• August 11, 2009

Heart’s Home is not a solution, it’s a small sign

This homily of Rev. Thierry de Roucy was held during the Sending Forth mass of mis­sion­aries in Noyon (France) on September 14, 1996.

Six years ago, a few young people were standing here in front of me, a bit afraid but full of courage. Just like you, they were about to leave for a Heart’s Home, either in Argentina or in Brazil. They did not know what to expect. Neither did we. They were going, like pioneers, to cross the bor­ders of two slums where many inhab­i­tants of the city didn’t dare to enter.

Everything has changed. This year, about fifty young people will leave France to join one of our approx­i­mately twenty Heart’s Homes. And many other vol­un­teers coming from var­ious coun­tries will also commit them­selves in Heart’s Home com­mu­ni­ties. Moreover, thou­sands of god­par­ents and friends sup­port us. In many coun­tries, local asso­ci­a­tions were cre­ated in order to help us. Many arti­cles were pub­lished about us, in about twenty lan­guages. All over the world, bishops request us to settle a Heart’s Home in their dio­ceses. Furthermore, we were granted some awards. And many young people acknowl­edge that, because of their living com­pas­sion in such a rad­ical way in Heart’s Home, their lives will never be the same again. For all these rea­sons, I rejoice. Six years ago, I would never have imag­ined such devel­op­ments. I would never have believed that our Association would become famous so quickly, and, in many cases, appre­ci­ated. I would never have thought of the way it would boost my own con­gre­ga­tion, and provide us so many friends all over the world. Today, I want to thank God for the growth of our Association, for its fruit­ful­ness and the tremen­dous good it did for the chil­dren in the depressed areas where we are set­tled, but also for the vol­un­teers, their god­par­ents and fam­i­lies. Such a weak and young asso­ci­a­tion...

Nevertheless, I’m often wor­ried and afraid about this quick growth, this rel­a­tive fame, which could become very dan­gerous. They could make us believe that Heart’s Home has some impor­tance, that Heart’s Home “is going well”. We could forget that, for us, going well is walking on water, that Heart’s Home is on a knife-edge. We could also forget that God is the one to lead the Association and to make it fruitful, and that the vol­un­teers, like the leaders, don’t really matter. Heart’s Home is very weak. Firstly because of the vol­un­teers’ weak­nesses. They are young, inex­pe­ri­enced, not as well trained as we would like them to be. They are often replaced, make many blun­ders and don’t speak the lan­guage of their friends well enough. They are some­times fed up with their mis­sion, and close their doors too often. They are not always healthy.And, just like the dis­ci­ples, there are only a handful, there is an insuf­fi­cient quan­tity to respond to all the demands. The founder and the people in charge of Heart’s Home are not strong. They are often tired and fail to encourage or cor­rect the vol­un­teers in a proper way. They may not dare to face the most con­cerning issues, may act too cow­ardly or too impru­dently. They do not listen atten­tively enough to the shouts of the chil­dren, as if it was not nec­es­sary any more. They do not pray enough, they waste time in doing unim­por­tant things. They are not con­fi­dent enough, and lack com­mu­nion skills. And the Association has little finan­cial and human resources: we do not have any pri­vate income, and there is no guar­antee that we will find enough vol­un­teers. In the end, we are con­cerned about the vol­un­teers’ safety. They don’t have any body­guards, except their guardian angels, and most of the areas where they are set­tled are quite dan­gerous, even the police don’t dare to enter them.

The list of our weak­nesses is far from being exhaus­tive. But it is enough to show that Heart’s Home is small and fragile, and relies only on God. The “suc­cess” of Heart’s Home is only a sign of the bounty of God and of the sup­port of the Virgin Mary. The rest does not matter. That is why Heart’s Home cannot claim to be a solu­tion to the prob­lems of the chil­dren, to suf­fering and despair. Heart’s Home is not a remedy for the world’s dis­tress. Its effi­ciency is tiny. So what is Heart’s Home? It’s a sign. A small sign. And the vol­un­teers cannot claim to fulfil their mis­sion totally, to be impor­tant people, even if their names are quoted in news­pa­pers, to be heroes. So what are they? They are, like their founder, sin­ners who try, day after day, to answer the call of God, and to rely more on faith, hope and charity. Heart’s Home is a sign showing how the power of God is acting within human weak­nesses. Heart’S Home is such a weak asso­ci­a­tion, but this very weak­ness attracts God. We can imagine that, in heaven, God some­times sits with his min­is­ters for a meeting and says: “Poor vol­un­teers, they are so small, so vul­ner­able in their slums, they find it so dif­fi­cult to love in truth and to bear fruit, that they really need our help. We can’t leave them alone...” And God acts. He helps them to learn lan­guages and gives them a surge of strength. His Presence trans­forms the simple pres­ence of the vol­un­teers, so that their sights and words become fruitful, in an unsus­pected way. Once, a Missionary only told a preg­nant woman, who secretly intended to have an abor­tion, “I’ll pray for your child”, so that this mother became aware of the life growing in her, and changed her mind. Another Missionary only smiled to a passerby and greeted her, so that this woman redis­cov­ered the beauty of life and dropped the idea of com­mit­ting sui­cide.

