This Homily of Rev. Thierry de Roucy was held during a Sending Forth Mass in Ourscamp (France) on August 29, 1992.
Dear brothers and sisters,
During my last stay in Brazil, I was pleased to meet the director of the propaedeutics seminary of Salvador, who was so good as to tell me: “Visiting your place is like immersing into the Gospel. I feel in Heart’s Home as if I were between two passages of the Gospel.” He did not give any further explanation. Was he thinking about the passage of the Beatitudes, the passage of the agony of Jesus, or of His resurrection? … Maybe all at the same time.
Recently, one of our young missionaries, coming back from his Heart’s Home, told me: “All over the year, I had the feeling to live the Gospel. I was a disciple following his Master. Along with Him, I walked across streets and villages. Along with Him, I welcomed the children. With Him, I visited the sick and the crippled. Along with Him, maybe, I healed some broken hearts. Sometimes, he lectured me. But, every day, He also gave me the strength to go further. I really felt Him close to me. He actually lives in our slum!”
Many things can be said about Heart’s Home, without exhausting the subject. But such testimonies invite us to focus on the main point: a year spent in Heart’s Home is a year lived according to the Gospel. This year doesn’t end after 365 days: it is an invitation to go further in the footsteps of Jesus. This is a dangerous year, because it is an immersion in the logic of the Beatitudes, which is the opposite of our world’s logic.
The Gospel is often said to be the book of encounters. The same could be said about Heart’s Home. Heart’s Home is an opportunity for encounters. Not encounters with figures and sociological data, not encounters with cases and terrible situations, but encounters with people, encounters with hearts. That’s why our own heart, which longs so much for the love of others, for communion with others, feel so deeply contented.
FIRST OF ALL, AN ENCOUNTER WITH GOD, WITH THE FATHER, WITH JESUS, WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT which leads and inspires us. Everybody agrees that a year in Heart’s Home is over all a spiritual year, a long retreat which gives birth to the new person that we are called to become. This encounter happens every day in the Eucharist, in the silence of adoration, in the songs of the Office. It goes on and grows in the narrow streets of the favela, on the faces of the children that fling their arms around our necks, in the painful confidence of this mother abandoned by her husband.
It is a prayer that knows no bounds, no barriers. It unifies all daily events and teaches us to live with Jesus in all circumstances, to meet him everywhere. It is a prayer that fills us with joy, it is a prayer that laminates us. It is a prayer that enlarges our heart. It is a cry of agony and a song of resurrection.
When we decide to live according to the Gospel, we have to live according to the whole Gospel. When we begin a prayer life, we know that all the prayers of Jesus will one day be ours. The only means to be faithful to our commitment in Heart’s Home until the end is to be faithful to our daily prayer. When we get away from prayer, we get away from the Gospel and, consequently, from Heart’s Home.
HEART’S HOME IS ALSO AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE VIRGIN MARY, MOTHER OF COMPASSION. And the word “encounter” with God or with Mary is not strong enough to describe this real communion, this identification that we want to live with those who send us on this mission. God is present, Mary is present, we are present. God loves, Mary loves, we love. God comforts, Mary comforts, we comfort. This is like conjugating the same verbs, using different subjects that tend to act in the same way.
Saying: “we are along with the Mother, we act with Her” is not enough. The call is greater. We should say: “We live in Her, we act in Her, we comfort in Her”. We want our presence to be the same as the Virgin Mary’s presence in the Gospel. No fuss is made around her arrival or her presence. Sometimes, she even stays silently on the doorstep. One thing only is said about her, which reveals her humility, her discretion: “she is present”. And her presence is so substantial that these words are enough to prove that everything is possible, and to restore hope.
IT IS ALSO AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE OTHER, with the one who is so close to us, whom God chose for us. With him or her, we try to build a friendship that is not firstly based on feelings, on a similarity of language or culture, but on the fact that he or she is a tabernacle which contains God, a presence of God. Moreover, this person is a gift from God to our Heart’s Home, so that we help, respect and love him/her and also receive his/her help, respect and love. And this wonderful mystery enables our community life to become nearly a sacramental life.
And I want to look with the same faith, true charity and hope at the missionaries who share my daily life and who certify the quality of my life in Heart’s Home. We can not delude ourselves on this point. That’s why I implore you not to let your daily relationships, your encounters with every missionary become a matter of routine. How great is this mystery of faith! Go further! Give more of yourselves! Beg every day for a new gaze on the others! Give your lives for the others because there is no greater love!
In the end, and you’ll notice that this is only the last point, HEART’S HOME IS AN ENCOUNTER WITH EACH CHILD, each person of our area. It’s no use repeating again that these people have already been judged, hurt, raped, destroyed, beaten. I remember this story that happened during my last stay in Argentina. Some young people, around twenty years old, knocked at our door. Brother Pierre-Marie knew them already, as he had visited them when they were in jail. They discussed for a while. Later on, Brother Pierre-Marie met them in the downtown of Parana. He asked them “How do you earn your living?” And, with a gesture, he asked, without naivety, if they were used to robbing. They answered no. So he went on: “What don’t you look for a job?” And they replied: “With our faces, it’s impossible to find any job. According to everybody, we are not worth more than animals. We are to be destroyed. Ah, if there were more people like you!”
“We are to be destroyed; we are to live in the street, we are to work on this rubbish dump.” Our friends’ whole lives confirm such thoughts. We want to show them something else, but a simple “I love you” or “God loves you” is far from being enough to wipe out all these feelings of rejection. We will have to take great care of them, to be faithful, very faithful, and to renounce ourselves. The first sign of our love for the children are our kisses; and the ultimate proof of it will be our sharing their crosses. If we totally live Heart’s Home vocation, we will have to go through this.
Such words can frighten us. But every true love leads into trial: the love of parents for their children, of a husband for his wife, or of a priest for those who were entrusted to him. Because this is the way Jesus showed us his love: he shared the cross of every man. So don’t delude yourselves. You’ll soon meet the nicest smiles of your life. I think for instance of Dany’s smile, in Bucaramanga. But you’ll also soon discover what such smiles hide!
Dear Emmanuel and Sophie, dear Laurent. You are here, this morning, along with your families and your friends. I find it beautiful that they are present today, praying for you and calling to the coming of the Holy Spirit in you, and I thank them. I especially thank your parents who enable you to give a little bit of the love you received to the unloved over the next year. They can be proud of you! You will realize how their presence today and their daily prayer mysteriously help you. As a proof, I quote this sentence written by one of the former missionaries: “I always feel the presence of my sponsors along with me. I had never thought that their presence would be such a source of grace!” So please, dear sponsors, be faithful, and you will see how your commitment will enlarge and open your hearts.
I have to conclude. So I sum it up in one word: HEART’S HOME IS A MYSTERY OF VISITATION. Each encounter is like the encounter of Mary with Elizabeth. Jesus thrills in her womb, and Mary rejoices: “He fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty”. I would be delighted if you could live this whole coming year so deeply! You will never have been so joyful! You will never have desired so much to sing and praise how great God is!