The Christophers: Compassion Walks the Road to Calvary
By Tony Rossi
“Compassion walks the road to Calvary.” It’s a timely observation as we enter Holy Week, and it’s one that Sister Ave Clark has personally experienced. As the founder of Heart to Heart Ministry, Sister Ave holds retreats and personally counsels those enduring dark times, including domestic abuse, the death of a loved one, PTSD, disability, and more. As she recalled during a “Christopher Closeup” interview about her books “Peace and Compassion…Holy Threads” and “A Light on an Angel Wing,” her experience with these types of situations goes back many years, to a time when she was a second-grade teacher. One of her students, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with cancer and wouldn’t be able to make her First Communion with the class.
Elizabeth’s parents asked if she could receive her First Communion in the hospital, so Sister Ave arranged for a priest to come and hold a small service there. Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s health continued to go downhill, so Sister Ave brought her a little angel doll to hold on to for comfort.
Some time later, Elizabeth’s parents called Sister Ave to say the end was near and asked if she could come with them to the hospital. Despite feeling emotionally devastated by this news, Sister Ave mustered up the emotional and spiritual strength to accompany them because she realized that “compassion walks the road to Calvary.” During the car ride over, Elizabeth’s mother quietly held Sister Ave’s hand. Upon entering Elizabeth’s room, they saw she was holding her angel doll. Her mother broke down in tears, so Elizabeth told her, “Mom, don’t cry. I’m going to go to heaven, and you said it’s the best home I could ever have.”
Elizabeth’s mother hugged her, and her father told her, “You’re our little angel,” then they both left the room in tears. Elizabeth turned to Sister Ave and said, “Sister, I don’t need the doll anymore because I’ll have all the angels in heaven. You take it, you give it to someone else.”
Sister Ave agreed. Elizabeth passed away an hour later. Sister Ave recalled, ”I never forgot it, Tony…When they drove home, the mother said, ‘Sister, you're being with us gave us peace.’ Did it take away their sorrow? No. But our presence can [bring] peace.”
Think about those words again: “Our presence can bring peace.” When we reflect on Good Friday, perhaps the presence of His mother Mary, and the beloved apostle John brought Jesus some peace as He was dying on the cross. It must have been devastating for them to watch Him die, but their love and compassion led them to bear the suffering so they could be there with Him. Little did they know that three days later, their hearts would rejoice at the resurrection. But would knowing that have eased their pain at the time? Maybe not. The suffering was right in front of them, while the hope was only in the future.
The little girl Elizabeth’s parents were believers, who taught their daughter about Jesus and heaven. And Elizabeth obviously came to believe and passed into the next life with strong faith. The parents’ faith, however, didn’t prevent them from feeling intense pain at the loss of their daughter. But it did give them the hope that they would someday be reunited with her again.
If your compassion leads you to walk the road to Calvary, pray for the strength to keep that same hope alive in your heart during the darkest times.
For free copies of the Christopher News Note FINDING HOPE IN CHRIST’S RESURRECTION, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org