Thursday, June 11, 2015

Heart to Heart

For the coming feast of the Sacred Heart tomorrow, let us reflect on a stirring homily, delivered by James Douglas Conley, the auxiliary for Denver, whose episcopal ordination took place on this day. 

I have chosen for my episcopal motto “Cor ad cor loquitur” (heart speaks to heart). This isn’t an original quotation. I stole it from my mentor, the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, the great 19th century English convert to the Catholic faith. My first encounter with Newman was during my sophomore year in college when I had to write an essay on an English prose writer, and I chose Newman. It wasn’t even a religious essay. My mom typed the paper for me. I’m not sure she remembers that. But it began for me a life-long love affair with Newman that continues to this day. In fact, tomorrow, May 30, will mark the 161st anniversary of Newman’s ordination to the priesthood which took place in Rome on May 30, 1847. For me, this is another sign of Newman’s influence in my life.

But that line, “heart speaks to heart”, was not even original to Newman. He borrowed it for his motto when he was named a cardinal in 1879, from a letter written by the great 17th century spiritual writer and Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales.

These words “heart speaks to heart” can first be understood as the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Heart of God, speaking to our heart, calling us to holiness, leading and guiding us to the Father.

But “heart speaks to heart” can also describe a type of pastoral charity where an individual leads another individual to God, through love and kindness. One heart at a time, person to person, heart to heart.

Newman believed that, next to the power of supernatural grace, the greatest influence over the human soul is the example of goodness in another person.

We might think of the people in our own lives who have shaped us the most. Perhaps our parents, a teacher, a priest, a good friend, someone we wanted to emulate. This happens every day. It is through friendship that we are moved to rise above our own weakness, our own vanity and pride, to embrace holiness and virtue, to strive for goodness, truth and beauty. I think we have all experienced this in our lives.

And ultimately, it is the example of love and virtue in Jesus, the friendship of the soul with Christ, that draws us to want to lay down our lives for our beloved, to do great things, to love in a heroic way.