Augustine on Compassion
"Our love ;of our neighbor is a sort of cradle
of our love of God, so that, as it is said, 'the love of our
neighbor worketh no ill,' we may rise from this to these other
words, 'We know that all things issue in good to that that love
"No none should think that while he despises
his neighbor he will come to happiness and to the God whom he loves.
And would that it were as easy to seek the good of our neighbor. ...
These things require more than mere good-will, and can be done only
by a high degree of thoughtfulness and prudence, which belongs only
to those to whom it is given by God, the source of all good. ...
"He who loves his neighbor does good partly
to the man's body, and partly to his soul. What benefits the body is
called medicine; what benefits the soul, discipline. Medicine here
includes everything that either preserves or restores bodily health.
... For hunger and thirst, and cold and heat, and all violence from
without, produce loss of that health which is the point to be
"No doubt the word compassionate implies
suffering in the heart of the man who feels for the sorrow of
another. And it is equally true that a wise man ought to be free
from all painful emotion when he assists the needy, when he gives
food to the hungry and water to the thirsty, when he clothes the
naked, when he takes the stranger into his house, when he sets free
Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Of the Morals
of the Catholic Church, Chap xxvi and xxvii.