What is speaking to your heart? It’s a question I continue to ponder as we enter these final weeks of Lent. I’ve been especially attentive to my heart this Lenten season perhaps because Ash Wednesday was also Valentine’s Day this year. It seemed odd to celebrate both on the same day but I suppose it was fitting for a season focused on conversion of heart, to start on a day dedicated to love. So where is my heart?
As I was walking home one day I noticed the word “heart” imprinted on the sidewalk. At first I walked past it but then found myself turning back, standing in the middle of the sidewalk, staring at it. As the question “where is my heart?” rose within me, so did the answer. My heart is in the streets. It’s on the streets of Chicago as young people get shot each day and the injustice of racism plagues our institutions and systems. It’s in the streets of Parkland, and too many other school communities who have experienced violence--where students, staff, and families try to walk the street of healing. My heart is on the streets of small towns and big cities across our country where immigrant youth walk with uncertainty about their future and their families. I find my heart expanding to the streets of Puerto Rico, Dominica, and surrounding areas where people are still trying to piece their homes and their lives back together again after devastating hurricanes this fall. I could go on and on to name streets on every continent that are experiencing deep suffering.
It’s easy to let an armor build up around my heart to protect myself from all of the sadness, pain, and hurt. But that is not our call. Jesus modeled the way of an open heart that leads to compassionate action. In the new book, In Their Own Words: Religious Life in a Changing World, Sr. Mandy Carrier puts it this way:
“Women religious today are particularly called to meet the world's deep hunger for compassion by modeling vulnerability, authenticity, and openness to encounter as we strive to follow Jesus.”
This brings me to something else that is speaking to my heart: my sisters. My heart swelled with pride and gratitude as I looked at the cover photo with the familiar faces of my Giving Voice sisters and heard their voices as I read their words in In Their Own Words. These 13 sisters were able to articulate so much of the joy and life as well as the challenge and questions of living religious life today. They don’t have all the answers and neither do I but I’m grateful for the willingness to live the questions together. Sr. Debbie Warner names it this way:
“We may not know any more than anyone else what that future holds, but we trust that the good work that was begun by the Holy Spirit in the hundreds of thousands who came before us will continue in us and in those who are yet to come.”
I am so grateful for all those who have gone before us, for all of my Presentation Sisters and Giving Voice peers who stand beside me now, and for all of those yet to come who will join us in this Gospel way of life.
Each day God continues to speak to my heart and calls me to the streets. I pray for the grace to listen and respond. What street is speaking to your heart? How will you respond?