Friday, June 22, 2012

Our Treasure: What Sets Our Hearts on Fire

This morning, Jesus tells us "where your treasure is, there also will your heart be". I smiled as I stood in the pew at Mass because, in these past few days, I've completely understood exactly what Jesus was saying.

Sunday, I arrived to Harlingen, Texas to my new mission. Sister Elizabeth, a Sister I lived with in Macon, and I drove twenty hours, with a stop in New Orleans, to get here. I now work at Proyecto Juan Diego in the nearby city of Brownsville. It's hard to describe what exactly PJD is - a community center would be the best description. There are summer camps, exercise programs, citizenship and ESL classes, health education, tutoring, etc.

As Daughters of Charity, our treasure here on earth is the poor. Our heart is where the poor are. Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise didn't found a religious community simply to start one - it had nothing to do with different Bible verses as charisms, a different spirituality...although those things did have a part. They founded the Daughters of Charity (and Saint Vincent - the Congregation of the Mission, our brother community) to serve the poor in a world where religious were cloistered. Nothing more, nothing less. They didn't found the community to start a revolution within the Catholic world, although other communities would soon follow their example, slowly changing the face of religious life in the Church.

It is Christ in the poor
that sets our hearts on fire
(This is the logo of the DCs)
No, it was all to serve the poor. They are our treasure. They are our reason for being. Without them, we would be nothing. They are where we find Christ - Blessed Rosalie Rendu wrote "never have I found God so much as I have in the streets". Without the poor, there would be no reason for the Daughters of Charity to exist.

Yet I also believe there is a vocation within the vocation of a Daughter of Charity. Serving the poor makes our heart come alive. My own vocation as a Daughter of Charity means that treasure that holds my heart is the poor, yes, but there is another "treasure within a treasure" that is special to me - serving the Hispanic poor. It seems like my whole life pointed me to the Hispanic poor - (now here we go with some much-deserved promotion) with my Spanish teacher at the Institute of Notre Dame who inspired me, volunteering and then later working at Education Based Latino Outreach, and then my time in Bolivia with VIDES (Salesians). God pointed my whole life so I would fall in love with them.

While I liked living in Macon, my service to Hispanics was limited. As Sr Irma drove me around the "colonia" (neighborhood) surrounding Proyecto Juan Diego, I was overcome with emotions. I felt an intense sense of belonging. I felt my heart growing in joy.

I don't mean to speak for all Daughters of Charity but, based on what I know and experienced, every one of them would say that there is some group of the poor that makes their heart come alive. It may be working with Hispanics or even other immigrants, may be the homeless, may be working with the rural poor, may be working with abandoned children, may be working with single-parent moms struggling to make ends meet, it may be the sick. While the poor are our treasure, a special piece of our heart is held by a people.

Sister Elizabeth was with us in Texas for a few days before going back home. She was able to see me at I first met the ministry of Proyecto Juan Diego. As we drove back to the house in Harlingen, we had this exact conversation. A comment she made made me laugh but only because it made so much sense. She said "I want to learn Spanish but mainly because there are Hispanics at St Peter Claver Church [the church we attend in Macon] and I want to connect with them. I don't necessarily feel a calling to be in Hispanic ministry. But give me a guy that lives under a bridge that smells of cigarettes and beer, and I'm there!"

Jesus was right (but of course He was) - if our treasure is the poor, then our heart is there as well. But only that, but later, He tells his disciples "And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be." (Matthew 6:23) If we are with our treasure, if we are where our hearts live, there will be not great darkness and the light in us will shine and shine its brightest.

(As I write this blog post, I feel more and more that this is one of the poorest posts I have ever written but only because it's so hard to put into words the passion that I feel for the Hispanic poor, it's so hard to do justice to Sr Elizabeth's love of the homeless or to any other Daughter of Charity and their love of the sick, of children, of parents, etc, yet it is something I feel compelled to share...or rather, borrowing from the Daughters of Charity motto, Christ urges me to do so.)

2 comments:

  1. I think that you did a great job reflecting upon the DC motto! Recently life circumstances have really led me to reflect upon WHY I do what I do, what my motivation is for undertaking a particular work or a particular minitry. My daily prayer is that my motivation for all of my actions will come from Christ and be for his glory so as to point others always to the love of my life.

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  2. Amanda... I am a secret blog stalker and have to actually comment now. You have such a gift for writing and as I read your words, so much resonates with me and my life. While on a retreat, I did a lot of reflecting on the bible verse from Matthew 13:45-46, "What is the pearl of great price that you seek and when found, will you give up all you have for it?" I think that pearl of great price, that treasure that sets our hearts on fire, is Christ. When we recognize Christ and experience the Divine, we walk in the path of holiness, that ultimate goal of union with God. I think, as part of the Vincentian charism, you recognize Christ in the poor and experience the Divine while serving the Hispanic population especially. This call sets your heart on fire and the charity of Christ urges you, so much that you have found that pearl of great price and as a postulant, are committing yourself to Christ in service to the poor. What a gift Amanda! Praying for you! :)

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