Appleton, WI

June 5/6: Day by Day with Father Bill – Weekend Edition

with guest columnist Nadine Duncan, St. Mary Minister of Pastoral Care

First, I want to thank the Holy Spirit for our amazing A Way Together Synod on May 23rd that focused on our vision and mission. I know many of you wanted to attend but because of other obligations were not able to. Fr. Bill will be creating a document from all that was shared at the synod and we are exploring ways for you to share in the synod experience as we move forward.

Our motto at St. Mary Parish is “Ripples of God’s Love, through our Hearts, to all Hearts.”

At first this motto can seem sentimental. We think of the heart as tied to our emotions or our likes and dislikes. But according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the heart is the dwelling‐place where I am, where I live; […] the heart is the place ‘to which I withdraw. The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as the image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2563).

It’s deeper than our physical heart. It’s deeper than our emotions, and our reason. It is the place “to which I withdraw.” It is the “place of encounter” with God. It is the “place of covenant.” It is the place where Divine Life was planted at our baptism. And the only way we can come to understand our heart is through our relationship with God.

How do we get to our hearts? This takes practice because of the busyness of our lives. We look for opportunities through silence and solitude where we can breathe deeply and let go of our concerns, where we quiet our mind of internal chatter and rest in the presence of our Divine Parent. In Psalm 131 we pray, “Lord, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me” (Good News Translation).

This may sound impossible because we have many things to do and people to take care of. But all we have to do is find those few minutes to hear the quiet voice deep within us, where Spirit calls to spirit, where Heart calls to heart. This is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV)

Our heart is a temple, a sanctuary where our spirit desires to worship every second of our lives whether we realize it or not. So where can we find opportunities to enter into our sanctuary? Of course, we want to create a special place where we can be alone with God and spend quality time as often as we can. But brief encounters can also help us remember God is always in our heart. A retired friend of mine has a special chair where he spends quality time with God but also sits in between chores to rest with God. Another friend finds quiet time with God early in the morning before anyone wakes up at her kitchen table when she is having her first cup of coffee. Another tells me she takes time to be in God’s presence before she gets out of bed in the morning and the craziness of the day starts. My best friend bought me a Google Nest for Christmas and I listen to worship music when I’m in my kitchen. Right now I’m listening to “Tin Roof” by Chris Tomlin. The music helps me turn my focus to God. When the song is done, the kitchen is quiet, I rest in the Lord and am still. Another friend finds quiet time in her car in between dropping off and picking up her children. She also takes a moment when she checks on her children at night to see if they are asleep. Their soft breathing helps her quiet herself at the end of the day and she will sit next to them in the dark and rest in the Lord.

The more we do this, the more often we find ourselves in God’s presence. Remember, God is only a heartbeat away.