Thursday, September 1, 2022



As much as I have worked to eliminate it, as much as I have been able to accomplish with the help of others, I still suffer sometimes from bouts of self-doubt and exhaustion. I guess you might say that I sometimes find myself worn out with caring. 

The biggest question I wrestle with is, "Why do I even care about other people's needs and problems?" The biggest temptation I keep coming back to is this one. "Promise yourself that this will be your very last helping project!" Unlike so many other people, especially people raising children who can't quit, I know down-deep that my problem with all this is self-inflicted. I could just walk away and quit caring, but I can't. I know that if I were to quit caring, I would just be trading my over-caring for guilt about not caring. Besides, I realize that I seem to be able to handle stress a bit more than I can handle guilt. 

I do understand that most of my issues are mere aggravations, while other people are dealing with serious problems, so I try not to complain. I realize that not caring would actually ruin my life so I have concluded that all I really need to do is to take a healthy break from caring every once in a while. Rested, I might actually be more effective in my caring about the needs of others. I read somewhere that Mother Teresa instructed her nuns to take an entire year off from their duties every 4-5 years to allow themselves to heal from the effects of their care-giving work. Reading that, I realized that I really have nothing to complain about! 


Compassion Fatigue

People whose professions lead to prolonged exposure to other people's trauma can be vulnerable to compassion fatigue, also known as secondary or vicarious trauma; they can experience acute symptoms that put their physical and mental health at risk, making them wary of giving and caring.

Feeling Another’s Pain

Empathy is a valuable trait for the military, first responders, ministers, humanitarian aid workers, health care professionals, therapists, advocates for victims of domestic abuse, moderators of offensive online content, and journalists on the front lines of war and disaster. But the more such individuals open themselves up to others' pain, the more likely they will come to share those victims' feelings of heartbreak and devastation. This sapped ability to cope with secondary trauma can lead to total exhaustion of one’s mental and physical state.

What are the symptoms?

Those who regularly experience vicarious trauma often neglect their own self-care and inner life as they struggle with images and stories that can’t be forgotten. Symptoms of compassion fatigue can include exhaustion, disrupted sleep, anxiety, headaches, stomach upset, irritability, numbness, a decreased sense of purpose, emotional disconnection, self-contempt, and difficulties with personal relationships.

What causes compassion fatigue?

Compassion fatigue can affect the most dedicated workers—people who continue to help by working extra shifts or foregoing days off, neglecting their own self-care. This can result from exposure to a single case of trauma, or from years of accumulated “emotional residue."

Is compassion fatigue the same as burnout?

Burnout is not the same as compassion fatigue. Feeling drained from everyday stressors like work and childrearing results in burnout. Compassion fatigue is the strain of feeling for another’s pain. However, the symptoms are often similar for burnout.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022



We live in a world where meanness, nastiness and hate are on the rise. When I saw this video, I was reminded that many people still do have a compassionate heart - even toward animals in crisis! Just think how much more sane and peaceful this world would be if more people reached out and responded with compassion when they see people in crisis, rather than respond to them with hate, fear and mistrust?  

Sunday, August 28, 2022



Conduct your affairs with humility,
 and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
 Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
 and you will find favor with God.
Sirach 3:17-18

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." 
Luke 14

As we said in the Confiteor today, we can sin in two ways – by what we do and what we fail to do. We can sin by excessively over-inflating our worth and thinking too highly of ourselves, but we can also sin by devaluating ourselves and thinking too little of ourselves.  


When we think too highly of ourselves and too little of others, we are guilty of narcissism. Narcissism is the term used to describe excessive vanity and self-centeredness. The condition was named after a mythological Greek youth named Narcissus who became infatuated with his own reflection in a lake. He did not realize at first that it was his own reflection, but when he did, he died out of grief for having fallen in love with someone who did not exist outside himself.  


Narcissistic personalities are characterized by unwarranted feelings of self-importance. They expect to be recognized as superior and special, without necessarily demonstrating superior accomplishments. They exhibit a sense of entitlement, demonstrate grandiosity in their beliefs and behaviors and display a strong need for admiration. 


When narcissistic people talk about church attendance, they usually say things like “I don’t go because I don’t get anything out of it!” “I, I, I, I, I!” When they say things like that, they inflate their importance by putting themselves in the center of the picture. The purpose of church attendance is not about the attendee "getting" something. It's about the attendee "giving" something! We come to Church to give God worship and praise! We come here, not to get, but to give and to learn. We come here to give God thanks and to learn how to serve others! 


