With Passion

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Today is the Feast of St. Robert Bellarmine, and as such we celebrate Bobby's name day!  Happy Name Day, Bobby!  Cupcakes (chocolate!) are in the oven, and the kids are excited to come home and have a special "lunch dessert" if they are lunchtime winners.

This morning, the 2014 Mass Intentions Book opened at our parish.  For those who may be unfamiliar with this practice, each Mass that is celebrated can have a special intention.  Each year, we try to arrange the intention of Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander's birthdays in their memories (we also do this for my brother-in-law, Robert, and for my uncle, Christopher Michael, who was stillborn).  Every parish does the process different, and our current one puts numbers in a basket and you pick one up for the number in which you will be called.  The basket goes out immediately following the 6:30am Mass.

I've been wanting to get out with Michael in the mornings for a walk or run, and today posed a great opportunity.  He and I are up, since he usually gets up around 4am-5am to eat, and I love to make Mass on the name days of our kids (especially special for Michael this year since both his (and my!) name day is his Christening day!).  So, we left the house in the chilly morning and walked to the church, about a mile and a half away.  It was a beautiful morning and we made it a few minutes before Mass started.

Michael was great (even if he and I were the youngest- by far!- of any of the attendees), and I only stepped out once to nurse.  (I normally have a cover and will nurse during Sunday Mass in the church proper, but morning Mass is held in the chapel and, since I was in workout gear, I didn't have a cover (and couldn't really have easily used one even if I did).  I stepped out into an enclave, where I could still hear Mass but was hidden, and it worked out really well!)  After Mass, we got our number (#6!) and headed home to see the kids off to school (and so I could grab a shower).  Michael was a trooper, and I may attempt morning Mass more often!  (On a side note, when we went back for the Mass book opening at 8:30, I did get the Intentions for their birthdays! Yay!)

Our pastor celebrated Mass this morning and, while I knew the story of St. Robert, it was nice to hear him discuss St. R's biography and to have him tie that into the reading.  There are several saints who bear the name "Robert", but this is the one that always reminds me of my Bobby... compassionate and empathetic.

Compassion.  There is so much contained in such a small word.  The word originates in 14th century Latin (although it dates in some histories to as early as 12th century French) from compounding "com", meaning "with", and "passion".  Passion...  what an interesting word.  We often associate it with a personality trait (that person is so passionate about the subject that they can't see the forest for the trees) or with a love interest (their romance was so deeply passionate, their honeymoon was full of passionate lovemaking).  But the word is oftentimes misunderstood.

The word "Passion" originates from (once again) Old French and Latin and relates to the suffering of Jesus on the Cross (hence our understanding of the Mass of the Passion of the Christ).  The word means suffering. 

Compassion.  With Suffering.

When we talk about someone being compassionate, we often say it as a means to express how they endured with us (or someone else).  In my time of sadness, you were so compassionate; you endured my grief with me.  And, truly, the people we call compassionate are ones who carry on through great suffering: think of Mother Theresa, living a life of poverty and caring for those unable to care for themselves.  Compassionate.  Suffering with those who suffered around her.

When I came home, I told Peter that I was inspired by our Monsignor's homily, and that I thought he really explained St. Robert's life well for those who may have been unfamiliar with the 15th-16th century saint.  As I discussed the word "compassion", Peter shared a story that he said, finally, clicked for him in a way it had never before.

A fan of the video game Ultima, (yep, Stones came from this game) Peter has a strategy guide that includes a few tales of different virtues embodied by some of the characters.  He said that he never had really understood the story that embodied the virtue of compassion, known as the Tale of Iolo and the Brigand.

A murder is rampaging a town and the people ask Iolo to help.  He hears their pleas and vows to remove the murder, Edric, from the land.  Finally, they meet and, as he tries to escape, Edric destroys a town.  Rather than pursue him at all ends, Iolo helps dig out the living and the dead, and then resumes chase.  Once again, they meet and, once again, Edric destroys a town (this time by poisoning the water supply) so that Iolo will stop and help. Finally, they meet up in a place of desolation and Edric falls into a pit.   When Iolo arrives, he finds Edric, crying out for help from the pit, into which he has fallen and broken his leg.  Having no rope, Iolo tells Edric that he can go get one, but it will take him a week to get it and return.  Edric, terrified, begs Iolo to not leave him and instead, to climb down and help him.  Iolo refuses, but cuts him down a branch so that he can hobble around, and then he waits with the dying man for three days.

Compassion.  With passion. To suffer with.  To endure alongside of.

Like St. Robert, may we all be touched with the virtue of compassion, even to those who hate us, who destroy that which we hold dear and for whom we believe don't deserve our love.  And may others hold us in their own compassion during our struggles.

St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us.

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