Reminding Ourselves What We’ve Learned
Serving others with Compassion, Kinship, and Tenderness
We heard about a talk that Fr. Gregory Boyle, SJ gave at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in New York City earlier this week and it reminded us of Fr. Greg’s talk at Cheverus last May, as part of The Ignatian Year celebration. We remembered that throughout his books and his remarks, Fr. Greg stands firmly and reminds us that there is no “us and them”. There is only us. It’s good to remember and reflect on this truth.
So much of what he shared resonated. Many of the parishioners who attended have read Fr. Greg’s third book, The Whole Language, as a way to go a bit deeper into the idea of clearly centering ourselves on the kind of “oneness” to which Jesus calls us. The kind of oneness that draws us to go to the places where people are excluded – the margins, as it were – not to change people, but to erase the margins that separate us. As Fr. Greg says, “Standing with Jesus in the lowly place, that’s where the joy is.”
“Systems are changed by people. People are changed when they are cherished: He put into words what was in my heart,” wrote one parishioner. As founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world, this has been his life’s work. Ultimately cherishing people who have been traumatized, believing that traumatized people learn about being traumatized – cherished people learn how to cherish others. He shows that we can learn from people what they need to heal.
Distinction Between Exhaustion and Burn-out
Fr. Greg draws a distinction between exhaustion and burn-out as working for others vs. being self-focused. When we burn out, we have made the work about us, rather than other people and God. When it’s all about God and others, we can go on and on, exhausted perhaps, but not burnt-out. As one parishioner relayed, “I took comfort in his distinction between exhaustion and burn out. The first is bone-tired depletion from working for others, the latter has its focus on oneself! Easier to recover from exhaustion and to get back to work.” Another says it this way, “I guess what made me reflect is that no matter what kind of work you do in life, if one engages in that work as ‘huh’ and ‘wonder’ versus self-absorbed tasks to complete, it is that much more life fulfilling. Meaning, when I go about my work as ‘it’s all about me’ then I will get burnt-out. But, if I make it all about you I can go on and on.”
Compassion, Kinship and Tenderness: Some questions to for personal reflection
Fr. Boyle describes a call to go to the margins and by going to the margins – we create an inclusive society that is potentially transformative – where on the margins have you felt called to respond? How did you respond?
How was this movement transformative for you? If the move to the margins was not transformative, does Fr. G’s writing/speaking give you any new insight?
How do we translate Fr. G’s compassion, sense of kinship, and tenderness to Portland, Maine?
If you’re moved to action, we invite you to consider serving others through a ministry that calls to you. Perhaps the Welcoming Ministry? Social Justice and Peace Commission? Bereavement? Home Visitors? We’d love it!