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Loving, Compassionate Heart

 

By Sr. Onellys Villegas, MHSH

(This post is part 1 in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we will post a reflection based on the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright.  To read the Litany, click here.  As Women of the Heart, the Mission Helper Sisters invite you to pray and reflect with us during the next 6 weeks, as we publish one reflection each week on this rich and inviting spirituality).With us, ponder:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

 

Loving, Compassionate Heart

“So loving”… the all-encompassing loving presence of the Sacred Heart in our lives helps each of us to contribute to the holiness of the Church and give glory to our God.  It is this loving presence in our lives that leads us to experience the Soft Whisper of Love.

Leaving for my work (as a counselor to women who are victims of abuse) one morning I had this deep sense of a loving presence. As my morning continued and a I listened to women experiencing pain, desperation and fear, I looked up through the window and I saw a huge tree with branches spread wide, as if it wanted to give me a big hug. I called it to the attention of the woman in the room with me to see if she was seeing what I was seeing, and she smiled. At the end of the session, I shared with her the big hug that I experienced from a loving presence in the room.  She was open to it and left with a big smile on her face!

We read in the Gospel of Matthew: “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be”. (Matthew 6:21)

“So Compassionate”… Compassion alludes to kindness and sympathy, but there is something deeper, something even more profound and powerful, in its meaning. Compassion inspires and encourages us to expand our circle, it invites us to embrace all life, regardless of species,  and be able to make loving, merciful choices.

The Sacred Heart represents a God of Compassion who desires that we live and act compassionately. “Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight”. (Psalm 119: 77)

Compassion occurs when the heart “quivers in response” to the suffering of another, giving rise to the wish to alleviate that suffering.  When we are suffering and feel the urge to help ourselves, we are experiencing self-compassion.

I will end this reflection by sharing with you a reminder for all of us from a teacher at Loyola University of Maryland, Robert J. Wicks:

NURTURING YOUR HEART

Read a bit

Listen to a favorite song

Call a friend

Remember a kindness

Help the poor

Keep perspective

Smile broadly

Laugh loudly

Close doors gently

Do what you can

Live gratefully

Relax for a moment

Breathe deeply

Tease yourself often

Take a quiet walk

Tell God a funny story

 

 

Introducing “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”

 

 

Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart have as the center of their spirituality, the heart of Christ. As Women of the Heart, we desire that the qualities of Christ’s heart become our own in service of others.

The traditional  Litany of the Sacred Heart, familiar to many of you, is a revered part of our tradition. A contemporary version of this Litany, written by theologian Wendy M. Wright, has been offered to enrich our prayer and nudge us to reflect on some of the most important questions of the spiritual life:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

Through weekly blog posts, beginning Oct 15th for  6 weeks, we invite you to reflect with us on this contemporary Litany of the Heart (found below).

We know this is a spirituality shared by many and we look forward to praying together.

Litany of the  Heart
By Wendy M. Wright

Oh God, my heart is longing for you

So loving
So humble
So gentle
So compassionate
So faithful
So wise
So patient
So steadfast
So tender
So spacious

 Oh God, my heart is longing for you

God’s joy
God’s shalom
Harp of the Trinity
Wingbeat of the Spirit
Breath of God
Five-petaled rose

Oh God, my heart is longing for you

Womb of justice
Birthplace of peace
Our dearest hope
Longing of our lives

Oh God, my heart is longing for you  

Freely flowing fountain
Spring of grace
Freshet of forgiveness
Merciful river
Mystical dew

Oh God, my heart is longing for you

Warmth of our hearts
Transforming fire
Cosmic furnace
Enflamer of hearts

Oh God, my heart is longing for you  

Heart of evolution
Beginning and ending
Center of all

Oh God, my heart is longing for you

Garden of virtues

Mystical dew
Table and food

Oh God, my heart is longing for you

Our refuge
Our shelter
Our comfort
Our rest
Our welcoming breast

Oh God, my heart is longing for you

Wounded by love
Pierced by our cruelty
Broken by our hardness
Mystic winepress
Poured out as gift

 Oh God, my heart is longing for you

Have mercy, gracious heart,
Give us gratefulness
Teach us tenderness
Let us learn to love.

