A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Showing Compassion

Posted on: October 2, 2015

“People who aren’t kind to animals aren’t kind to people,” my mother has often said, and I’ve found that to be true. So these words of St. Francis of Assisi quoted in Catholic Digest struck a chord with me:

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men.

~ Quoted in “Celebrate October 2015,” Catholic Digest, October 2015

Certainly we don’t see enough compassion toward animals these days. We see people who leave their dogs in sweltering cars in the summer or walk them on hot sidewalks on high-heat-and-humidity days or who abandon a kitten in a garbage bag at a city park.

We also don’t see enough compassion toward people. We see people who tell the unemployed to “get a job.” People who turn back refugees with tear gas and water cannons and fences. People who set homeless men on fire.

It would be easy to feel sad or angry for a moment but then shrug our shoulders and say, “What can I do?”

Too easy.

As J. R. R. Tolkien wrote in The Fellowship of the Ring, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future” (quoted in “Celebrate October 2015,” Catholic Digest, October 2015).

We need to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:34-36, 40*:

“Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’”

We should feel saddened or angered by these news stories, but, as Christians, we are called to go beyond that reaction and respond out of compassion.

Maybe that means volunteering at or supporting an animal sanctuary such as the Wild Bird Care Centre or the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, shelters such as the Ottawa Mission or the Shepherds of Good Hope, our parish or community food bank, or women’s shelters such as those mentioned in my post on September 25th. Maybe it means finding out how to help refugees through such organizations as Refugee 613 or ministering to inmates and ex-inmates through such organizations as Prison Fellowship Canada.

What it doesn’t mean is hardening our hearts. May we, like Samaritan’s Purse founder Bob Pierce, continue to let our hearts “be broken with the things that break the heart of God” and be moved to act.

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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