Only one thing could pre­vent God from sup­porting us: pride, the belief that we can rely on our­selves to meet our friends’ needs. The only dis­aster that threatens Heart’s Home is behaving in a self-impor­tant way. It means that the only valu­able prayer for the growth of Heart’s Home―we are so anx­iously awaited in many coun­tries―and for its fruit­ful­ness is a prayer asking for the gift of humility. This is what will enable Heart’s Home to remain a sign, the sign that “God lifts up the lowly and casts down the mighty from their thrones, He fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty.” This is what will enable Heart’s Home to remain a fruit of the bounty of the Virgin Mary, and God will act towards us as He acted towards the Virgin Mary, his humble ser­vant. Heart’s Home is the sign of God’s love, hum­bling him­self Heart’s Home is the sign that God glo­ries in the weak­nesses of poor human beings, that He rejoices among our chil­dren. When a Heart’s Home com­mu­nity set­tles in a new area, and the vol­un­teers enter our friend’s houses, the mys­tery of Incarnation con­tinues. So does the mys­tery of the Visitation! The Lord quivers with joy in the heart of those who bear Him. The Visitation is really the mys­tery of God’s joy. And this is all the more true for Christmas. God-with-us! God is here with humanity! Imagine God’s joy... God reveals his close­ness to us, God says to the poor: “Don’t be afraid! I have mercy on you! I’m not afraid, nei­ther of rob­bers, nor of liars or vio­lent people. They are all invited to come to My place, they are not sent away from My Heart. Would they only meet my Gaze, just like Peter after the cock’s crow, and enter!”

Heart’s Home is a sign that God didn’t abandon humanity, that He is tri­umphing over sin, that He doesn’t fear human dis­tress, and is actu­ally the One to wash the feet of the small and purify their hearts. Heart’s Home is simply the sign that God loves us, par­tic­u­larly the most rejected of us, and that each of our names is engraved on the palm of His Hands. In dis­cov­ering that they matter to the mis­sion­aries, our friends dis­cover that they matter to God. And that is quite a respon­si­bility for the mis­sion­aries, that is your own and only respon­si­bility: let your love reveal the love of God. Love is our only means to fulfil our mis­sion of evan­ge­liza­tion. Love with bare hands. Love until the end. Trustful love. Heart’s Home is a sign of real fruit­ful­ness We are over­whelmed with fig­ures, data, papers and adver­tise­ments. We are assaulted by pic­tures, shouts and noises. We are impressed by expen­sive and shiny things. According to such cri­teria, Heart Home is nothing. At least, I hope so. God loves hidden, small and silent things. It is dif­fi­cult to believe this, when the whole world says the oppo­site. Fruitfulness has nothing to do with effi­ciency. Quality has nothing to do with quan­tity. Being appar­ently so unim­por­tant, Heart’s Home wants to show this very truth, which has nothing to do with common logic, but that many hearts under­stand.

This leads us to a paradox. Insofar as Heart’s Home con­siders itself as ‘dirt’, as the lowest of the low of all NGOs, social foun­da­tions and char­i­ties, it may happen that it mat­ters. Heart’s Home will be able to play a sig­nif­i­cant role pro­vided that its mem­bers remain con­vinced not to matter at all. Insofar as the vol­un­teers know, often from painful expe­ri­ence, that there is nothing they can change in them­selves and their friends, they will become almighty. “You will per­form even greater works”. To the extent that we are mute and pow­er­less, like lambs being forced into the slaugh­ter­house, we’ll be elo­quent and fruitful.

During the liturgy of bap­tism, the priest, anointing with the holy Chrism, says: “God now anoints you with the Chrism of sal­va­tion. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you always live as mem­bers of His Body, sharing ever­lasting life.” As you commit your­selves in Heart’s Home, you are, in a very pro­found way, sharing the mis­sion of Jesus Christ, as priest, prophet and king. You do not join an asso­cia­tive busi­ness, you endorse a mis­sion of sal­va­tion and redemp­tion, along with all those who already answered “yes” to the one and only Missionary asking them “What do you want?” The new covenant that you swear today with Jesus Christ through your com­mit­ment, makes you priests, as your main mis­sion is to give your­self up to the Father, so as to bring all His scat­tered chil­dren back to Him. It makes you prophets, as your life must dis­play God to everyone. It makes you kings, as you expe­ri­ence in your hearts and in your bodies the humil­i­a­tion of ser­vants. In other words, your com­mit­ment in Heart’s Home, even if it is only tem­po­rary, helps you to ful­fill your bap­tismal com­mit­ment and your mis­sion of being dis­ci­ples of Jesus Christ.

May Mary, spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother of com­pas­sion guide you on this way of hap­pi­ness, from which she never strayed!

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