This past week was Catholic Schools week and on Wednesday night here in the church we had a holy hour of adoration. We had a pretty good crowd. During the middle of the hour, we invited the children to come near the sanctuary and to kneel and pray to Jesus. And it was awesome: seeing forty or fifty kids kneeling and closing their eyes and praying with their hearts in total trust to God…. one of the children began to blow kisses to Jesus.
And yeah, my heart pretty much melted right then and there.
And I needed that. I needed my heart to melt.
You see, as a priest, I encounter a lot of troubling things during the course of a week. And those troubling things can really hurt—when someone’s loved one is dying or when a family is breaking apart, I feel that. But sometimes it seems that there is only so much our hearts can take before we start to protect ourselves by putting up defenses and avoiding and letting our hearts grow hard and cold… so that we don’t feel.
When I saw the little children sitting and kneeling and praying and blowing kisses to Jesus, I was brought back the first time when I really began to discover Jesus and to fall in love with him in adoration. I was brought back to that child-like, whole-hearted surrender and innocence which happens in that moment when our hearts melt for the first time.
Taking Our Temperature
In that moment, I was being invited to rediscover Jesus again.
And as I was rediscovering him, I was also discovering that I needed to spend more quality time with my children.
So on Friday I visited the school and during my visit one of the children asked me to pray for one of their family members who was dying. Another student asked me if I would remember his deceased grandfather by getting a plenary indulgence for him. Another simply ran up and gave me a hug around my legs.
How could my heart remain cold?
And how much I was missing by being cold!
Who Is Cold?
In our culture, it is so easy to develop a hardened heart. We are busy. We work too much. And so it is easy to get into a rut and to forget the blessings that we have—precisely like our children.
Have you noticed that they are spending more time on their iPads and iPhones than they are with us? Pope Francis is right when he says that we are raising a generation of orphans. Parents are willfully letting themselves being replaced by electronics. And because of this, not only are our hearts growing cold, but so are the hearts of our children. Homes and families are being destroyed!
And yet when the church says that we need to put aside the busy-ness and to pray as a family, our culture looks at us with a kind of skepticism that says, “What have you to do with us? Are you here to destroy us?”
Warming Up Our Children
So let’s warm things up a little.
When was the last time we reflected on the cosmic uniqueness and the love incarnate in our children? As a priest, it is so easy to turn my children into projects and tasks—I gotta do this, I gotta do that. But it was only when I was really present to them at that holy hour that my eyes were opened.
As parents, I know that it is so easy to turn home-life into a series of to-do lists and projects. To break out of this, we need to intentionally spend some time individually with each of our children, one-on-one. Yes, spend at least half an hour each month with each individual child.
So, for example: fathers, take your daughter on a date and show her how she should be treated by a gentlemen; mothers, take your son out and show him how he is to treat a lady. Opening doors and pushing in chairs and looking you in the eye and being interested in someone other than their “selfie”.
This will draw the devil from our children like poison from a wound!
Warming Up Our Culture
We need to learn how to play again; how to be silly together; and how to forgive. We need to rediscover each other and this requires that we stop being so darn busy and so wrapped up in our own busy little lives.
This also means that we have to stop training our children to be so wrapped up in their own busy little lives as well.
You see, when children are constantly on the iPad or the computer or the TV or the phone, they are oblivious to the outside world. And because they are oblivious, their hearts are already growing cold. For hours on end they are focused on their lives and their games and their friends—such that when we pull them out of that and ask them to do something generous for us, they get angry. Should we be surprised? I mean, for hours, we have been giving them the very means to practice selfishness—and we are upset when they don’t listen to our call to be otherwise?
Or, how can we be upset when our younger generations lack initiative and are uncreative, preferring to stay locked up in their rooms instead of going out and exploring and being creative? After all, for hours each day, they are growing addicted to devices that passively imagine things for them—why should they have to go out and discover life for themselves? Much less, discover Jesus? … What kind of adults will they become?
How many young adults use their phones as a distraction to avoid the world and its troubles—after all, the pain of this world is so overwhelming! Young adults, do not let your hearts grow cold! Yes, there is a lot of pain in the world, but putting your nose into a phone all day only makes the pain of this world all the worse! Break free and discover the wonderful world at your feet!
I’m going to say something radical: Perhaps our homes need to have some phone and internet-free nights each week. (There, I said it).
And husbands and wives! You must lead the charge here. You need to start dating each other again. It is so easy to simply become roommates—and sometimes annoying ones at that. So, start dating each other again. Rediscover each other. Go ice skating or bowling or dancing or to the symphony or whatever it was that got you off the ground in the first place. There was a time when your spouse made your heart flutter. It can happen again. And you can melt your spouse’s heart again too.
Finally, I know we have many businesspeople here. So, for those who own a business or those who have people working under them, we need to have our employees home at a decent hour each night. Their families are their first vocation. They need to be home.
Because we need to do puzzles again or draw or paint or play cards or sing or play hide and seek or just…. rediscover being playful and creative again. The world is so serious and so painful and so…. cold. And because it is so, it tempts us to become cold too and to think that Jesus is a threat of destruction instead of seeing who He truly is: He is the source of love and healing and warmth.
Warming Up to Jesus
And maybe that is what God is calling each of us to do now. To go back and discover the beauty of our life in Jesus. If you’ve become cold or dry in the faith, then go back to what first melted your heart. Maybe it was praise music or maybe it was Gregorian chant; maybe it was adoration or maybe it was reading scripture; maybe your heart was melted when you served others; maybe your heart was melted by beauty.
Let us pray to Jesus, asking Him to melt our hearts once again that we may re-discover him and fall in love with Him all over again.
Thank you Jesus, for melting my heart.
*blow a kiss to Him*