Sister Diane Fulgenzi
The feast of St. Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursuline Sisters, is celebrated on January 27, and is always an invitation to reflect on how we are being called to enflesh her spirit in our lives today. My thoughts this year turn to the invitation to live with a more compassionate heart.
“With loving kindness, Angela related to her people as God relates: at times gently, at times firmly and vigorously, but always with that balance of compassion and respect for the dignity of the human being.” These words from Sister Anne Curry, an Ursuline Sister from New York, describe so well the compassion, gentleness, and respect that marked Angela’s relationships with others and to which she calls us again and again in her Writings.
“Be gentle and compassionate…For you will achieve more with kindness and gentleness than with harshness and sharp rebukes, which should be reserved only for cases of necessity, and, even then, at the right place and time, and according to the person.”
“…willingly strive to lead with love and with a mild and kindly hand, and not imperiously, not harshly, but in everything, willingly be gentle.”
“Be bound to one another by the bond of charity, respecting each other, helping each other, bearing with each other in Jesus Christ.”
Recently, I was reading Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who ministers among gang members in Los Angeles. I deeply appreciated the book and Father. Boyle’s reflections on his experiences and interactions with the young people he has encountered through the years in his ministry.
Near the end of the book, he reflects on Mother Teresa’s conviction that we have “forgotten that we belong to each other.” “Kinship is what happens to us when we refuse to let that happen,” Father Boyle reflects. “Only kinship. Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased…and all will feel their worth.”
In Angela’s spirit, then, how are we being invited in the here-and-now of our lives to create ever-widening circles of kinship and compassion within our families, our workplaces, our cities, our world, and on our planet Earth?