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Vol 39 No 2


Kristina Keneally


Jim Quillinan

Vincent Battaglia
BELONGING, COMMUNITY, AND THE CHURCH: Some Theological and Pastoral Reflections

Lawrence Cross
THE TRINITY'S FIRST CREATION THE CHURCH: An Orthodox Bishop's Appreciation Of The West's Greatest Father Of The Church

Anthony Arthur MSC

Mark Raper SJ
THE CHURCH AS AGENT OF HOPE: What can Religious Faith Contribute to Life in Contemporary Australia?

Bruce Duncan CSsR
A NEW CATHOLIC SOCIAL MANIFESTO? The Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church



Contemplative missionary spirituality:
The Way of the Heart


Unless the missionary is a contemplative, the missionary cannot proclaim Christ in a credible way. A missionary is a witness to experience of God. (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 91.)

AN AUTHENTIC spirituality of the heart is made up of three 'move ments' (or 'ways') that are in reality one. The first 'movement' is that of my own human heart: the awareness of the depth of the longings and sensitivities within my own human heart. We are not always attuned to the movements of our own heart because we do not listen—we live too much on the surface of our experiences.

St Augustine recognizes this when he underlines the need to 'return to our heart' as the basis of the authentic way of the Spirit. The second 'movement' is our awareness of the movements in the Heart of God revealed in Jesus Christ: through our personal encounter with the mystery of God's Heart made flesh (see John 1, 18). There we meet God's longing for us; God in Christ has come looking for us. A spirituality of the heart is rooted in the compassionate mystery of divine communication, the divine self-gift—God's longing for communion. The way of the heart only has meaning because of who God is. Once we have found our 'home' in this longing Heart of God (see 1 John 4, 16) then we experience the third movement: the movement of our human heart—in union with the compassionate Heart of God—out to others in solidarity and service.

Jules Chevalier and the Way of the Heart
The foundation of the spirituality of the heart can only be sought and found in the depths of our personal knowledge and experience of communion: 'we have come to know and have confidence in God's love toward ourselves' (1 John 4, 16). This is the source of true wisdom. Only when we truly 'know' can we truly 'trust'. This contemplative act of 'coming to know' lies at the very heart of the spirituality that captured the person of the young Jules Chevalier and inspired him to found a congregation of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Such a way is profoundly theocentric: a way of knowing God personally and intimately. The way of the heart is built on the acquired 'wisdom' of the heart. In the expression of Cardinal Newman: 'Heart speaks to heart'. As Matthew Levering writes: '… the experience of God in salvation history involves above all the contemplative discernment that reality is radically theocentric' (Levering 2004:36). This is the beginning of the wisdom of the heart.

From the first, for Chevalier, the Sacred Heart was essentially a 'missionary heart'. The Sacred Heart came on mission from the wonder of God, to reveal to us who God is in the depth of the divine Being: to reveal the Heart of God (John 1, 18). But it is not enough to 'hear' the message; we must also ponder it in our hearts—like Mary did—if it is to become the radical spirit that suffuses and transforms our lives, our spirituality for mission. Like Jesus, we can only communicate what is in the depths of our own hearts. This 'heart-felt knowing' calls us to that profound interior conversion which is the foundation of God-centred—and not self-centred—mission.

Contemplation and Mission
I prefer the term 'contemplation' rather than the term 'prayer'. Contemplation has a 'wider', more missionary, meaning than prayer—it more accurately describes the character of devotion to the Heart of God. The contemplative attitude is a work of the heart rather than of the mind. Certainly contemplation involves a prayerful and meditative attitude, a dedication of space and time to God, but the contemplative attitude also embraces other significant activities such as unbiased listening, attentive awareness, study, reflective savouring of experience. The contemplative heart is an obedient heart. The spirit of contemplation colours the total attitude we have to our being and experience, to our living and relating. It is the attitude of the Heart of Jesus (see Mark 1, 35). In this sense a contemplative attitude is basic to the way of the spirituality of the Heart as taught and witnessed by Jesus himself. The contemplative attitude is the school of compassion (see Mark 6, 34b).