Hear our prayer!

 

From “Sacred Heart: Gateway to God”, Wendy M. Wright (Orbis Books, 2003). Used with permission of the author.

 

 

Patron Saint of Snark?

By Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

 

Grumpy Cat has gone to the Great Litterbox in the sky, raising the question: who will represent all of us remaining curmudgeons? I nominate St. Jerome, whose memorial we celebrate on September 30.

If you’re thinking “Bible” at the mention of Jerome, you’d be correct.  By the late 300’s and early 400’s, disgusted by the Greek used in writing the Gospels, he was determined to re-translate the Bible from Greek into Latin, the common language of that era.  He intended to return to the original Hebrew as his beginning and set himself to polishing up his Hebrew with the help of a rabbi.  His friend and co-worker, Paula, set herself to learning Hebrew from scratch – those two were authentic, deep-diving scholars!

So, establishing his living and working space in a cave near Bethlehem (after starting out near Rome), he worked with Paula (also a saint) to rewrite the entire Bible, a version called “the Vulgate” that was in use for 1500 years, the official version of the Bible.

Jerome was snarky: irascible, sarcastic, earning enemies almost without effort.  He could also be devoted and tender – his shadow side for sure, and not commonly spoken of!  His contradictory traits (snark, especially) give us comfort: he is a saint and doctor (teacher) of the church to boot.  Maybe there is hope for us?

“But You HAVE a Ministry”!

By Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

One of my assignments in recent years was transporting our older Sisters to medical appointments.  One of those Sisters, now some years deceased, had undergone a cancerous tumor removal.  I took her to her surgeon a few years later for a routine check-up.

Somehow, we got to telling the surgeon all the kinds of ministry we had engaged in over the years.  She may have asked where we had taught, assuming that all Sisters work in schools, but of course Mission Helpers don’t usually do that.  So, we went on with some enthusiasm about home visiting in country places, supplying needy families with what they needed, etc.  The surgeon was quite attentive.  At a pause, she said, “I wish I had time for a ministry!”

As if we had rehearsed it, the other Sister and I said in unison, “But you do!”  She looked surprised, so we went on: “You care for all these people with cancer, encouraging them to deal with it, follow all the after-care protocols – that’s all ministry – even if they eventually don’t recover!  Everything you’re doing is ministry!”

All three of us, I believe, left that brief encounter pleased with our lives and happy with each other.  The other Sister, who had considerable dementia, probably forgot all about our conversation after a few minutes, but I doubt the surgeon (still in practice) ever has, and I certainly haven’t!  It was a gift and a grace to each of us.

 

 

 

A Reflection Moment

By Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH

This morning I am once again being entertained by my hummingbirds. This is the first time in my life I ever had a summer off (if one imagines recovery from surgery as a summer off) to spend quality time in the mornings or evenings during prayer observing hummingbirds dive between the feeders.

I discovered the opportunity has been a kind of inner healing experience for me.  I have heard that simply surrendering time to observe hummingbirds is a healing opportunity but now I understand and embrace it.

Several years ago while in Trinidad a friend invited me to a hummingbird sanctuary. I had never imagined how many kinds of hummingbirds there are or how many could be in one location each morning and evening at the feeders. I mean hundreds and hundreds. I felt I was in the middle of a hummingbird circus which was amazingly delightful. Thus, my love for hummingbirds grew.

Last week I even purchased (via Amazon) another Shepherd’s Hook and feeder since so many hummingbirds are fighting over the two feeders I have.  I know that soon the hummingbirds will be headed south. Thus, offering me another glance at the meaning, value, and preciousness of time. Or, how and where do we focus our time and energy along life’s journey? How many major initiatives or activities have I allowed myself to be absorbed in, worthy as they were, yet to miss perhaps the ‘little moments’ that may offer the greatest insights in life. Or, render the richest and deepest meaning and impact on life and the life of those around me.

