Bearing One Another’s Burdens

Photography by Helena Lopes


We hear the word “tolerance” a lot these days, but what exactly does it mean? It seems the word itself has been largely redefined to mean the opposite of what it used to mean. Today, the word “tolerance” means that one is no longer allowed to hold opinions with which other people do not agree.

Let’s take a step back and look at the traditional and historical meaning of the word. According to Webster’s dictionary, tolerance is the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behaviors that one does not necessarily agree with. If we look at the origin of the verb, we find that “tolerate” comes from the Latin tolero (bear, endure), which was derived from the Greek verb talao (bear, endure). It is in this original context that the features for February will address this month’s theme of “tolerance.”

Saint Thérèse offers us a splendid example by which she lived the virtue of tolerance. In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, she said, “I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors’ defects—not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.” She talks about a very real struggle she had with a particular sister below:

“There is in the Community a Sister who has the faculty of displeasing me in everything, in her ways, her words, her character, everything seems very disagreeable to me. And still, she is a holy religious who must be very pleasing to God. Not wishing to give in to the natural antipathy I was experiencing, I told myself that charity must not consist in feelings but in works; then I set myself to doing for this Sister what I would do for the person I loved the most. Each time I met her, I prayed to God for her, offering Him all her virtues and merits…I wasn’t content simply with praying very much for this Sister who gave me so many struggles, but I took care to render her all the services possible, and when I was tempted to answer her back in a disagreeable manner, I was content with giving her my most friendly smile…As she was absolutely unaware of my feelings for her, never did she suspect the motives for my conduct and she remained convinced that her character was very pleasing to me. One day at recreation she asked in almost these words: ‘Would you tell me, Sister Therese of the Child Jesus, what attracts you so much toward me; every time you look at me, I see you smile?’ Ah! What attracted me was Jesus hidden in the depths of her soul; Jesus who makes sweet what is most bitter.”

In this story, St. Thérèse overcame her natural feelings of repulsion towards this sister, so much so that she was able to bear her faults and weaknesses with patience and lift her up in love. She didn’t just “grin and bear” her presence, but sought to carry this sister’s cross with her and lightened her load.

We do not live in isolation, nor should we. As John Donne once wrote and Hemingway adopted (paraphrased here just a tad) “No person is an island.”  We are social by nature and interacting with others is an essential need of the human psyche. We know that.  I believe St. Paul was referring to this concept when he wrote to the Galatians and asked them to “Bear One Another’s Burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

To implement this scriptural directive, something very basic needs to happen first.  We need to pay attention to others and to decrease the “self-centeredness” that is part and parcel of our human nature. Not an easy task to do this!

May I suggest that during this still new year of 2018 we choose to reduce our “self-centeredness” and learn to become more “other- centered”?  Why?  Because scripture says we should “Bear one another’s burdens.” To follow this directive, we need to look beyond ourselves to the other people in our lives.  Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan: the priest walks by the man who had been robbed and beaten; the Levite walks by the man.  Both of these were good people.  The Samaritan, however,  not only saw the man, but what he needed.  He not only shared in this poor man’s burden, he bore the burden. He took that man and carried him to the inn and then promised to pay the full bill for his care.

Our Lord told all of us that when we do a kind service to others, we are doing it to Him.
This is something we can all think about and apply to our own lives.  I’m going to.  Will you?

By Sister Timothy Marie, OCD, Sister Meredith, OCD, and Marta Timar

Additional Resource: USCCB’s Seven Ways of Bearing One Another’s Burden (The Spiritual Works of Mercy)


To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography below and visit their website.

We encourage you to support the work of the sisters with your prayers and through donations and planned giving. Click here to learn more..

If you hear God calling you to the religious life, I encourage you to visit their vocations page. – Deacon Mike

Or for more information, please contact:
Sister Elizabeth Therese, O.C.D., Vocation Directress
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, California 91801


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Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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