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!