Monday Matters (June 19, 2023)


The Collect read in church on June 18

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

These days, Monday Matters offers reflections on the prayers we say in church on Sunday, the collect of the day. We do this based on the conviction that praying shapes our believing, that what we pray forms us. We do this hoping that the prayers we say on Sunday will carry us through the week.


As I reflected on the collect we heard yesterday in church (above), there were two words that stood out for me: boldness and compassion. I thought of two women who I admire greatly to help me think about these words as part of what it means to live faithfully in the world.

Starting with boldness, I thought of the brand new book written by the Rt. Rev. Marian Edgar Budde, bishop of Washington, and a leader I greatly admire, someone who has taught me a lot. Her new book is entitled How We Learn To Be Brave. It’s described as “an inspirational guide to the key junctures in life that, if navigated with faith and discernment, pave the way for us to become our most courageous selves.”

According to this book, decisive moments in life are points when we’re called on to push past fears and act with strength. Have you ever had to do that? Bishop Budde teaches us to respond with clarity and grace even in the toughest times (and being bishop in our nation’s capital means she knows something about tough times). She says that being brave is not a singular occurrence; it’s a journey that we can choose to undertake every day.

She explores the full range of decisive moments, from the most visible and dramatic (the decision to go), to the internal and personal (the decision to stay), to brave choices made with an eye toward the future (the decision to start), those born of suffering (the decision to accept that which we did not choose), and those that come unexpectedly (the decision to step up to the plate).

The boldness for which we pray involves bravery, and the related virtue of courage. Courage is a quality prayed for at the end of communion, as we ask for strength and courage to love and serve God. I’m taken with the word courage, because as it shares root with the French word for heart (coeur), it tells us that as we pray for boldness, we are also called to pray for compassion, which again is about the heart. It is about love.

Which leads me to the second word, and the wisdom of Karen Armstrong, the second hero I wish to cite. She’s a gifted scholar, and someone with great focus on interfaith conversation. She lives out her premise that compassion is the common virtue in all faith traditions. In the same way that being brave is described as a journey, Armstrong says that the attempt to become a compassionate human being is a lifelong project.

According to Armstrong, compassion derives from the Latin patiri and the Greek pathein, meaning “to suffer, undergo or experience.” So “compassion” means “to endure [something] with another person, to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes, to feel her pain as though it were our own, and to enter generously into his point of view.”

Compassion impels us to “work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”

It strikes me that we need both to be at work in our faithful lives. Boldness without compassion can become a steamroller. Compassion without boldness leads to timidity and complicity. Yesterday’s collect underscores that need for both. I’m wondering how you might live out your faith with boldness and compassion this week.

Where are you being called to be bold? Where can you be compassionate? How can you do both?

-Jay Sidebotham

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