'All Christians need a true missionary spirituality of prayer and contemplation'. 'Mission is contemplation in action and active contemplation' (John Paul II, Ecclesia in Asia 23). When the disciples returned to Jesus after their first enthusiastic experiences of ministering, they were full of stories of what had happened to them, proud of their achievements. But what was Jesus' reaction? Stop! Be still! Come apart to a quiet place, be alone with yourself and the experiences of your heart (see Mark 6, 30 – 31). He wanted to teach them his own reflective attitude to ministry, to instruct them in the fullness of the way of the missionary heart. Then, immediately after this incident we have the story of the multiplication of the loaves. In the second story it becomes evident that the disciples are still far from possessing a truly listening and contemplative heart. They respond immediately to the problem, without thinking: their response is in effect motivated by self-defence not compassion (compare Mark 6, 34b and 35b). They do not want to get involved in a problem that is too big for them—although they had been quite happy to be involved when they were in control.

These two incidents in Mark 6 underline the importance of the contemplative attitude for the acquiring of a truly compassionate and missionary spirituality of the heart. First we need to attend – in quiet and trust – to the experiences and feelings of our own hearts, to learn through them, to appropriate them, to discover the feelings of our own hearts. If we are to know God we must first honestly face the true knowledge of ourselves, of our own deepest feelings, deeply touch our experiences ('return to your heart'). Then, once we are in tune with the feelings of our own hearts, we are on the way to becoming attuned to the feelings in the Heart of God ('contemplative obedience') and open to compassionate experience of the feelings and aspirations in the hearts of others.

The Contemplative Attitude
Let me return for a moment to what could be called the 'dimensions' of the contemplative attitude: listening, awareness, prayerfulness, reflective studying. In and through all of these activities we train and shape our contemplative heart. If we simply become totally involved and lost in a whirl of (good and generous) compassionate activity, we will never have the time and space to 'return to the heart'. And yet, as Jesus taught his disciples, to be effective ministers of the love and compassion of the Heart of God, we must 'return' to our hearts, instruct our hearts, learn from the feelings of our hearts. We need to allow our hearts to be trained in obedience to the challenges and opportunities of the coming of the kingdom of God and to the signs of the times.

But we cannot do this without an authentic contemplative attitude that is multi-dimensional. I would like to especially emphasize this last point. Contemplation is not only a matter of genuine attention to prayerfulness in our life it embraces a whole range of 'listenings'. In particular it involves such activities as reflective reading and study, developing our sense of personal and social awareness and sensitivity, critically informing ourselves about events in the world around us – not just allowing ourselves to be led by our immediate emotional response. Following the way of the heart also involves us in an attentive listening to our own psychology and emotionality. Through our lives we are called to 'preach' the Gospel that we—as individual persons—know and believe. The message has to be within us. The contemplative heart should shape and guide our reactions, our relationships, our compassion, our sense of mission. There is also a communal dimension to a genuinely contemplative attitude of the heart: our responsive listening to one another, our sharing and openness with each other. The multi-dimensional contemplative attitude of heart provides the 'professional' basis for our mission.

From the time he was in the Seminary in Bourges it is evident that Jules Chevalier—once he had 'discovered' the mystery of the Sacred Heart—constantly developed and encouraged his own contemplation of that mystery. Prayerfulness was an integral part of his life as he tells us in one of his letters in response to some of his critics. But he was also and always a student of the mystery of the Heart of Jesus: seeking to learn more, researching the writings of the Scriptures, the Fathers and theologians, writing about and sharing with others the fruits of his reflections and study. 'He saw that if Jesus had ever ceased to live his close personal relationship with his Heavenly Father, his 'apostolic work' would have been useless' (Cuskelly, 1975: 124). This contemplative spirit was the 'backbone' of his ministry. But it was, above all, the 'backbone' and solid foundation of his faith and hope. He did not wait around for God to reveal the mystery of the Heart of Jesus to him—he went out searching and listening in order to deepen his understanding of and relationship with that mystery.

Thus he lived in missionary practice the Johannine experience: 'So we have known and believe the love that God has for us' (1 John 4, 16). Contemplation is about knowing or coming to know. Knowledge is not always the same as intellectual understanding—it also involve s the gifts of faith and love: life under the sign of the Cross. 'I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me' (Gal 2, 19 – 20). Paul was a great apostle, certainly, but above all he was a profound contemplative. It was his contemplative spirit that gave him his creative freedom. Something similar could also be said of Chevalier. 'It is natural that Christ will dominate the life of any real apostle, as he dominated the life of Paul' (Cuskelly, 1975: 126).

Contemplation and History
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
—T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets.

