Here’s a little news item that bears repeating, I think. Sister Andre, a member of the Daughters of Charity in Toulon, France, is celebrating her birthday today. She’s 117 years old, the oldest European and the second oldest person in the world. (The oldest is also a woman, Kane Tanaka, who is 118.) Sister Andre will have a birthday feast of foie gras, capon fillet with porcini mushrooms and baked Alaska, washed down with a small glass of port wine (a daily “tonic”). Asked what she would say to young people, Sister Andre said, “Be brave and show compassion.” Good advice and something I have espoused for years. As a matter of fact, long ago I saved and framed a calendar page with the work of artist Mary Southard, a Sister of St. Joseph, because in addition to Mary’s beautiful art work it offers two quotes. I see it every day.
The first of the quotes is from Thomas Merton who speaks of the quality of compassion, saying, “Compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all living beings which are all a part of one another.” The second, from Meister Eckhart, is closer to my heart as it speaks of how we should all be acting. It says, “Whatever God does, the first outburst is always compassion.” I like the quote because while it speaks of a heartfelt virtue that would seem very peaceful in itself, it is very active and can’t be contained, bursting out of us with the force of a love that must be shared.
So as we celebrate Sister Andre today, let us redouble our efforts to be brave in these troubled times in which we’re living and redouble our commitment to compassion for the good of the world.