Tears of a Pope

Overcome by compassion for the suffering of others

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash

I watched the news yesterday, and I cannot get an image out of my head. There was a very brief segment about the pope. He had been praying aloud to a crowd for the people suffering in Ukraine, when he had to stop in the midst of his prayer, overcome by emotion. 

He stepped back from the microphone, stood there for about 30 seconds, and simply bowed his head and wept quietly. Overcome by his emotions for the tremendous suffering of the people in Ukraine, the pain of it all flooding over him and making it unable for him to carry on for a few moments.

What a powerful image. To acknowledge the suffering, to take a moment and honor that pain that is so hard to contain. The pain that we humans are capable of inflicting on one another. 

I was raised Catholic, but identify more as spiritual rather than religious. I do like this particular pope as compared to others in the past. He allows himself to appear as more human, compassionate, willing to risk. I may not agree with all that he stands for, but I respect his dedication to a life of service and spreading a message of love and compassion. And I honor his tears.

He is aging, as we all do. And I wonder, as I have noticed in myself, if aging brings even more compassion and empathy and willingness to express those tender feelings when they come. To, indeed, honor their presence as a sacred gift. To no longer be as able to hold them back or inside of ourselves, as it becomes too much to contain. To no longer think that it is a strength to hold these feelings back or to try to hide them. 

I see this increasing tearfulness and inability to hold it back in myself. 

I cannot even tolerate passing a poor animal on the road that has been run over and died there for all to see as we drive by. My tears come.

 I have trouble watching the commercials on tv about animals left out in the cold, suffering, freezing, alone. More tears.

I can barely tolerate a bit of the news to feel like I have enough of an idea of what is going on in this very troubled world. My heart aches. 

 The wars and the suffering of people caught in the power struggle of leaders who are safe and away from all the destruction that they cause. Elders, children left out in the cold with no home, no family, nothing left. Families torn apart. Lives shattered.

The rising crime and people being robbed, hurt, abused, killed. People desperate and acting out of that desperation blindly, unable to contain anger and frustration and lashing out at others. 

School shootings of innocent young children who have barely begun their lives.

Hate crimes against others whose difference somehow threatens those who hate, attack, and kill them. Differences that somehow threaten rather than unite us in our common humanity. 

People in the world with not enough food to eat or to feed their children, with not enough clean water to drink. 

 An earth that continues to be destroyed and ravaged. 

An ocean filled with plastic and garbage. Whales washing up on shore whose bellies, when they are cut open, are filled with that plastic. 

Animals that are hunted to the point of extinction, and often not for food. Elephants killed for ivory trinkets. Their babies orphaned and abandoned.

 Farm animals treated with cruelty in the production of food with no sense of compassion for their lives and suffering. 

The list can go on and on. 

It feels like too much to bear, to contain. 

Perhaps, like the pope, with the courage to feel , to allow those feelings to permeate and fill our souls, perhaps this is what we all need. To acknowledge all the darkness and then somehow be able to face it and do something? To pray, feel, weep, and then somehow work to come together. 

We cannot change what we cannot name and face. Including that which lies within ourselves. Perhaps, as we name and face it and allow the pain of it all to wash through us, to step back and allow the tears, perhaps we can begin to begin to make decisions and take action from that open place, that wound, those tears. Sacred, powerful tears of compassion and humanity. 

2 thoughts on “Tears of a Pope

  1. I know so well what you have written here. I began to tear up just being reminded of the suffering. We may not be able to solve all of the world’s problems but one by one, we can do what we can do to show others that we care, that there is kindness and compassion in us and so there is hope as long as we share what we can. You are such a fantastic writer!! Keep it up!!

    Liked by 1 person

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