Experience Making a Difference

Experience Making a Difference

Compassion, Contemplation and Community

by | May 13, 2014

I’ve been spending time with Henri Nouwen lately.  Yes, I know he’s dead but as he himself says, “Every time I read the life of a saint I experience a powerful call to be as loving and devoted as that holy one of God was in life…not just canonized saints that call us to conversion, or the ‘cloud of witnesses’ who touch our spiritual lives.  All who faithfully live the Christian life—whether still living or in memory—can exercise a deep and positive influence on our spiritual lives.  Reading…any of God’s faithful servants is like stepping out of this world and back into it again under the guidance of these special men and women.  They know the struggles I know and are living with them in a different way.”

Among the things I’ve come to love about the way Nouwen sees things is his commitment to “Compassion, contemplation and community.”   I see the parallel to the Ignatian Volunteer Corps in this triad.  It’s like a three-legged stool that wobbles without any of its legs.  Compassion is our sharing (com) in the passion of Christ by serving the poor or empowering others to serve the poor with our volunteer service.  Contemplation is taking the time to reflect on our service and our lives and to find God’s love and will for us through praying (talking but especially listening to God), reflecting as a group, and reflecting with our spiritual directors. As Nouwen says, “No one can discern the signs of daily life alone.  We turn to our religious traditions and also to the wisdom others have gained.”  Community is taking the time to actually be together.  “Individual seekers of God always come together in community, for the Spirit gathers all believers into one body for accountability and mutual support.  A person honestly seeking to know God’s will and way will choose to be in community.”  Nouwen also warns about “deceiving ourselves” when we isolate ourselves from community.

So I look forward to our monthly IVC gathering.  You “saints” will share your stories of compassion that I so need to learn from.  We will reflect and pray together.  And we will be in communion, sharing not only the bread and wine, but also a meal and solidarity.

While I’m at it, Pope Francis’ recent words on the 3 C’s: Compassion, Contemplation and Community:

–“May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful neighbors to those wounded and left on the side of the road.”

–“The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgment, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of expression…. We need, for example, to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm. This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen.”

–“[Digital media] is something truly good, a gift from God,” he wrote. But he warned: “The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbors, from those closest to us.”

God’s Love and mine to you.

Linda Wihl is the Greater Cincinnati IVC  Regional Director (or as some of the volunteers call her, “the matchmaker”).  As the Executive Director of Making Sense of Language Arts, she is also a service site partner and sponsor.  Her favorite title is “grandma!”