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Kindling the fire of compassion

Matthew Fox in his book Creation Spirituality describes compassion as “a kind of fire. St. Thomas Aquinas says it’s the fire that Jesus came to set on the earth. It disturbs, it surprises, it ignites, it burns, it sears, and it warms. Compassion incinerates denial; it especially warms and melts cold hearts, cold structures, frozen minds and self-satisfied lifestyles. Those who are touched by compassion have their lives turned upside down. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Ministry in the church is applied compassion. Ministry describes the ways we all find to reach out to others, to take that fire that has been kindled in our hearts and souls and ignite a kindred spark in others.

In this Fall Ministries section, ministry appears in all its richness and diversity. NCR special report writer Patricia Lefevere looks at church outreach in remote villages near the fiords in southern Alaska. Br. David Andrews, director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, gives us a snapshot of the state of rural ministry in the country today. Margot Patterson reports on women religious from the Unites States and Central Eastern Europe meeting to bridge the culture gap. We profile a priest-doctor who heals bodies and souls in Africa, the Paulist Fathers’ presence in the American film industry in Hollywood and the “leaven in the bread” that is small Christian communities.

-- Rich Heffern

National Catholic Reporter, September 20, 2002