Since the country voted for Brexit and Donald Trump was elected President of the USA I have found, in my work as a spiritual director, many people speaking of an ‘existential angst’ they, or their friends, are experiencing. Feelings of anger, disgust, fear and emptiness seem to exercise a greater hold and the dread of division has entered their – souls. And I hear (and recognise something) of the way some are almost addicted to exploring news stories concerning these two subjects which are exercising a hold over them that seems unhealthy.
As I have reflected on this phenomenon I have noticed a remarkable similarity between the effect that focusing on the effects of Brexit and Trump have with some of the teaching of S. Ignatius in what he described as ‘discernment of spirits’. Ignatius pointed out that the ‘evil spirit’ (ad if someone has a problem with such a term, think of ‘negative life-force’) will seek to “move (a person) toward lack of faith and leave one without hope and without love” (The Spiritual Exercises, n. 317). Ignatius goes on to say that when this occurs the person who is seeking to live as God would have them live should ‘confront those things that hold us back from such freedom’ - and act against those behaviours which are not life giving (Contra Agere).
For many years I have been attracted by the Sacred Heart of Jesus, finding in that image and devotion a real sense of God’s passionate love for all creation. More recently I have become conscious of being drawn to explore practicing Compassion and how developing this deep aspect of our humanity can undermine the consequences of being drawn by the hatred, fear and division present in our world. It has also been realised that developing compassion can be a means of growing in personal well-being. To that end I have been working on developing an Association of Companions of the Compassionate Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
The idea of such an Association is to provide a means whereby people can commit to live out the compassionate love of God in their lives. Jesus and Mary reveal aspects of compassionate love – Jesus responded to the world with Divine Compassion and Mary was warned of the pain compassion can bring when, in bringing the child Jesus to the Temple, Simeon prophesied that her soul would be “pierced” by a sword as she bore Jesus in the world.
The purpose of such an Association would be to encourage and nurture compassion in the lives of all Companions. Its aim would be to provide a means of commitment with others in developing a compassionate heart for the sake of the world. And the charism of Companions would be to:
+ seek to be living lives whereby the love of God, realised in the Compassion of Jesus, might be fully realised;
+ recall that the heart of Mary was pierced by a sword as she remained in union with her Son. Companions recognise that their hearts will also suffer as they seek to love with the heart of Jesus and Mary;
+ know that they cannot do this by their own unaided efforts, rather they seek to turn to Christ’s Compassionate Heart as the Divine well from which they will drink;
+ value the rich resources that come from all religious traditions that seek to cultivate a Compassionate heart;
+ look to the Sacrament of Confession (Reconciliation) as a means of cleansing and for renewing their own hearts.
At present this is an ‘idea in the working’ and I have sought advice as to whether to take this forward. But it seems to me that there is a great and increasing need, not only to act with compassion, but to live out of the Heart of Compassion.
SS. Cyril and Methodius, Patrons of Europe
February 14th, 2017