As the early fall days draw upon us, there is now a rush of hummingbirds on the balcony each morning. They are delightful as they scatter, chase and swiftly zoom to and fro guarding their Shepherd’s Hook domain.  (Click on link below to see video). Their numbers are increasing each day simply indicating the arrival of those who are migrating from the north headed south. There, I understand, they spend our winter and prepare for their migration north once again in early summer. The hummingbirds have become a daily reminder for me of all humans who are migrating around the world today. I hold them all in prayer.  I wonder and ponder who is willing to care for them during their migration or exile? (Text continues below video).

So, during these few short weeks, my balcony is one of their ‘resting & feeding’ stopovers.  I really have found these meditative moments not only healing but bringing inner comfort peace and joy into my life.  This is what we need today in our lives. There is too much hecticness.  I hope I can bring my new inner harmony and peace into the lives of those I will encounter when I return to campus September 4th when my medical leave is over.

 

(Sr. Angela Ann is the Director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton).

 

Salad-spinning

Words matter.  Yep, how many times have we heard that recently?  For that matter, how many times did our parents tell us that?

Also,what words are we hearing lately that cause us to wince or cringe?  Like proverbial water on a proverbial rock, the repetition of words erodes our sensitivity, until we scarcely hear what’s being said.

And yet.  What is being said, or implied? Do we agree, and repeat those words ourselves? Civility, here in Charm City (that’s Baltimore’s other title, which may be new – though not fake – news) used to be a local crusade, championed by a well-known radio host, Ron Smith.  Gracious words were encouraged, even on bumper stickers and by a popular prayer: “O Lord, make my words sweet and tender, for tomorrow I may have to eat them!”

May I suggest we all make an effort to turn up our various hearing devices, tune in to what’s wafting past us in the air, find a way to be sweet and tender even more than usual, and not add our ounce of negative or cynical flavoring to the word-salad spinning around us?  Shift the focus, season that salad with some gracious words, upbuild our sagging spirit: it can’t hurt, and we can hope it will help us!

 

Sr. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Taking the Long View

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Quick!  What do O.J. Brigance, the Baltimore Ravens football player; Michael J. Fox, the movie actor; and Joseph, son of Jacob from the Old Testament, have in common?  No idea?  I didn’t know either, until I recently (July 13) read a portion of the book of Genesis (49: 29-32, 50: 15-26a) and the connection became clear.

Joseph wanted to comfort his brothers, who feared his vengeance for selling him into slavery.  They were envious that their father Jacob preferred him over all his other sons (remember the Technicolor Dreamcoat?).  To reassure his family that he intended no harm, Joseph said, “Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve God’s present end, the survival of many people.” What a great attitude on Joseph’s part!

So – Brigance and Fox:  Brigance, after a successful career in football, developed ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which quickly or slowly paralyzes its victims to death.  In his case, and with much medical care, it has progressed slowly, and with the help of his wife, Chanda, he has developed an enormous second career, counseling and supporting other players through the struggles of their playing days. His “street cred” is huge, because everyone in the Ravens organization has witnessed his and Chanda’s efforts on behalf of the Ravens – not as players but as people.

O.J. and Chanda Brigance

 

Michael J. Fox had a successful career, too, as an actor.  Drinking and partying were close to destroying it (see his memoir, ironically titled Lucky Man) until he awoke one morning and noticed his little finger oddly twitching on its own.  Medical investigation led to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.  It’s hard to say which (Parkinson’s or ALS) is worse.  Gradually, Michael took up the cause of Parkinson’s research, again encouraged mightily by his stalwart wife, Tracy Pollan.

Michael J Fox and Tracy Pollan

 

Like O.J. Brigance, Michael Fox lives on, doing great good for many people because of the misfortune that befell him long ago.

