The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Solemnity
Friday June 24, 2022
The devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has formed my life. In high school, an elderly woman handed me a prayer card of the Sacred Heart. She told me to always pray that prayer and I would know my vocation in life. She never spoke to me again after that encounter. I carried that card in my wallet for over forty years, until it completed disintegrated. My love for the Sacred Heart has only grown.
I was ordained a priest at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. I was ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross where the priests are dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I also served at Sacred Heart in Colorado from 1984-87. My life has been formed by the devotion to the Sacred Heart and given great joy knowing that I belong to him.
I also remember beginning a retreat with the Trappists at New Melleray Abbey in Iowa just before professing final vows. Fr. Sam was my director. I asked him simply, “Sam, would you teach me to pray?” He replied, “That is simple, just ask Jesus for an exchange of hearts.”
That prayer has been in my heart for forty years now. I still find my life growing into such a request. On many days, I feel anxiety circling around my heart. It is then, that I must heed the request not only of a monk, but of the Sacred Heart. I must surrender my life. I must ask for an exchange of hearts.
My devotion to the Sacred Heart has formed my ministry as pastor. I see the connections nearly every day. Just recently, we celebrated First Communion at the parish. The very first person to greet me after Mass was a woman requesting money for gasoline. She extended her rough, filthy hand, and I could not help but receive her hand and her request. I had just told folks at Mass that the Eucharist is to be lived in the world.
These moments challenge me. These kinds of encounters happen with great frequency. I am shaped and formed by the ways prayer and life happen. The Eucharist calls us all into a life of service. Most especially, it forms us into becoming the Heart of Christ. This is an exchange that offers life to me.
Some years ago, just before Sunday Mass began, a woman grabbed my chasuble as I started to walk down the aisle. She and her daughter had just moved to town and the daughter was starting school the next day. She requested a place for the daughter to get a shower and some money to get them through a couple of days. The opening hymn was being sung and I straddled the beginning of prayer and the request for service. Bringing the two together is the mission of the Church. Prayer and service lead us to heaven.
Today’s gospel, Luke 15:3-7, offers us an image of the Good Shepherd that chases the lost. I remember a few years ago when a little boy was left in a hot car in our parking lot during Territory Days on Memorial Day weekend. The lost are ever present.
For nine years, I have served as pastor for a church named for the Sacred Heart. Our church’s mission is to continue to offer the Heart of Jesus Christ. In a holy exchange, we come to know the Heart of Jesus is for us who most need him.
Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.