Fratelli Tutti: Recovering Kindness

On paragraphs 222-223 of Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti, he writes:

Consumerist individualism has led to great injustice. Other persons come to be viewed simply as obstacles to our own serene existence; we end up treating them as annoyances and we become increasingly aggressive. Yet even then, we can choose to cultivate kindness. Those who do so become stars shining in the midst of darkness.

Saint Paul describes kindness as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). He uses the Greek word chrestótes, which describes an attitude that is gentle, pleasant and supportive. Individuals who possess this quality help make other people’s lives more bearable, especially by sharing the weight of their problems, needs and fears. 

Pope Frances is tapping into something that I’ve seen recently and that is the art of accompaniment. The word compassion comes from the Latin words, cum and passio which means to “suffer with” someone. Compassion is not about solving problems. It is not about offering solutions. It is walking with a person through a dark valley until they get to another place - a place of healing, peace and of light.

Rozella White is a theologian, spiritual life coach, leadership consultant, inspirational speaker, and writer. She writes that:

A Theology of Accompaniment refers to how individuals and communities enter into relationship with one another for the sake of fulfilling Christ’s message of reconciliation. We understand that God is first and foremost a God of reconciliation and this is made evident in the Incarnation.

Rozella takes this idea and applies it. I recently saw a document from one of her workshops. At that workshop, she led an exercise of accompaniment. The exercise was entitled, “Walking Together in Solidarity: A Theology of Accompaniment Within the Evangelical Lutheran Church.” 

Stephen Ministry is a ministry of accompaniment. It has been locally practiced for many years. “It offers a proven and effective way to organize, equip, and supervise a team of congregation, church or parish members—called Stephen Ministers—to provide high-quality, one-to-one, Christ-centered care to people in the congregations and the communities experiencing life difficulties.” (From their website). 

In the Catholic tradition, Catherine of Siena Institute recently introduced Ananias Training. Inspired by the important role Ananias played in St. Paul’s journey to Christ. Ananias Training helps parishes, homes, and apostolates become places where they can:

  • Recognize the stages of another’s spiritual journey through compassionate listening.
  • Listen lovingly to their real questions and opinions about God in order to guide the discovery of how God is present and active in a person’s life.
  • Talk about our relationship with God.
  • Share how we came to be a disciple of Jesus.
  • Share Jesus’ own story in response to the spiritual hunger of another.

People are exercising compassion, kindness, and solidarity in concrete ways. Thus, we see Pope Francis’ call for kindness flourishing here in our midst.  

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