
Two articles in this issue focus on the theme of mercy: “Table of Mercy” and “Laudato Si ― On Care for Our Common Home and the Eucharist,” written by Robert Stark, SSS. Another Blessed Sacrament priest, Vittore Boccardi, shares more about the cultural and ecclesial context of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress scheduled for Cebu in the Philippines at the end of January, as well as excerpts from the basic text of the congress.
As always, you will find much to nourish your spirituality, your prayer life, and your ministry in this issue. A blessed and joyous 2016 to you!
Anthony Schueller, SSS