Mourning with Others

It really helps to have a loved one to comfort us in carrying our cross as good families do, comforting those who suffer. Pope Francis urges us to treat all with gentle kindness (see Amoris Lætitia, 100) and so help those who suffer to feel understood and loved, which makes their suffering bearable. When we lack such loving kindness we heartlessly add to the suffering of others, as the Pope says: “love is also to be gentle and thoughtful… love is not rude or impolite; it is not harsh. Its actions, words and gestures are pleasing and not abrasive or rigid. Love abhors making others suffer” (Amoris Lætitia, 99). We must learn to listen to others, enter into their life so as to mourn with them in compassion. This “demands the sensitivity and restraint which can renew trust and respect. Indeed, the deeper love is, the more it calls for respect for the other’s freedom and the ability to wait until the other opens the door to his or her heart” (Catechesis of May 13, 2015, cited in Amoris Lætitia). The Pope also says:

A person who sees things as they truly are and sympathizes with pain and sorrow is capable of touching life’s depths and finding authentic happiness. He or she is consoled, not by the world but by Jesus. Such persons are unafraid to share in the suffering of others; they do not flee from painful situations. They discover the meaning of life by coming to the aid of those who suffer, understanding their anguish and bringing relief. They sense that the other is flesh of our flesh, and are not afraid to draw near, even to touch their wounds. They feel compassion for others in such a way that all distance vanishes. In this way they can embrace Saint Paul’s exhortation: ‘Weep with those who weep’ (Romans 12:15). Knowing how to mourn with others: that is holiness (Gaudete et exsultate, 76).

As we can see, striving to live a good life means so much more than just avoiding sin. It means acquiring many dispositions that welcome others into our lives and make it safe for others to open up with us. One such disposition is courtesy, as Pope Francis reminds us:

Courtesy ‘is a school of sensitivity and disinterestedness’ which requires a person ‘to develop his or her mind and feelings, learning how to listen, to speak and, at certain times, to keep quiet.’ It is not something that a Christian may accept or reject. As an essential requirement of love, ‘every human being is bound to live agreeably with those around him’ (Amoris Lætitia, 99, citing Octavio Paz and St. Thomas Aquinas).

The Pope goes on to expand on this disposition, describing how it impacts others, especially those who mourn or suffer:

To be open to a genuine encounter with others, “a kind look” is essential. This is incompatible with a negative attitude that readily points out other people’s shortcomings while overlooking one’s own. A kind look helps us to see beyond our own limitations, to be patient and to cooperate with others, despite our differences. Loving kindness builds bonds, cultivates relationships, creates new networks of integration and knits a firm social fabric. In this way, it grows ever stronger, for without a sense of belonging we cannot sustain a commitment to others; we end up seeking our convenience alone and life in common becomes impossible. Antisocial persons think that others exist only for the satisfaction of their own needs. Consequently, there is no room for the gentleness of love and its expression” (Amoris Lætitia, 100).

What better way to learn this essential characteristic of love than seeing it reflected in the family or in a loving marriage? This is a great way to witness to Christ and to the Christian Way: the way of love, the way of kindness… the way of the family.

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Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.