“You have made us for yourself, O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” – St Augustine
Sr Patty Andrew osu explains why, just like we grow and learn from our family and community, our spiritual heart can be awakened through our faith community.
The English poet, William Wordsworth (1802) captured the truth and wonder of our Divine origins in the verse “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home.” Parents are reminded of this reality again and again as they give birth to their children. Whether they are people of faith or not, as they experience and witness the pain, the beauty and joy, of childbirth, parents sense they are in the depthless field of mystery.
Each of us is born with the indelible imprint of God who is our creator. In our Catholic tradition, we name this as the “imago dei”, the image of God. Through the centuries this little piece of infinity in each of us has been captured in a range of beautiful metaphors. The Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins speaks of the divine imprint as “the immortal diamond”. The Vatican II document, Gaudium et spes (1965) describes it as the “God-like seed”.
Daniel O’Leary speaks of our humanity as the “womb of the divine.”
He assures us that already we carry within us unknowingly, the fresh wells we thirst for and beckoning horizons for which we long. In recent years, Richard Rohr talked about each of us receiving the “kiss of the divine then.” It is therefore more accurate to honour our divine origins by understanding ourselves as first and foremost spiritual beings who are becoming human.
This divine imprint is spoken of as residing in the heart, which we know is not in essence physical. Hence it cannot be located in a particular place within the body. When we speak about matters of the heart, we are referring to that which is at the hidden centre of our being, beyond the grasp of reason. Our tradition teaches us that only the spirit of God can fathom the heart and know it fully.
Everyone’s unique life journey is about many things as it unfolds with surprising twists and turns. Along the way, we can observe and measure physical growth and enjoy acquiring new skills and knowledge as we allow our potential to unfold and develop. In our growth to human wholeness, we also need to nurture the ‘God-seed’ planted within each of us. Like all our human possibilities, unless the capacity of our heart is awakened and nurtured, it will remain asleep within us.
As it is with every aspect of our human development, we cannot do this alone. The infant child acquires the complexity of language and the ability to walk, always through the belief and encouragement of others. Likewise with the awakening of our spiritual potential. This is birthed in a faith community grounded in a deep sense of the sacred.
At Pentecost, we recall a time in the missionary outreach of our Catholic tradition when collectively the heart of the early Christian community was deeply awakened. As we read the account of this historic event, from the Acts of the Apostles, it is evident that something was released within the apostles which conquered fear. Such a deep infusion of the power of the Holy Spirit gifted each one with an intuitive grasp of the whole, gracing them with a heart understanding of Christ’s death and Resurrection. This deep perception opened the eyes of their hearts as they became aware of the profound meaning of a self-emptying God incarnated in Jesus. It was this “heart seeing” which empowered them with the courage to spread the Good News.
As people of faith we desire to live life with an openness to the transcendent – that which is beyond us. We express this way of being in mission which Pope Francis reminds us is about bringing “light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing” (Evangelii Gaudium). Our spiritual unfolding is increased through taking formal opportunities for the awakening of the heart.
Sr Patty Andrew osu is an Ursuline Sister in the Diocese of Parramatta. As well as teaching on faith and spirituality matters, she is a chaplain with Kairos Outside for Women, a support organisation for women with incarcerated relatives.
This article was originally published in the 2022 Ordinary Time | Winter 2022 edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can pick up your copy of the magazine in parishes, schools and offices across the Diocese of Parramatta now or you can read the digital version here.