Recently I find myself returning to the same question: What does it mean to have a consecrated heart?
I myself am not consecrated, not yet at least. But I am in formation towards that step and already living many aspects of the life I will lead after professing my vows. And so I find myself praying:teach me to love as You love Lord. Teach my heart to beat as only a consecrated heart can.
As usual, the Lord is not responding to me only through prayer or through His Word but rather through the experience of life itself. I am not sure that I can say to have ever lived a period so in tune with my heart as the one that I am living now.
It’s as if I am truly aware of the presence of my heart for the first time. I can feel its warmth in my chest. I can detect the subtleties of its movements: the way it beats differently for each person in my life; the way it is touched by different situations, words, actions, or music.
Everything is more intense. My joy is more full but so is my sorrow. And although filled with the boldness of a desire to love beyond human measure, my heart finds itself frozen in fear: fear of suffering and loss; fear of rejection and hurt. Looking over the ledge into the ocean of a love that freely receives and freely gives, I hesitate. As much as it is calling me, I still ask myself: Can I make that leap?
My spiritual father once told me that a consecrated heart is first and foremost a human heart. As with every vocation, consecration comes with a special grace but the consecrated one remains human. What’s important is to be aware of the movements of one’s heart, giving them a name without self-judgement.
A consecrated heart is a heart that belongs to Someone. It is a heart that can still be touched by others but recognizes that the Lord arrived first. In my experience, this belonging is also freedom. The more completely my heart belongs to the Lord, the more free it is to love others and to receive love from them.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary (Artist: Stephen B. Whatley).
As we experienced Lent and Holy Week this year, my eyes were drawn more intensely to the Cross. It is on the Cross, after His suffering and death that Christ’s heart is opened to us and the streams of living water and blood flow out upon us. It is in His act of freely laying down His life that Christ gives us the example par excellence of the love of which there is no greater.
And it is before this punctured heart, pierced and broken, overflowing from within with a love it could not contain that I find myself with yet another question: what death awaits the bride of the Crucified? What act of love will be asked of her who unites her heart so intimately with the One who hung between two thieves? What suffering must she endure in sharing so completely in the life (and death) of her Beloved?
And yet, before I can enter into this musing of death and suffering, the sweet wind of His Spirit whispers in my heart: O but what life awaits the bride of the Risen One? What abundance of love will be offered to her who makes space in her heart to receive it? How sweet will it be to share in her Spouse’s victory?
What does it mean to have a consecrated heart? What does it mean to love as God loves?
I don’t know the answer to these questions and don’t pretend to ever arrive at them. At least not in word form. But I pray that by living each moment as it comes, by looking in the eyes of each person I find before me, I will have the grace to choose love. That I will be unafraid in giving of myself, and that I will allow myself to receive the self-gift of others. That my heart may never be too full to welcome in another. That my loving others as they are will come first from my own experience of being loved as I am. And that the source of my love will always and only be Love itself.
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
O Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.