Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine. You've probably heard of or maybe even prayed this sweet prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but have you ever followed its consequences to realize what it's actually saying?

"One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water" (John 19:34). This is what happened to Jesus' heart. His heart was wounded and from it spilled out his whole life. Beautiful, yes, but it also left Him profoundly vulnerable and weak. Is this really that for which I want to pray?

Actually, in one sense, it's already happened to me. I was born with a heart valve that couldn't quite pump enough blood through it to keep me alive, so I had open heart surgery to correct it at the tender age of three days. The surgery left me with a functioning aorta, but also scar tissue and blood leakage from my aorta backwards into my left ventricle. As I grew up, I experienced no symptoms or major limitations, but two years ago, I had to come face to face with my weakness. A new cardiologist became alarmed at the amount of leakage I was experiencing and put me through an MRI scanner and onto a treadmill to prove my heart's ability to handle it. I came through it alright, but not before I learned my utter dependency on my Father.

Every time I walk out of my annual cardiology check-up, I carry a paper that reads: "Diagnosis - congenital insufficiency of aortic valve." Insufficiency. Not enough. Inadequate. Poor.

"Learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29), Jesus says. He, too, has a lowly heart, a poor heart. Throughout his life and especially on the cross, He also, as a human person, lived this poverty and dependence on his Father in heaven. Only when He received everything from the Father could then his own heart leak it out onto all of us poor ones from the cross.

I happen to have this physical condition that shows me how to have a heart like Jesus', but isn't it true that each of our hearts--"our hidden center" as the Catechism calls it--is also insufficient, pierced, and leaky? Without God, we are incapable of holiness. Without his grace, we are incapable of love. He did it with the dead body of Jesus, so why can't the Father use each of us to pour out His living water on the thirsty, to all those needing to believe in a merciful God? Jesus said, "He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'"

God always chooses what is weak in this world. He chooses a little piece of bread to become His true presence in the Eucharist. He chooses a poor, little, ordinary girl to bear Christ. He chooses me with the leaky heart, you with your particular weakness, to be his heart for the world. God's ways are unfathomable. Someday we'll find out why; for now, let us be content to let Him use us in our insufficiency.

-Sr. Mary Gemma, T.O.R.

"Is Jesus really our first and only love, as we promised he would be when we professed our vows? Only if he is, will we be empowered to love, in truth and mercy, every person who crosses our path. For we will have learned from Jesus the meaning and practice of love. We will be able to love because we have his own heart."

Sr. Agnes Therese with Meaghan 
Today, June 8, is an important day for me. Today, my friend Meaghan will make her first promises (like first vows) along with other applicants at Madonna House, a lay apostolate in Combermere, Canada . I met Meaghan when she was visiting our community and became friends with her when she came to join us as a postulant. Although she felt the Lord calling her out of our community and to Madonna House, we have continued to grow in friendship by exchanging letters, and this has been a tremendous blessing for me.

It’s funny to me how important this and other friendships are in my life, because St. Francis de Sales didn’t think it necessary that those of us who walk the safe, even path of religious life have friends. I’m not sure what world he lived in – but it’s not mine! Friendship, and especially friendship with other consecrated people, is one of the greatest gifts in my life. These friends are a comfort and a challenge to me. And the signs of friendship are all around me: a palm cross from a Marian Brother stationed in D.C., a funeral card from a Franciscan sister in New Hampshire, a hand-sized rag doll in the likeness of St. Agnes of Prague sent from Meaghan for my feast day, a business card from a Dominican sister in Nashville, and, of course, a stack of correspondence which never seems to get any smaller.

I cherish these signs of friendship – they are a constant reminder to me that I am not alone in attempting to give my whole life to Christ. Of course, my married friends are also a marvelous witness of holiness, but in a different way. After all, consecrated people are supposed to be a sign, an eschatological witness that says, “Heaven is coming! Love Jesus now!” And I need that witness and that reminder just as much as anybody else – I can’t be a sign for myself! This is part of why religious community is such a precious gift: I spend my days with my sisters, who are striving with me (but also, mysteriously, all alone) to love Christ well.

In spite of this, there have been times when I have wondered whether friends are just a crutch that we use to get by until we lean entirely on Christ. I think it can be helpful to ask what it was that drove Christ (who lived completely for the Father, to do the Father’s will) to be friends with his disciples – and what drives him to be friends with us. In friendship with the disciples and in friendship with us, Christ, like every friend, seeks an alter idem, another self. When this desire is manifest in our fallen humanity, it can lead to selfishness and destructive relationships. We often try to manipulate or control our friends to make them like us. It is different with Jesus: he seeks himself in each heart because he is the blueprint of human perfection, and his image is traced in each person’s very soul. By his friendship with us, the frail outline of his image is sharpened, darkened, and made clearer. This can happen in our relationships with others, too! We can allow the Christ who dwells in our hearts to seek and strengthen his image in our friends. This is a great challenge, a great joy, and a great mystery.

Let us not be afraid of the friendships the Lord offers us – each of which is an opportunity to become more like him, the model of all friendship. And as we walk this road with one another in reverential love, let us always be tracing those lines of Christ’s portrait deeper and firmer in the hearts of our friends, trusting all the while that his image is being engraved ever more deeply in our own hearts as well.

Please join me in praying for Meaghan and her fellow applicants who will make first promises today. May they live each day more firmly in friendship with Christ and one another.
-Sr. Agnes Thérèse Davis, TOR
Sr. Agnes Thérèse wrote the song below as a gift for Meaghan

Little flame, flick'ring near the altar;
your amber glow shows me the way.
If ever you seem to fall or falter
you burst up again as if to say:
"His love cannot be quenched here either,
so stay awhile, my child, and pray."

Dear little flame, is that your only
charge? to simply offer Him
a little light, if He is lonely,
and never, ever to grow dim?
Oh, how I wish that I could offer
something half so pleasing up to Him!

"But dear little one, cannot you see
how your presence here pleases Him so?
He makes me dance so joyfully
when you visit Him here and never go!
Come back, my child, and you will find
a dancing flame within you grow."

O little flame, I will soon return
to watch you shine, silent and bright,
so that I, too, may fiercely burn
and show the world my own love-light!
"He is here," my little flame will say
though all the world around be night.

-Sr. Mary Gemma, T.O.R.
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