When narcissistic people talk about marriage, they talk about what it will do for them. People who marry successfully get married to be love-givers, not love-getters! As Jesus said, “It is in giving that one receives!” Receiving is not a goal, but a by-product, of both marriage and ordination.  


When narcissistic young people talk about what to do with their lives, they ask themselves “what do I want to do or what do I want to be that will make me happy?" The real question is not what do I want to do, but what is God calling me to do that will lead me to happiness? Jesus was right, “Those who seek to save their lives will lose them, while those who seek to give their lives away, will save them.” Albert Schweitzer was right when he said, and narcissistic people will never get it, “The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found out how to serve.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”  


Pope Francis talks a lot about a “self-referential church,” in other words a narcissistic church. He says that when the Church does not look beyond itself, when it is always focused on itself, it gets sick. He keeps reminding us that the Church is the moon and Christ the sun. The Church exists to reflect the light of Christ to the world, not to live within herself, of herself and for herself.  


The other extreme to narcissism is self-deprecation or the minimization and devaluation of oneself. Both narcissism and the devaluation of one's self are sins. The first and last reading today are about humility, but what many of us were taught about humility needs to be reevaluated! Humility is about accepting the truth about who we are, without exaggerating it or minimizing it. “Humility” comes from the Latin “humus,” meaning “earth.” “Humility” means “grounded.” A truly “humble” person, truly in touch with his strengths and weaknesses, neither inflates his worth nor devalues it. 


It is this truth that Jesus spent his ministry trying to teach. He taught it to the religious leaders of his day who were so arrogant and self-inflated that they started out talking about God and ended up thinking they were gods. He taught it to the marginalized of his day who were so beaten down that they did not recognize their own goodness and the image of God within themselves. As Mary said, "He pulls the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly from their dung heaps."  


Brothers and sisters! God has entrusted gifts to us to be used! When we do not use our gifts, even deny we have them, we neither serve God nor the people we are called to serve. There is great responsibility that goes with being the light of the world and having talents! It scares us. We tend to shy away from that responsibility.  


In that arena, the prophet Jonah is a patron saint. Jonah was called to preach to the people of Nineveh. He considered himself a poor preacher on one hand and the Ninevites not worth saving on the other. To get away from his unwelcomed call and the responsibility that went with it, he went down to the docks and bought a ticket on the next ship sailing in the opposite direction from Nineveh. He thought he could outrun God's call!  


In his version of a get-away-car, Jonah is pictured going to sleep in the bottom of his boat while a storm raged, a symbol today of “denial.” The psychologist Abraham Maslow calls such spiritual and emotional truancy the Jonah Complex: “The evasion of one’s own growth, the setting of low levels of aspiration, the fear of doing what one is capable of doing, voluntary self-crippling, pseudo-stupidity, mock humility.”  


The fact is, most of us are afraid of both our failure and our success. A calling makes us wonder if we are good enough, smart enough, disciplined enough, educated enough, patient enough, and inspired enough. We manage our fear by “going to sleep,” “settling for too little” and “self-sabotage.” We both crave and fear becoming who we are called to be!  


Thomas Merton was right, “The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.” Maybe our biggest sin is not what we do, but what we fail to do! Michelangelo put it this way. “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”  


Magnanimity and humility are the virtues specific to a full life. Magnanimity is the habit of striving for great things in oneself, in reaching one’s full potential. Humility is the habit of serving others by bringing out their greatness, giving them the capacity to realize their human potential. Together they constitute the essence of leadership. In short, magnanimity and humility are about loving oneself and loving one's neighbor.  


Magnanimity affirms our own individual personal dignity and greatness. Magnanimity is the thirst to lead a full and intense life through passionate and enthusiastic action. The magnanimous person is one whose heart is set on achieving personal excellence because he considers himself worthy of doing great things. A self-doubting, insecure, self-hating, lazy and timid person will never be able to become a fully developed person in the world, in the church or in the family.  


The other virtue essential to becoming a fully developed person is humility. Humility affirms the dignity and greatness of others. Humility is the thirst to love and sacrifice for the good of others. Humility is not about displays of personal power, but the empowerment of others. Humility is about authentic love. Authentic love is not merely about having warm feelings toward another. It is about offering them practical helpfulness in their growth as human beings.