June Editorial – The heart has its reasons…
‘And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.’
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was, and remains, one of the most widespread and popular in the Church and is recalled especially during the month of June. On my first tentative steps towards priesthood 37 years ago I studied with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart whose founder Jules Chevalier (1824-1907), saw in the heart of Jesus, a compassionate heart for all who suffer. In his visit to the 4000 desperate migrants on Lesbos recently, Pope Francis embodied, as he has done so frequently since assuming the papacy, that message of the compassionate heart as he told them ‘you are not alone,’ and not to lose hope. While the Vatican insisted his visit was not to be interpreted as a criticism of the deportation of migrants, the Pope’s gesture in giving personal asylum to three Muslim families who returned with him to Rome left observers in no doubt as to how the he felt the crisis could be eased.
In a world numbed by seemingly intractable and barbaric conflicts, with an ever widening gap between wealthy and poor, amid mounting concern for earth’s fragile environment, the emblem of the Sacred Heart continues to offer a challenge to those whose hearts have grown cold towards their fellow human beings and the planet we share. Many of the social problems in our own country, from homelessness to violent crime and from corporate greed to lawlessness that ignores the rights of the vulnerable, seem to stem from a basic coldness of heart that refuses to empathise or place compassion at the heart of public policy or human relations.
There is nothing particularly new or modern in such harsh realities. The prophet Ezekiel brought the message God thought necessary even thousands of years ago:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
All the laws in the world won’t produce a better society unless change first begins in the hearts of humankind. That stark reality is what makes the symbol of Christ’s heart so relevant and challenging still as it calls upon us to imitate our God who loves without limits.