Be the Heart of my heart
Spirituality grounds us and informs our daily experience of acting and reacting in relation to people, circumstances and things.
For spirituality pervades the whole of life, affecting all life’s stages of development, and so is to be regarded rather as an inner energy than as a set of formalised practices. Nor can true spirituality be imposed from without. Rather it grows out of the deepest convictions of the heart. An authentic spirituality integrates all aspects of one’s life-experience, giving cohesion and meaning in view of the ultimate goal. (Raphael Consedine, pbvm).
What we know of the lifestyle of Nano Nagle is that it was the authentic expression of her vocation, charism and spirituality. Her over-riding concern was reaching people with the Good News, through word and action, relieving the suffering and need of others. Hers was a direct apostolic involvement with people. For her the divine call was heard in the daily struggle of people to manage their lives amidst the complex realities of their time. Nano Nagle’s way of entering into the mystery of God was by way of the realities of human life, by way of the human person. This deeply apostolic spirituality that Nano lived, dictated the rhythms of her daily life.
It is possible to say that ‘women with such listening hearts’ have shaped our Presentation story.
The Feast of the Sacred Heart
June is the month of the Sacred Heart and the Feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is on 16th June. It is this Heart from which Nano fed her heart.
A well-documented aspect of Nano Nagle’s spirituality is her devotion to the ‘Heart of Jesus’. Her habitual way of acting and reacting flowered out of this devotion.
Looking on the heart of Jesus, Nano learned the meaning of compassion as suffering with another … entering into their lives. (From ‘Fire on the Earth’, Raphael Consedine, pbvm, P61).
Nano did more than pity the poor in their situation, she acted to redress it. “In doing so she questioned long unquestioned social and religious assumptions of her time: that poverty was inevitable in the social structure, that it was part of the divine plan for the human family, and that to educate the poor was to strike against this proper order”.
Her heart knew no fear, only how to Love.
During this Feast Day and this month of the Sacred Heart we can pray for this capacity to extend our hearts to be capable of this dimension of Love for all humanity, and to be able to act in practical ways without fear, to ease and redress suffering as a result of unjust practices, and to advocate for change, inspiring others to do likewise.
Let Us Pray
O Heart all loveable and all loving of my Saviour,
be the Heart of my heart,
the Soul of my soul,
the Spirit of my spirit,
the Life of my life
and the sole principle of all my thoughts,
words and actions,
of all the faculties of my soul
and of all my senses,
both interior and exterior.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Ven. Nano Nagle we place our trust in you!
Note: The Sacred Heart of Jesus is not a reference to the actual muscle tissue of His physical heart but it is a reference to Christ Himself. The heart is synonymous with the totality of the person. Christ is offering you an intimate view of the interior reality of his life, which is all love.
His Heart is exposed, not hidden, meaning that His life is exposed to us to live with Him. The Sacred Heart of Jesus has the crown of thorns wrapped around it. This is a reminder that His life, not his head, was crowned with these thorns.
The Friday that follows the Second Sunday in Time After Pentecost is the Feast of the Sacred Heart (16th June 2023). General devotion arose first in Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries of that time, especially in response to the devotion of St. Gertrude the Great, but specific devotions became popularised when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a Visitation nun, had a personal revelation involving a series of visions of Christ as she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote, “He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart.” Christ emphasised to her His love — and His woundedness caused by Man’s indifference to this love.
Woman of compassionate heart
Today, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (24 June 2022) is an opportunity to take time out to contemplate who the Sacred Heart was for Nano Nagle, and how this legacy of Compassionate Love speaks to our lives today.
“Nano, we pray our hearts may bear the self-same fire and cast it on the earth”.
A well documented aspect of the spirituality of Nano Nagle is her devotion to the Heart of Jesus. While our understanding of this devotion in Nano’s time may be summarised as contemplation of Jesus in the mysteries of the incarnation, in his passion and death and in the Eucharist, and in a response of reparation for sin, the living out of this spirituality for Nano Nagle was concerned with something deeper – her habitual way of acting and reacting which flowered out of her devotion to the Heart of Jesus.
The root meaning of the word devotion means to ‘surrender totally’, and if one word could describe the nature of this surrender – that word would be compassion.
“Looking at the heart of Jesus, Nano learned the meaning of compassion as suffering with another; suffering with the weak and those oppressed and entering into their lives, taking responsibility for the sin of her world and acting to make reparation repairing the ravages of human lives”. (Raphael Consedine, PBVM ~ ‘Fire on the Earth’).
It is true to say that disturbed by the misery and suffering of those ‘kept poor’, Nano Nagle did more than merely pity their situation, she acted to redress it by entering into their helplessness and calling forth life and hope.
“In doing so [Nano] questioned long-unquestioned social and religious assumptions of her time: that poverty was inevitable in the social structure, that it was part of the divine plan for the human family, and that to educate the poor was to strike against the proper order”. (Raphael Consedine, PBVM).
Nano Nagle was not content to dispense immediate aid to the sick, the suffering, the old. Her determination was to assist people in finding spiritual meaning in their lives and to enable them to lift themselves out of material poverty.
Yes, at first she was indeed moved to pity, but she was led beyond this to the realisation of spiritual responsibility which took her to the convent in France, only to find that this was not enough.
The return of Nano Nagle to Ireland and all that followed, shows her willingness to carry her compassion further. She was willing to offer spiritual leadership despite being aware of her own frailty:
“The Almighty makes use of the weakest means to being about His works”. (L. VIII – Letters of Nano Nagle).
This acceptance of a pastoral responsibility involved her in suffering – the price, subordinating her own comfort to the needs of others. Laying down her life in compassionate service, Nano Nagle suffered injustice and rejection from those who considered her work unnecessary or as dangerous.
Nano truly knew the meaning of compassion as ‘suffering with’.
Sacred Heart of Jesus,
lead our hearts as close as possible to yours,
making us available to His mission,
a mission of compassion for the world that suffers.
Let us open our hearts to Him who loved the world so much.