The word 'contemplation' comes from the Latin word for 'time'. Contemplation may be described as our relationship with time, as our attitude to, our experience of time, of history. Faith colours our relationship with and our attitude to the various stages of time: past, present and future. The contemplative heart lives in the midst of time; it is caught up in the movement of the Heart of God and the human heart within creation and history. Our faith is a dynamic and historical phenomenon; it is caught up in the movement of this world in which the Word from the Heart of the Father took historical and human flesh, and dwelt among us. The incarnate Heart of God has become part of the on-going movement of history—like our own human hearts and our personal stories. God has become part of the unfolding mystery of time, of the story of creation and humanity. The mission of God has become an integral and intimate part of the human drama of time. Thus, a missionary spirituality of the heart will always be expressing and discovering itself in the flux of historical relationships, memories and dreams – just as the Heart of Jesus was in his obedient journey to the Father.

Our relationship with the past is characterized by remembering. To remember is a profoundly significant human and Christian activity. What do we remember, how do we remember? What do we learn from our memories? Christian life and faith are built on memory. In the central action of the Christian life—the Eucharist—we remember, not only in the sacrificial action but also in the liturgy of the Word. We remember the wonderful works of God. Worship is a profoundly contemplative—as well as missionary—action. Remembering is our contemplative response to the past, but also the creative bringing of the past into the present action. Remembering is the foundation of mission.

Memory is one of the most precious of human gifts: it can prevent us from becoming so 'bogged down' in the frustrations and disappointments of the present that we lose all perspective and forget our history, the 'big picture' of God's walking with us. Remembering 'the wonderful works of God' in our life and in the life of the community is one of the basic dynamics of the way of a contemplative heart.

What about our contemplative response to the experience of 'time-present'? How do we relate to the experiences of the present – at this moment of the 'intersection of time with the timeless' in which we live? A contemplative relationship with the present is characterized by listening. Sometimes we can be too busy to listen to, to reflect on the present moment and so the meaning, the gift of the present, passes us by. Ignatius Loyola, it seems to me, saw the development of a sense of contemplative awareness of the happenings of the present, as one of the most important forms of prayer: prayer for effective ministry, a ministry that is God's, not mine. How am I interacting with my situations and my experiences?

And then there is our relationship with 'time-future'—the coming of the Kingdom. What is the characteristic of our attitude toward the future? It is the future that gives us our contemplative orientation: we are waiting for the coming of the Kingdom with hope and with longing. For the kingdom of God is the ultimate desire of our hearts. This orientation also gives us a fundamental freedom in our compassion and in our ministry. For missionary faith ultimately trusts in the promises of God not in our own success and achievement. Through contemplation we learn to wait, to trust, to be patient, to trust in 'God's time'. Again this is what we mean when we say that 'we have known and believed'.

Not that we simply leave it all to God: we have our part to play—to our utmost. But we are not working to achieve our own success; we do not measure the future by the measure of ourselves. Rather, because we believe in the future, ours can be 'a lifetime's death in love, ardour and selflessness and self-surrender' (T.S. Eliot). Trusting confidence in the future is a basic aspect of the contemplative and obedient missionary heart.

In missionary contemplation we are always pushing the boundaries of the envelope, as it were. We are never finished with knowing God and God's ways. Our knowledge is always incomplete. This incompletion is the dynamism that enables us to push forward, to keep going. Time-future (the eschaton) is a basic dimension of our ministry. As our knowing develops we enter more and more deeply into participation in the unfolding mystery of God and so into partnership with God in God's work. While God is always greater than our thoughts, God also allows us to participate in our own created way in the rich qualities of the divine Heart.

Servant Prayer
The contemplative attitude of heart always reminds us that we are servants: servants of God's history. God is the master of time and the work of mission and its achievement remain always his. One sees this so often in the writings of the Old Testament prophets. 'The prophets are those whose (contemplative) prayer corresponds to the truth' (Levering 2004: 64). Moses the great prophet saw God face to face, but always remained his servant. Although Jesus was Son he became servant (Phil 2, 6 – 7). Paul writes wonderfully of seeing as in a mirror the glory of God: 'For the God who said, 'Out of darkness light shall shine', has caused his light to shine in our hearts, the light which is knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ'. And yet 'we proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake' (2 Cor 4, 5 – 6). The contemplative attitude helps us continue in a right relationship with God; it helps us walk always 'in the truth'.

The prophet knows God. In many cases in the Old Testament he encounters God in a deeply personal way. It is only this experiential knowledge that enables him to be God's servant and to lead and teach the people. Today we are called to be prophetic in our attitudes and teaching. The missionary spirituality of the heart is intimately connected with the truth, above all the truth about God and the truth about the human condition, which are so often distorted in our world. Like the prophets of old our mission is to live this truth in the witness of our lives as much as in our spoken or acted-out message. We cannot do this if we do not know God. True encounter with God makes us God's servants.

