Monthly Column

Model of Compassion

April 2022 Four County Catholic

Model of Compassion

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

As our Lenten preparation continues, we contemplate Jesus’s overwhelming compassion in the ultimate act of divine love – laying down His life for our salvation. His actions throughout scripture provide us with a model of how to think and act compassionately toward each other. 

We witness Jesus’s compassion in the Gospel when He feeds the crowd with loaves and fishes, when He restores the life of the widow’s only son, when He speaks with the woman at the well, and yes, even when He changes water into wine at the wedding feast. In all these instances, Jesus sees the reality of the moment and is moved to act. 

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, described compassion as the “lens of the heart” revealing the reality as it is. 

It was indeed God’s compassion that led Him to send His Son to us. 

It is not sympathy or even empathy.  It is much, much more than that. Compassion involves us in the problems and concerns of others. Jesus, the unmatched example of compassion, emptied Himself and became like us so He could enter all our experiences, feelings, difficulties, joys and hopes. To have compassion like Jesus may very well be the most important virtue we can hope to learn.

Whenever we are faced with the problems or needs of another, we can become more compassionate by first praying, asking the Holy Spirit to place us on the path of compassion. This contemplation and discernment is essential in discovering the will of God. Only then should we be moved to take action.

Here in the Diocese of Norwich, we are compelled by our faith to exercise the corporal and spiritual works of mercy through our ministries and through individual acts of compassion. 

Our collective compassion is evident with your response to the conflict in Eastern Europe. Prayer services and candlelight vigils for peace in Ukraine have been and continue to be held throughout the diocese. Your generous response to the special collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, enables the Church in the United States to provide critical and timely humanitarian aid to the victims of the atrocities being perpetrated in Ukraine. "

Closer to home, St. Vincent de Paul Place, Norwich, St. Vincent de Paul, Middletown, and Catholic Charities are often first to come to mind as powerful examples of compassion in action.  Your gift to the Annual Catholic Appeal makes the work of these and the more than 20 other ministries of the Diocese possible.

We should be mindful, too, that, sometimes, the smallest individual acts of mercy can also make a big difference in the lives of those who need help and encouragement.

I was recently reminded of a truly unique individual act of compassion that I conveyed to you some time back. It involves the Hasbro Children’s Hospital in nearby Providence, Rhode Island. It all began with a volunteer at the hospital who, when saying good night to a patient, told him he would flash his bicycle light back toward the hospital on his way home as a gesture to say goodnight. He did. And the boy in the hospital flashed his room light in return.

From this humble beginning, more than ten years ago, the whole idea quickly spread as more and more people and businesses began to coordinate the gesture of flashing their lights at the same time, 8:30 p.m., to blink goodnight to the children at Hasbro. Good Night Lights, as it is now called has over 30 groups involved in what has become known as the Magic Minute.

Boats from the Providence Steamboat Company, the Graduate Providence Hotel, several office buildings and even the East Providence Police Department have joined in this thoughtful little way of letting the children know that their community is thinking about them. Return flashing of hospital lights each night can be seen acknowledging the thoughtful gesture. An extraordinary act of mercy and compassion. 

Let us pray this Lenten season for the Holy Spirit to light the path of compassion for us. May it expand to radiate between us, among us and around us, spreading throughout the world so that all people will come to know the glow of Christ’s compassionate light. 

Sincerely yours in Christ’s love,

Michael R. Cote
Bishop of Norwich
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    Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich
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