In our thought for the week, Sr Deirdre Mullan, writes, ‘the pandemic has awakened in many a deep compassion and the need to reach out in a world where to even touch is now considered dangerous!’
As we get used to coping with the ‘new normal’ amidst the Covid 19 pandemic, one of the things that is coming more and more to the fore is how we as human beings are reaching out and showing comfort and compassion to one another.
Growing up in Derry, I often heard my mother use the term – “God Bless the holy mark or God protect us.” As a small child, I did not know what that meant but gradually came to realize it was a term she used with the fullness of compassion when she came upon a child, or any person with an illness, or terrible affliction.
The pandemic has awakened in many a deep compassion and the need to reach out in a world where to even touch is now considered dangerous! When I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all that is going on and how our world has been turned upside down, I think about lessons I learned from my friend Dessie.
Dessie had Down syndrome and was one of the happiest people to inhabit this earth. With his mischievous personality he kept all around him happy. He also had that keen sense of compassion and just knew when someone needed comfort. When anyone was suffering his antenna was out there, alert to pain in all its forms.
At the time of bidding farewell when our mother died, Dessie was nowhere to be found. Eventually, he was located outside the house, sitting in the passenger’s seat of the hearse. All the pleading in the world would not budge him to get into another car. He had his own reasoning. Dessie was a man on a mission and insisted he needed to show the driver the way to get our Mum to the garden of heaven, which in his beautiful mind was our local cemetery!
At this time of so much pain, bewilderment, separation and the literal ‘disappearance’ of so many family members, colleagues and friends and when we cannot have a wake or attend a funeral, I hope a visual image of God’s garden can remind each of us that no one, or any virus can separate us from a loving God.
In a world grown coarse and cold, where people are commodified, ‘not counted’ or cast aside, I think Dessie’s actions best sum up what it is to be fully human.
The gift of the Holy Spirit, which is so often misunderstood, is about a relationship with a compassionate God. St Paul says this so well: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a gentle Father, who comforts us in all our sorrow, so that we can offer others, in their sorrows, the consolation we too have received. ” (2 Co 1: 3-7)
During these times, more than ever we need to reach out with a call, a card, a note of encouragement to let those feeling isolated know, that they are not alone. Compassion and Comfort is about knowing that it is not enough to feel compassionate – we must ACT!
Sister Deirdre Mullan, RSM, is a Sister of Mercy from Ireland who served as the executive director of Mercy Global Concern at the United Nations for more than 10 years. In 2011 she became the Director of The Partnership for Global Justice, a network of over 125 small congregations at the U.N. Her present ministry is working with UNICEF to look at ways in which they can partner with religious communities. The photograph was taken by Sr Deirdre on a visit to Kenya