As a pre-college student in high school in the 1950’s, I was expected to take Latin and I dutifully did so. I was not happy about it but did want to be able to get into college. At that point I did not appreciate the time and effort it took to learn new verbs, nouns and sentence configuration.
As the years have passed, I realize how much Latin has added to the way I think about words and their derivations, especially the impact of Latin on helping me understand more fully the words I hear in daily conversation.
Compassion is such a word. I often hear kind people talking about being compassionate and it is a word that seems so appropriate to how we deal with those who are ill in body or mind.
The prefix ‘com’ is used to imply ‘together’ or ‘in association with’. In English we have words like ‘committee’ or ‘commit’ or ‘commander’.
Likewise in Latin, the word passion means a strong or powerful emotion or feeling involving love and hate.
Passion thus is an intense and powerful feeling that drives us to want to engage our lives in that which we so strongly feel. Hopefully the passion that we feel is not hate or anger, but love and enthusiasm and a desire to make things easier for others and ourselves. Through compassion we embrace life and want to help, or act, or advance in whatever is the driving passion that we are experiencing.
For me, the word compassion means that we walk together, hand in hand, brothers and sisters, facing that which is so full of feeling and emotion. It is in reminding ourselves that in facing illness and even death, we can be together in a compassionate manner. In body, mind and spirit we can face what must be, not alone with only words and prognoses, but with a sense that there is an intensity of concern and caring that recognizes our own uniqueness and needs.
Compassion is not a miracle pill, but is a miraculous part of the process of healing.
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