 It seems God takes a very long view when “permitting” harm to happen and is cleverly creative in eventually drawing good out of what certainly seems evil or tragic to us.  “God meant it for good,” Joseph explained.  Let’s pray for a similar long view, especially for the many who are suffering all around us.

Easter Blessings!

A message for Easter

By Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH
President, Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart

 

The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart extend warmest wishes to you and all your loved ones this Easter Season. We give thanks for the many ways you share life with us. Be assured of our prayerful remembrance.

May the miracle of Easter fill your heart and all your being with renewed hope, abiding joy and everlasting love. As creation awakens to the majesty of Springtime, may you be reminded of God’s awesome love that endures forever. ALLELUIA! He is Risen…the tomb is empty!

Let me share with you a shortened version of what has become a treasured Easter story – a tender story of an eleven-year-old boy named Philip, a Down’s syndrome child who was in a Sunday School class with eight other children.

Easter Sunday the teacher brought an empty plastic egg for each child. They were instructed to go out of the church building onto the grounds and put into the egg something that would remind them of the meaning of Easter.

 All returned joyfully. As each egg was opened there were exclamations of delight at a butterfly, a twig, a flower, a blade of grass. Then the last egg was opened. It was Philip’s, and it was empty! 

Some of the children made fun of Philip. “But, teacher,” he said, “teacher, the tomb was empty.”

A newspaper article announcing Philip’s death a few months later noted that at the conclusion of the funeral eight children marched forward and put a large empty egg on the small casket. On it was a banner that said, “The tomb was empty.”

 

The Sounds of Silence

A reflection for the Triduum

By Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH

 

Each of these three days – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday –  brings us face to face with the intimacy of being with Jesus at his most vulnerable. Sometimes words diminish, and silence is the only appropriate response.

What if this year we don’t try to “keep up” with all the events of this sacred week?  Instead, we could allow the enormity of the experience to wash over us until we are led to the center of quiet within ourselves where we come face to face with Jesus.

What if we choose one of the silences of each day and let it envelop us?

On Thursday…

Perhaps the humbling silence that must have followed the foot washing… or the tense silence after Judas’ betrayal?

Maybe the awe that led to silence as Jesus gives himself in bread blessed, broken, and shared.

Arguably, most challenging of all, the silence in the garden after Jesus begged, “Watch with me while I pray.”

On Friday…

Let Jesus catch our eye as he is arrested, brought before the Sanhedrin, and is brought low by Peter’s denial. Stay with the gaze.

In the silence of accompanying Jesus on the way of the cross, we each ask, “what makes my heart tremble”?

As we stand with the women at the foot of the cross, and hear Jesus forgive those condemned with him, is our silence challenged or disturbed?

 On Saturday…

How can we console Jesus for what we do to one another?  Will the silence of these holy days lead us to action for justice for our sisters and brothers who Jesus calls us to accompany in his name?

The Paradox of the Cross

A reflection for Palm Sunday

By Sister Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

 

The Palm Sunday Gospel is long and provides much to ponder.

Jesus begins with the Passover meal and goes on to speak of a betrayer in his midst. What do I do when I feel betrayed?

Jesus then listens to his disciples quarreling over who among them is the greatest. Jesus proclaims to the disciples that the one who serves is the greatest and calls Himself a servant. How does this call to service sit with me? Do I feel “above” this call of service? 

 Jesus withdraws to the Mount of Olives and prays for the strength to do the will of His Father. Then Jesus had to face the courts and undergo the Passion that was His destiny. Let us remember the injustice and suffering that Jesus would face.

On Calvary, it was a criminal who defended Jesus as He hung on the cross.  In a few words he proclaimed in faith, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus promised him the reward of paradise.  Before He died, Jesus uttered forgiveness and commended Himself to God.

The pain and agony of the cross did not prevent Jesus from reaching out in this profound action of love. Let us remember that Jesus’ actions on the Cross shows there is “No Greater Love.”