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A Heart-with-us


Yesterday was the anniversary of the day I became a novice, when I was given my own copy of the Society's Constitutions. Over the following weeks and months, as I studied them, and entered more deeply into our spirituality, I began to discover the all-embracing Heart, open and pierced, at the heart of my - and every RSCJ's - call, and of our spirituality and charism, and also embedded in the heart of our world.

I was reminded of this yesterday when, looking for something on our website, I spotted and re-read something I had written about what, for me, is Sophie Barat's legacy to us. It arose from my visit to France in 2016. In various churches, and particularly in the Sacre Coeur, I was especially struck by their paintings of a sovereign-like Sacred Heart; raised up, exalted, distant. As with the Sacre Coeur, much of this imagery and understanding stemmed from the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, just a few years after Sophie's death, but its roots stretched much further back, and would no doubt have been familiar to Sophie.

My reaction to these images told me that this monarch was definitely not "my" Sacred Heart, because he isn't "ours". And in wondering to what extent Sophie had grown up influenced by this, I also wondered at the inner journey she must have made, to be able to bequeath us a very different Heart - one that is powerful, yes, but not in the way of potentates. And so, not long after, I wrote this article... and finding it yesterday, the anniversary of when so much of my own journey into the Heart of Jesus began, was both gift and impetus to share...

A Heart-with-us, not above us

From what I have seen and read, the understanding of the Sacred Heart prevalent in France during Sophie's lifetime was of a sovereign, kingly Heart, exalted on high and adored from afar. Such a Sacred Heart gives the reassurance of strength and certainty in times of instability and turmoil. But Sophie's Sacred Heart was different...

Sophie centred the Society on the piercing of Jesus' Heart; a moment of intense vulnerability and powerlessness, but also a moment which unleashed an outpouring of love. And she centred each RSCJ in a Heart which desires intimacy and relationship, and on a call to union and conformity with that Heart. This Heart, she said, is for each RSCJ shelter, food, fire, light cool water... It is their element, their path, their life, their all. They were born there; there they must grow, live and die: in him, with him, for him. 

So Sophie bequeathed us a Heart-with-us: one not exalted and distant but present in the heart of our world, in all our messiness, sharing our pain and vulnerability, and at work in so many efforts. A Heart which calls us to only one sort of power - the power of love. And that is an excellent legacy and spirit to leave to the Society and each RSCJ, especially in the times in which we currently live - to be rooted and founded in love.