The compassion miracle can change perspectives

I didn’t like Eleanor. She was cold, distant and smug. And once I decided I didn’t like her, I easily found new flaws almost every time our paths crossed.

Eleanor and I worked together in a large mental health center. She was a nurse assigned to care for the patients and, when needed, the staff. But frankly, I didn’t think anything short of being mauled by a bear would persuade me to ever go see her.

But life humbles us in unexpected ways. I came to work on a Monday feeling fine. An hour or so later I was woefully chanting: “I don’t have the flu.  I don’t have the flu.” As each new symptom arrived, it became painfully obvious. I would have to enter Eleanor’s lair.

Waiting outside the examining room I kept thinking, “I wish I had been nicer to her.” When she called me in, I felt that visceral “uh-oh” you get when you’re about to face a moment of reckoning.  

Developing our Catholic faith

Christian Brothers College High School Class of 2009 salutatorian Will Behrens gave this talk to those attending the CBC graduation ceremonies May 17. He discussed the need for young people to develop their Catholic faith.

Ladies, gentleman, faculty, administration and the Class of 2009:

Each senior here today achieves a significant milestone in his life by graduating from high school. Accomplishing such a feat tends to focus our thoughts on the past as well as the future.

Simplicity — finding peace in the current financial crisis

The prevailing worldwide financial crisis has reshaped the lives of many people. The ripple effects from the calamities on Wall Street and overly indebted homeowners have diminished the prosperity they once enjoyed. Many people lost as much as 40 percent of their savings invested in the stock market.

Affected are major financial institutions and automobile manufacturers as well as less well-known companies in virtually every industry. Professionals, service workers, insurers and numerous others have not escaped the repercussions. The U.S. unemployment rate is now 8.5 percent.

Happy people: We’re contagious!

Happiness, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, is contagious, and happy people seem to attract and be attracted to other happy people, creating networks of like-emotions among close family members, friends and others.

These findings might not seem earthshaking. But the study, which was conducted by researchers from Harvard University and Medical School and the University of California-San Diego, offers interesting implications for people who live with serious, chronic illness and pain.

The study began in 1983 in Massachusetts. It was an offshoot of the Framingham Heart Study that set out in 1948 to identify the common factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease by following its development over a long period of time in a large group of participants.

Participants in the 1983 study were the offspring of the original Framingham study cohort and included both adult men and women. There were 4,729 participants in all.

Happiness was seen as consisting of “positive emotions,” and, after the participants' social networks were identified, their degree of happiness was measured by asking them how often each participant experienced certain feelings during the previous week.

Moral ‘bad habits’ lead to serious sin

Acid-tongue comedian George Carlin passed away last year. I never cared for his sophomoric brand of humor, especially after his profane references for women who picket abortion clinics. Catholics have a much kinder brand of humor suitable for all ages. One of my favorite Catholic jokes asks, “Did you hear the one about the nun with loose habits?” It’s quick and to the point.

“Habit” is a word we don’t hear very much any more, either as an item of clothing or as a repetitive act of sinful behavior. In today’s secular climate all bad habits seem to be excusable because of the social circumstances of the sinner. Secular society plays down any individual responsibility for sin or vice. So deep is the fear of being labeled  judgmental that society has attributed a multitude of sinful behaviors to extraneous excuses, which have virtually exonerated the guilty parties of any individual guilt.

Somewhere during the last half-century, Americans lost their deep, dark sense of sin that used to irritate the conscience so that a sinner would rush to the confessional. Now society only judges wrongs as collective sins. This idea has become the standard conventional wisdom of our modern society, which teaches that alienated groups, such as conservatives, the religious right and abortion abolitionists, commit a collective sin by opposing societal progress and refusing to free themselves from the superstitious past when religion and churches ruled men’s behavior. 

‘Honor her mother’ as commanded by God

Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. The highest human exhibition of love that earth has ever seen was this. Christ was about to exhibit this highest type of human love by dying for his friends (John 15:13-14).

There are times in one’s life when the simple act of a daughter’s love for her mother becomes sacred, filled with sanctified grace flowing from both mother and daughter. I was privileged to witness such a moment recently.

By God’s grace, a window was open figuratively and I was able to see a woman I’ve come to admire and respect over the few months help her mother with the dignity and compassion I could have only dreamed of showing my own mom in such a fashion.

This occasion made me admire this friend I have come to respect even more than when we entered that nursing facility for our short visit. In that short time, my friend affirmed through her actions that she truly does “honor her mother” as commanded by God in Sacred Scripture.

I sat there in awe as I watched my friend help her mom transfer from her walker to a recliner. It was something I couldn’t have done for my own mom, but would have in a moment if I could have; this friend, a neighbor of mine, is truly blessed.

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