T+P+A Lenten Practice 2019

As we’ve done previously, this year we are joining in the Lenten practice of Compton Heights Christian Church, reading and praying through Joyce Rupp’s book Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life.

Uh, What’s Lent?

Ah, Lent. When I was growing up in rural Iowa I honestly didn’t think very much of it. I mean, I was probably supposed to give up something for it but I didn’t really want to. I remember that my church always had the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper (no Fat Tuesday for us), and I suppose my pastor may have talked about some form of Lenten practice, but I remember more about my mom talking about the Ladies’ Fellowship Lenten Luncheon, which seemed to require much preparation. So I probably took the time to contemplate some on what a miserable worm of a human being I was and how I could do better but never really do quite what Jesus did for humanity and what God wanted from us.

Juxtaposed with that at the same time was the raw beginning of Iowa spring: cold, muddy, spontaneous rivers from melting snow, and such brisk, fresh new air that it took your breath away at the same time you needed more of it, could never get enough of smelling not-quite-yet unfrozen earth. It was ugly compared to later spring, and yet after months of frozen crystalline white nothingness during which I became nothing and nowhere, I gasped grateful breaths, surfacing after winter had won, again. That is to say for me, Lent, this acknowledgment of morbidity, has always been intertwined with the fight for new life in the midst of what has seemed dead for so long. Is renewal and resurrection a possibility? I have always appreciated, even savored, the tension between Lent’s calm acceptance of death and early spring’s struggling insistence that death is not the final word, all appearances to the contrary.

Hoyt Hickman offers the following thoughts about Lent’s meaning and observation:

Lent is a time for evangelism and for true conversion – a time for growing through repentance, fellowship, prayer, fasting, and concentration upon our baptismal covenant. We are to be signs of God’s kingdom in this world. The themes of repentance and preparation for sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ are basic to those preparing for baptism and confirmation and to the whole body of Christians who will renew their baptismal faith during the Easter Season. Lent is thus not giving up something but rather taking upon ourselves the intention and the receptivity to God’s grace so that we may worthily participate in the mystery of God-with-us.

The New Handbook of the Christian Year, Based on the Revised Common Lectionary, p. 107

About Boundless Compassion by Joyce Rupp

I don’t know what your experience has been with the word “compassion,” but I have tended to alternate between understanding it as the right thing to do versus a wishy-washy thing that doesn’t get much done in our world. As I mature I continue learning that rather than being at either extreme of selflessness or selfishness, when properly understood it can get right in there with faith-based community organizing’s understanding of mutual self-interest as a way of responding to and interacting with the world that lets us touch and be touched by the world in which we live without allowing it to overwhelm us with the world’s great need of it.

The book description:

“Living compassionately is rarely convenient and often downright challenging,” writes Joyce Rupp, bestselling and award-winning author and retreat leader. The definitive Christian guide to compassion, Boundless Compassion is the culmination of Rupp’s research and work as codirector of the Servite Center of Compassionate Presence. Through this six-week personal transformation process for developing and deepening compassion, Rupp nudges, encourages, and inspires you to grow in the kind of love that motivated Jesus’ life and mission for his disciples.

With master teacher Joyce Rupp, you will learn to develop compassion as never before. You will discover compassion from science, medicine, theology, spirituality, sociology, and psychology. You will be encouraged to explore personal and professional expressions of compassion, and to re-energize your ability to offer loving kindness to those around you.

Rupp has felt the call to walk with others in their suffering since she was a young member of the Servants of Mary, whose charism is compassion. She eventually cofounded the Boundless Compassion program with Sr. Margaret Stratman, O.S.M.

Based on the format and theme of Rupp’s bestselling books like Open the Door and her popular workshops conducted by the Center of Compassionate Presence, Boundless Compassion has the power to transform your life, giving you wisdom, confidence, understanding, and inspiration to be a more caring presence. It will help you build on relational skills, learn self-care, gain wisdom for incorporating loss and suffering into your active life, and find ways to show compassion at work.

By the book’s end, you will feel prepared to live with a renewed commitment to a compassionate presence for yourself and those who are in the midst of pain, struggle, and transition.

Book description, provided by publisher (Ave Maria Press)

What do I need to do to participate?

First, get the book in one of the following ways:

Join the book discussion:

Compton Heights Christian Church is having weekly in-person discussions of this book on Tuesday evenings during Lent at 6:30 – if you’re in St. Louis and would like to connect with a wonderful group of people, you should come on by!

T+P+A is discussing the sections of Boundless Compassion we read week-by-week at our online book club, People of the Books (along with our T+P+A Big Read ’19 book The Lifelong Activist!). Join us there or find some friends to read and discuss with you in person! Let us know if you’re interested in starting an in-person group. Discuss online with the hashtag #TPALent19

Reading Schedule

Which chapters are we reading which days? I created the following schedule, modified slightly from the in-person Compton Heights group to coincide with the weeks of Lent leading right up to the day before Easter and the Sunday – Saturday schedule we’re already on for T+P+A’s Daily Bible Reading in 3 Years project. Feel free to follow it or create your own schedule that works for you.

3/9Suggestions for Using This Book
3/10Week One: Compassion as a Way of Life; Introduction
3/10Day 1: Awareness, Attitude, Action
3/11Day 2: The Seeds of Compassion
3/12Day 3: Behind Every Scar, a Story
3/13Day 4: Responding Nonviolently
3/14Day 5: Forgiveness Is a Journey
3/15Day 6: Staying Awake
3/16Day 7: Review and Rest
3/17Week Two: Welcoming Ourselves; Introduction
3/17Day 1: Breathing In and Out
3/18Day 2: The Self-Compassion of Jesus
3/19Day 3: Apprentice Yourself to Yourself
3/20Day 4: The Problem With Perfection
3/21Day 5: Compassion Fatigue
3/22Day 6: Practicing Self-Compassion
3/23Day 7: Review and Rest
3/24Week Three: The River of Suffering; Introduction
3/24Day 1: Responding to Suffering
3/25Day 2: The Gift of Empathy
3/26Day 3: The Pattern of Transformation
3/27Day 4: Broken Open
3/28Day 5: Compassionate Presence
3/29Day 6: The Shadow Side of Compassion
3/30Day 7: Review and Rest
3/31Week Four: From Hostility to Hospitality; Introduction
3/31Day 1: The Haves and the Have-Nots
4/1 Day 2: The Two Wolves In Us
4/2Day 3: Far From the Tree
4/3Day 4: Removing the Boulders
4/4Day 5: Cultivating the Relationships
4/5Day 6: Have You Loved Well?
4/6Day 7: Review and Rest
4/7Week Five: A Thousand Unbreakable Links; Introduction
4/7Day 1: Living on Planet Earth
4/8Day 2: Different Than, Not Better Than
4/9Day 3: All Creation Groans
4/10Day 4: Nature as “Thou” 
4/11Day 5: Thinking Like a Mountain
4/12Day 6: Caring for Earth
4/13Day 7: Review and Rest
4/14Week Six: Becoming a Compassionate Presence; Introduction
4/14Day 1: Our Common Humanity
4/15Day 2: How Science Benefits Compassion
4/16Day 3: Paying the Price
4/17Day 4: One Good Deed
4/18Day 5: Mentors of Compassion
4/19Day 6: Carrying Hope in Our Hearts
4/20Day 7: Review and Reflect


  • Hickman, Hoyt L. The New Handbook of the Christian Year: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010.
  • Rupp, Joyce. Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life. Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 2018.



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