The art and soul of compassion
Welcoming the bishop-elect
When word was released that Father John B. Brungardt was named bishop-elect of the Diocese of Dodge City, it came with an official request from the Holy See that the Diocese of Dodge City begin preparing for his arrival.
Chancery and cathedral staff went to work sending out invitations for the ordination, preparing the liturgy, lining up transportation for dignitaries, arranging for food, ... which is all well and good.
But that isn’t exactly what the Holy Father was referring to.
What the pope is asking is that the Catholics of the Diocese of Dodge City prepare spiritually for the arrival of a new shepherd who will oversee the flock in Southwest Kansas.
This could be interpreted in many ways. Certainly, praying for the new bishop and his ministry is appropriate. Studying the man -- knowing he was reared on a farm, that his mother had 10 siblings and his father 17 -- also brings one closer to him.
But what also may help is to look more deeply into one simple statement, the bishop’s motto, which will be placed on his new coat of arms. If you remember, Bishop Emeritus Gilmore’s motto was “Be Still and Know,” an invitation to listen and to hear the word of God.
For his motto, Bishop-elect Brungardt, has selected the phrase “Filled With Compassion,” from the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Gospel of Luke, Chapter 15, Verse 20: “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son embraced him and kissed him.” In using this phrase Bishop Brungardt prays that the Lord might continue to bless and fill him with the virtue of compassion as he ministers with the good people of the Diocese of Dodge City.
To prepare spiritually for the arrival and ordination of the new bishop, it might be worth taking a closer look into the power of compassion, and what it means to truly accept it into one’s heart.
In Philippians 2:1-3, St. Paul describes compassion as a deep friendship: “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.”
Tony Spence, Editor-in-Chief of Catholic News Service, writes, “In his play, ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ William Shakespeare wrote a tribute to one of the greatest gifts found in the human heart. ‘The quality of mercy is not strained,’ he said. ‘It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: it blesseth him that gives and him that takes.’
“He called it ‘an attribute to God himself’ and when earthly powers temper justice with mercy, then they demonstrate an attribute most like God’s.
“Pope John Paul II took up the subject of mercy in his encyclical, ‘Rich in Mercy,’ in 1980, the second of many during his long pontificate. Mercy, he wrote, is an indispensable quality, especially when meting out justice.
“The pope said that justice alone is insufficient. There is, he wrote, a ‘fundamental link between mercy and justice spoken of by the whole biblical tradition and above all by the messianic mission of Jesus Christ. True mercy is, so to speak, the most profound source of justice.’ The love and the mercy of God on the one hand should lead to love and mercy on the part of Christians toward others, he said.
“Indeed, mercy is twice blessed.”