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Heart on Fire

By Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

(This post is the last in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we have posted 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.) With us, ponder:

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

 

Warmth of our hearts
Transforming fire
Cosmic furnace
Enflamer of hearts
(Fifth stanza of Litany of the Heart)

 

The picture of the heart on fire that we have used as the icon for this series has captured my imagination since I first beheld it.  It evokes a number of images for me, including:

·         The energy of the “big bang” of eons ago that gave rise to all life forms – the creation into which Jesus was incarnated, the dynamic cosmos that God sustains still;

·         Jesus’ zeal as he continuously traveled, taught, reconciled and healed during the years of his public ministry;

·         The profound compassion of Jesus, as expressed in his sorrow for the widow of Nain, his weeping at the death of Lazarus, and as he was “moved by pity” for the dejected crowd;

·         Jesus’ white hot anger as he confronted injustice and abuse of power and stood up for the marginalized (for example, when he was opposed by the Pharisees as he healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, when he chased the dishonest money changers from the Temple);

·         The warmth of the friendships between Jesus and his companions: Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the beloved disciple, the other apostles and more;

·         Jesus’ courage and his love for all people that impelled him to accept torture and death, in the ultimate act of fidelity and solidarity with his Father and with God’s people;

·         The movement from despondency to soaring hope and new life that Mary Magdalene at the tomb (“Rabboni!”)  and the disciples on the road to Emmaus (“Were not our hearts burning within us…”) experienced when they realized that Jesus had indeed risen, and

·         The enflamed hearts of the apostles and disciples after Pentecost that enabled them to carry the Good News to the ends of the earth and which continue to burn in many present day disciples.

We, too, are invited to adopt the heart of Jesus in our own lives, to try to love as he loved, to have a heart like his.  As Jesuit James Martin says: “For in the end, the Sacred Heart is about understanding Jesus’s love for us and inviting us to love others as Jesus did.”

Will we embrace this invitation and resolve to imitate the heart of Jesus? If we do, perhaps the prediction of Teilhard de Chardin will come to fruition: “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.”

A Heart That Gives Life

By Sr. M. Judith Waldt, MHSH

(This post is part 5 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 week, 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?

 

 

Heart of Jesus, Hear our prayer!    

Womb of Justice

Birthplace of peace

Our dearest hopes

Longing of our lives

 

I am often reminded of the words of Meister Eckart who said, “Unmovable disinterest brings man (woman) into the likeness of God.  To be full of things is to be empty of God; to be empty of things is to be full of God. We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”

Taking to heart these words shown at the top of this post from the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright, I am challenged to ask myself, “What am I bringing to birth in the world today?”  Do I reflect the mercy of God in the womb of justice? What would that look like for you? In a reflection by Pope Francis he states, “Lord, let me be just, but just with mercy. In God justice is mercy and mercy is justice.”

What if each of us were to bring justice to birth? Can we strive to create a birthplace of peace in ourselves, in our homes, our borders, places torn apart by violence?

My dearest hope is that we will turn our swords in to plowshares. That our efforts to be a womb of justice, a birthplace of peace be woven into the longing of our lives.  That our efforts will bear fruit and will have a “pay it forward effect” in the lives and place of our world most in need of God presence.

“We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”

Heart of Jesus, hear our prayer.

Forgiving, Grateful Heart

 

 

By Sr. Barbara Baker, MHSH

(This post is part 4 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 2 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?

Ever since Pope Francis became our Church leader, I have been struck by his constant reminder to us that we are called to be people of mercy and forgiveness.   He is urging us to let go of grudges, hurts, and slights – anything that keeps us at odds with others.     My reflection on the Litany of the Heart focuses on the last stanza, that asks us to have mercy, to develop a  gracious heart that leads us to gratefulness and tenderness towards all that comes into our lives—even through our dark days and difficult challenges.

The encyclical “Laudato Si” has captured my attention since it was published.  In the parish where I minister, we are trying to raise awareness that we each of us has been entrusted with the care of our common home.  We are people who like convenience to the point where we sometimes lose consciousness of how we ‘use’ things and even people for our own gain. Can we hear God’s invitation to think about where all good gifts come from? Can we cultivate gratitude for the generosity of the Giver of them?

 Once we realize the source of all our blessings, we begin to relate to our God differently.  We are called to treat people and things with respect and gratitude and to approach life with a tenderness that we would show to a newborn baby.  It is a process of conversion over a period of time.  It leads us to an insight that we are all connected and need to relate with one another.  We are called to ‘disconnect’ from our technologies more so that we can ‘connect’ with people and experiences.  With all the ‘isms’ displayed in our world (racism, sexism, etc.), how do we get in touch with how each of us embraces any of them so that we can rid ourselves of these biases?  How can we learn to love all ‘because’ of their differences and not in ‘spite’ of them?

We call upon the Heart of Jesus to hear us in our plea to learn how to love as He loves!  Take a long and loving look at your heart and hopefully you will see a love that indeed reflects His love a bit more each day.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms of Love

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

(This post is part 3 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 3 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?

Where do you go when you need a helping hand and no one is around, or no one understands what you are going through.  Maybe you have experienced a major disappointment, lost a job or were turned down for a promotion.  Perhaps you feel alone, lost, confused, hopeless, unloved, or you do not know what to do or where to go.

 Do you remember that Jesus, the visual image of the Trinity, is always approachable and ready to lavish grace and love on anyone who asks?  The title of this reflection comes, in part, from an old spiritual that was popular in the days when pioneers were setting into the Southern and Western parts of the United States.  It was a long and dangerous undertaking.  Many travelers put their trust in God and hoped to survive the journey.  Where else could they put it?

 The section of the Litany of the Heart I choose to explore (eighth stanza) is near the end.  It highlights some qualities that Jesus can share with each of us in our life journey.  In fact, the entire Trinity wants to participate in this outpouring of grace.

 Here’s what the litany might suggest:

 Be our refuge when we feel alone, confused, and away from home.

 Be our shelter when we feel rejected, misunderstood, lost.

 Be our comfort when we don’t know where to go, or what to do when we are sick, confused or weary.

 Be our rest when we try too hard, are lost and alone along the way.

 Be our welcome breast when there seems to be nowhere to go, when we are hungry and cold.

 

 For reflection: What graces do you desire from God?  Do you ask in confidence?

 

Healing Heart

By Sr. Carole Ruland, MHSH

(This post is part 2 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 5 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?

Healing Heart

 Lately, I have been praying with the Scriptures, to gather some of the events that express what Jesus’s Heart called him to do and to be in the world of his time.  The Gospels show us how Jesus touched the lives of the people when he walked the earth.  We are called to love and reach out to the people of today. “Spirituality of the Heart” is expressed in many different ways.  The love Jesus showed during his life on earth is our spiritual challenge of today and tomorrow in a world that needs the love of God.  We are challenged by Jesus’ life to be unconditionally loving, caring, compassionate, healing, forgiving, transforming, inclusive, and merciful.

Matthew 11:29-30 tells us: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”  The bible tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them.  He healed those who needed healing!  He fed those who were hungry!

 We, too, often find ourselves in the midst of situations that need someone to reach out to help people.  In my hospice ministry with the dying, I felt like I was opening myself and receiving the gift of following in the footsteps of Jesus.  In turn, I was given more peace than I ever could have expected. 

We may not be able to do what Jesus could do, but the warmth in our own hearts can give some support to others.  And, when we are able to help another, we can let the love of God touch us as he did in his life.  Even a “hello” has power to lift spirits, and produce smiles. 

 

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).