Since I met the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I have found in our logo the meaning of our spirituality: an open heart, the consequence of a “crazy” way of loving so much and so freely, each person in the world. This is Jesus´ Heart and those of us who have heard his invitation to follow him, want to learn how to love this way.
First Friday Reflections
Through the centuries, the Christian community has consistently tried to capture its developing understanding of Jesus Christ in word and image. This is a never ending challenge – to portray the Mystery of the love of God made visible in the man, Jesus of Nazareth, who went about doing good and eventually laid down his life for us. Each First Friday of the month, the Society of the Sacred Heart sends an email prepared by an RSCJ, colleague or friend of the Society, with a reflection on the meaning of the Sacred Heart in our lives today. To sign up to receive the First Friday emails, click on the words Sign up for e-news here or at the bottom of any page on this site.
I stood there motionless, head arched upward trying to understand the Pillar of the Sacred Heart at the entrance of Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Princeton NJ. I came in 1977 to be the fourth headmistress of the school following such extraordinary women as Sisters Joan Kirby, Mary Bush and Judy Garson. And at the age of 33, I needed all the spiritual strength I could find.
This powerful image – Listening to the Heartbeat of God – speaks to me of the line: “Each morning you wake me to hear, to listen like a disciple” (Isaiah 50:4). Serving poor elderly in New Orleans as a pastoral care coordinator for Christopher Homes, Inc., I am given many opportunities to listen to God’s heartbeat.
Whenever I visit a particular Central American couple, the husband loves to read from Scripture. We end with prayer. The wife’s eyes always fill with tears when she calls upon Jesus. They are filled with joy even though their situation is precarious.
This bronze statue of Christ and the child is located in a narrow courtyard on the campus of Saint Louis University, not far from the United States-Canada Provincial House. The sculptor, James Michael Maher, wrote about it:
I wanted a piece that would embody the idea of the Sacred Heart and convey the essence of the mission to bring Christ’s love and compassion to all. I think it has a lot to do with seeing the parent/child relationship from both sides, and relating that to being a child of God.
In the Society of the Sacred Heart, November 21 is “the original feast day” since it was the day of the first consecration of Madeleine Sophie Barat and her companions in 1800. It became a date frequently chosen for subsequent vow ceremonies and renewals. It seems fitting this month to reflect on an important image in their lives.
According to Mark’s Gospel (6:34) Jesus was moved with compassion for those who were like sheep without a shepherd. He invited people to look to God, to live with joy, hope and integrity. He promised he would always be with us and give us his spirit. The spirituality of the Sacred Heart began on Calvary when the centurion pierced Christ's side with a lance. His heart was open for all.
This lovely image calls more on the ear than the eye. How can that be? The first two or three times I engaged it, I saw only the cross, and hardly noticed the small androgynous figure in the bottom right corner; my eye was engaged by the swirl of the cross and heart, and the sweep of Love in the whole of the painting. But as I engaged the image more deeply, it grew on me, and I began to hear it more strongly than see it.
In 2006 Marianist Brother Melvin Meyer was commissioned to create a piece of sculpture for Barat Academy, a school outside St. Louis which would open a year later. Because of his great devotion to the Sacred Heart, Brother Mel was inspired to create a metal sculpture of the Sacred Heart which would “intersect the usual with the unusual.” That he did.
It's July and we're back to Ordinary Time—the long stretch of the liturgical year before Advent.
June was extraordinary with Pentecost, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, graduations, weddings, vacations and more. After all that celebrating perhaps now we have a bit more time for quiet reflection. Yet this time is also full. It is full with Jesus' last words about sending His Spirit of truth to guide us as we continue learning to love well.
I recently saw this detail of Pamela Hardesty’s work, “Sacred Heart.” I was drawn to it immediately, powerfully, and viscerally. I sent it to a friend who collects images of the Sacred Heart, believing it would be a precious addition to a growing collection. Her response: “I don’t get it! What is it you find so compelling?!”
Frankly, I wasn’t sure! A question posed once to a famous dancer mirrors my own perplexity. She was asked: “What are you trying to say when you dance?” Her response: “If I knew, I wouldn’t dance!”