At a recent convocation the speaker told a story about two Irish priests who were out for a stroll one day in the Irish countryside. They came to the River Shiven and there standing on the riverbank, looking across the shimmering water, was a lovely young woman. She had long golden hair and a figure like an hourglass. It was clear to the two priests that she wished to cross the shallow river but she did not want to get her dress wet. So, one priest said to the other, “The compassionate thing to do would be to carry her across.” The other priest was not open to this, saying, “It might cause a big scandal if anyone from the parish were to see you doing this.”
“Na bi amaideach” (Don’t be foolish), said the first, as he took the young woman in his arms and carried her high and dry across the water. Then he set her down safely. He didn’t bother to tell her that there was a footbridge beyond the bend of the river. After he had been chastised for his heroic action, he said to his companion, “The good lady is now safely on the other side while you are still contemplating carrying her across the river.”
There is not only a time but a great need for compassion in our world today. Such is what happens when natural disasters strike communities in our states across the USA. We have seen this as tornadoes have wrecked their devastation in several states this week. That is when we witness the soul of compassion demonstrated by first aid workers, neighbors and strangers who put aside their personal needs in order to help and rescue others.
I myself benefited from such compassion this past week. After attending the annual priests’ convocation on Oahu and completing some personal business, I was ready to return to the land of Saints Damien and Marianne. However, a winter storm struck the islands and turned the flight schedules into near chaos. Undaunted, Sister Dolores SS.CC. took me to and from the airport two days in succession in driving wind and lashing rain. No wonder then that I sometimes refer to her as “Daredevil.” On the third try I was able to take to the skies and fly to Kalaupapa.
Meantime, back in Kalaupapa, my six cats called for their chow. So, Sister Alicia Damien OSF, and Sister Barbara Jean OSF, in the spirit of St. Francis, took good care of them. Such indeed is the spirit of giving. Such is the soul of compassion. Have a blessed Christmas.
Anchor columnist, Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.