Book Review – Compassion: Living in the Spirit of St. Francis by Ilia Delio

by Mark Votava


This book is a wonderful portrayal of themes from the life of St. Francis as he became an expression of compassion in his time.  Illia Delio talks about developing compassion in our lives as we follow living in the spirit of St. Francis.  She shares how compassion is another name for community, how we were created to be in relationship to one another as in expression of love and compassion.  Encountering God in the other is an essential theme in the book as compassion always starts interiorly within us.

  • Compassion unites what is separated and binds together what is otherwise opposed

“Compassion is the shared experience of creaturely life.  It unites what is divided and binds together what is otherwise opposed.  Compassion grows out of seeds of love within the human heart.  It is born from the deepest center within and unites our deepest selves.”

  • This weak person is God and God is here in this weak flesh

“Compassion is a way of being in relationship with another that accepts the other in his or her weakness and responds to the needs of the person with mercy…  Too often we reject people in their weaknesses; we refuse those with needs different from our own needs; we have no time for the poor or weak person.  We are embarrassed by the weak and we seek to avoid them because we cannot accept or believe that this weak person is God and God is here in this weak flesh…”

  • Seeing the world through the eyes of love

“Love changes the way we know things.  Love is not blind affection or mere satisfaction.  Rather, love is the highest good that seeks and desires the highest good in another.  To love is to know the good in another without questioning the good of the other or trying to understand the good of the other.  The wise person is one whose knowledge is shaped by love and who sees the world through the eyes of love…”

  • Letting others be without projecting unto others our demands and expectations

“Compassion is another name for Christian living.  It is accepting the limits of our humanity without asking why.  It is letting others be without projecting onto others our demands and expectations.  Hence, it is believing in the human person as the hidden presence of God.  To see the pain and weakness of another is to see the crucified Christ, the love of God on the face of frail humanity.  It is to recognize that this person at this time is the face of Christ; this person is God’s love incarnate.  If I reject this person, I reject God.  If I hate this person, I hate God.  There is nothing I can do to the neighbor that I do not do to God…”

How can we learn to live with compassion in everyday life?