Untying our Hearts

 

In November 2014, Mother Agnes Mary of the Sisters of Life sits in a Victorian armchair in the parlor of Villa Maria Guadalupe, speaking to the young women on the most recent discernment retreat.  She explains that she is delighted to have met us all, and that she is confident that Christ will be with us no matter where we may go.  But then she speaks words of caution.

A former psychologist and professor of psychology, Mother Agnes warns us of seeking our vocation for the wrong reasons.  She explains that as we go through life, we pick up and carry various things.  Sometimes those things help us, and other times the things we carry drag us into the ground.  And when we enter into a vocation, be it religious life or marriage, those around us are left having to carry our baggage with us. She makes it clear that prior to pursuing our vocation, that we must carefully examine our baggage-our scars, our traumas, our prejudices, our fears, our anxieties. And even when we try to let go of our baggage, there is always some that is invisible to us and yet starkly visible to others.

That is when we must begin untying our hearts.  We must lay our fears and desires at the hands of the Blessed Mother.  We must give up our dreams and plans and allow ourselves to blindly follow Christ.  We must pursue a deep vulnerability with Christ and our spouses, entrusting our hands and hearts to our King and the one for whom He created our heart.  We cannot untie our hearts by ourselves, however, and so we must entrust the Blessed Mother with the knotted ribbon of our lives.

I have fears and dreams, worries and joys, sufferings and triumphs.  I long to be a good wife, yet I fear of failing.  I long to be a mother, yet am scared of the possibility of infertility.  I long to let go of my anxiety, but my baggage holds me down. I long to love Christ with a perfect love, and yet I find myself struggling each day in my imperfection.

In letting Mary untie my heart, I give her all of these dreams and worries.  I give Jesus, through His Mother, my whole self, my whole identity. And I trust, that through her intercession, that the knots that so deeply bind my heart, the knots that cause me my deepest worries and anxieties, the knots that prevent my heart from loving, will be undone.

When I have struggled with forgiveness, when I have been bound up by my own stubbornness, when I have been paralyzed by anxiety, Our Lady Untier of Knots has help to remove the knots that bind my heart.  It is one of my favorite images of Our Lady because it helps me to entrust Mary with my life with simplicity and humility.  I do not have to name my problems, I do not have to understand my heart, I merely have to go before the Blessed Mother saying, “Mother Mary, look upon this heart that so wants to love your Son and yet loves so little. Remove the knots that prevent me from loving.”

In writing this blog, I hope to explore some of the knots that bind my heart.  I hope to explore the struggles of the saints and how they entrusted Mary with their heart. And I hope that you may also come to know your heart more deeply while discovering the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Where are you going?

Reposted from my blog Aut Quo Vadis

I have been in Rome, the Eternal City, the City of Seven Hills, for nearly two weeks now, and I have had to do more challenging things in these past two weeks than in much of my life.  I have had to learn to be comfortable eating in a restaurant by myself, working through a language barrier, navigating a new and strange city alone with limited street signs and at times poor mapping directions, locating a supermarket and walking back with my groceries, figuring out where to buy various things such as pillows or blankets in a city with no Target, using a foreign ATM, and surviving crossing the chaotic Roman streets as Vespas whiz past pedestrians on streets never intended for modern vehicles.  I am learning independence.

Yet in the midst of learning independence, I become deeply aware of my total dependence.  As I read shampoo labels in Italian, introduced myself to shop owners, navigated a city with no order, and established new friendships, I knew that I could do none of it.  I become more aware of my glaring vulnerability, my inescapable incapability, my distinct dependence.  I am drawn deeper and deeper into silence amidst chaos.  I stand amidst the grandeur of human accomplishment and as I stare in awe at the vastness of my surroundings, I have a deep sense of my littleness.  I kneel in confession eclipsed by the vastness of St. Peter’s Basilica, as the priest asks, “What is God’s will for your heart?”  And in that moment, amidst the tomb of St. Peter, surrounded by the majesty of the magnificent Basilica, aware of the saints that had walked those halls, I could only answer: “To love.”

When I boarded my plane to Rome nearly two weeks ago, many had asked me, “Where are you going?”  And my answer was simple—”I am going to Rome.”  But I knew in my heart that I wasn’t just going to Rome.  I knew Jesus was calling me into the desert, into silence, into new life, but I knew not how He intended to accomplish that.  And so last night, I found myself going to Santa Maria Basilica to do my usual holy hour—yet something was going on in the Church, and I didn’t feel comfortable praying in the midst of community prayer.  I found myself wondering, “Where will I go?” as I remembered another church not too far that had its doors wide open at night.  I walked into the Church, and Jesus was there, staring at me in adoration as there was exposition at the time.  I had been starting to feel overwhelmed and worn down by all the work independence required, and as I stared at Jesus, I knew where I was going.  I knew that I wanted to love more deeply, to pray more fervently, to give more generously.  I knew within my heart that I could accomplish none of what I desired, that even the act of breathing required grace, that I was nothing before the King of my Heart, and yet He looked at me with Love and Mercy.  I recalled the words of the priest in confession—”What is God’s will for your heart?”—and I recalled my response—”To love”.

To love is to allow Christ to first love us.  How can we give what we do not have?  And so we are totally dependent on Christ— Author of Life, Source of Love, Fountain of Mercy—to love others.  Christ pours out His Love for us at the Cross.  His Love pours forth as Blood and Water from His Heart as a fountain of Mercy for us, but we must come to the Cross to receive His Love.  The Cross is not easy, and we are continually journeying towards the foot of the Cross with Christ.  It is only through a total trust in Christ’s Plan of Mercy and Love for our hearts that we can come to the Cross, which is death to self and renewed life in the Love of Christ.  There will be many points of anxiety, numerous occasions where we turn away, moments when we refuse the heavy burden of self sacrifice.  Yet Jesus continues to pour out His Mercy upon our hearts, to invite us to do the impossible and walk on water, and when we drown, we drown in His Mercy, our hearts being purified, before Jesus pulls us back up again.

I do not know how Jesus will use my time in Rome, but I do know where I am going.  I am continually striving to go to the Cross with Mary at my side.  In a city of great accomplishments and human achievement, I am made aware of my littleness.  In a city of saints and martyrs, I am made aware of my sin.  In St. Peter’s Basilica, I come to know the beauty of the Catholic Church.  I know that I will fall many times as I strive to walk toward the Cross with Jesus and Mary, but I know that each time I fall, Jesus will pull me up.  I do not need to fear walking alone, for I know that I am little, and my littleness assures me that I continually walk with Jesus and Mary, my Mother.

Aut quo vadis—Where are you going?