The way of the heart is inspired by the desire to follow the prophetic way of one who was a far greater prophet than those of the Hebrew Testament: one who revealed through his life and teaching God's essence as Love, personal Love. The only way to follow the prophet Jesus is Jesus' own contemplative way to the Father, 'our eyes fixed on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith' (Heb 12, 2). The genuine contemplative is always a 'follower', always a 'servant': 'I am among you as one who serves' (Luke 22, 27b). This way of service is his or her truth; this is her or his strength. He or she seeks to remain 'close to the Father's heart' in order to make God known and loved.

Contemplative Union and the Service of Charity
So if we aspire to bring the love in the Heart of God to others, then first we ourselves must draw close to that Heart in the quiet and sometimes lonely depths of the feelings, hopes, confusions and desires of our own hearts and the experiences of our own story. That is what contemplative prayer is all about: it opens our hearts. Prayer is a form of knowledge—that was what Jesus taught his disciples—because it involves us with the 'ways' of God. 'It is the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known' (John 1, 18). We cannot be missionaries of the compassionate Heart of God if we do not, like Jesus, draw closer and closer, in our human striving and experience, to the Heart of the Father so that we can make him known. Otherwise it will only be ourselves that we make known.

There is an intimate relationship between, on the one hand, contemplative union with God and, on the other, apostolic service and compassionate love of others. They are necessarily one movement. The medieval theologians of the Victorine School, for instance, teach that ministerial activity (charity) is actually the perfection of contemplation!

In Victorine spirituality contemplation gives birth to charity. Charity involves love, service to others, social justice, liberation, healing and compassion. The Victorines insist that the final goal of the life of faith is not the contemplative enjoyment of God in itself, but 'consists in taking on Christ, and therefore returning from ecstasy to loving service of neighbour'. (Chase 2003: 13)

The basis for this teaching is the mystery of the Trinity. The life in God's own self is a life of contemplative sharing and giving and this self-contemplation issues in the mystery of the Incarnation: God's created compassionate self-giving. God sends the Son into the world to make known that God is all love.

We, in contemplating God are moved to do what God does—to share his love.

Anthony Arthur works in the General Administr-ation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Rome with responsibility for the Mediadesk. Previously he was involved in priestly formation and adult education in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Matthew Levering, Scripture and Metaphysics, Aquinas and the renewal of Trinitarian Theology, Malden MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.
Steven Chase, Contemplation and Compassion, the Victorine tradition, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2003.
E.J. Cuskelly, Jules Chevalier man with a mission, 1824 – 1907, Rome: Casa Generalizia MSC, 1975.

The innermost starting point of initiative, the centre from which the arc of flame shoots out to the other side or is held back, that ultimate, which gives itself or does not, and which is truly called upon in the situation of ambiguity, is the heart.
Le coeur is in a certain sense the central reality of Pascal's image of man. The great mathematician, scientist, and designer thereby stands in the noblest tradition which the Christian Occident knows, and which finds its theoretical expression in the philosophia and the theologia cordis. As in a sort of Advent, it is prepared by Plato. It appears in Saint Paul. It is lived by Ignatius of Antioch, developed with wonderful vigour by Augustine, powerfully experienced by Bernard of Clairvaux, then again, and completely anew, by Saint Francis, not to forget Gertrude the Great, Elizabeth of Thuringia, and Catherine of Siena. Saint Bonaventure creates its system, Dante makes it into poetry. At the time of the Renaissance it slips back into a purely metaphysical and aesthetic Neoplatonism, but is immediately lived anew by Saint Theresa of Avila, thought over carefully by Francis de Sales and the theologians of the Oratory, by a Condren and a Berulle. In the eighteenth century, it seems to trickle away, or only to continue in a practical, bourgeois form. In the nineteenth century, it is once more the Oratorians who carry it on: Gratry, Rosmini, and above all the great Newman. At the same time, Eastern philosophers and theologians: Vladimir Soloviev, Khomyakov, Florensky. But it is alive in Kierkegaard as well, in a strange Nordic modification. It is also—as has perhaps not yet been seen—the essential force in Nietzsche's thought, even if it is turned by him against Christ and the Living God.
—Romano Guardini, Pascal For Our Time, Herder and Herder, New York. 1966., pp. 128-129.