Even though I lived for barely three years at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, my time spent there had a tremendous impact on my life. The seminarians and their positive views about the Catholic Church were stimulating and evocative. These men had a sense of enthusiasm that I had not experienced in my daily dealings with Catholic life as a parish priest. Their prayer life was intense and genuine, centered more on the reality of Jesus in the Church rather than on an idea of how to “find” Jesus in the Church. It became a subtle, yet real distinction for me, knowing Jesus rather than simply pondering an idea of Jesus. The motto of the College is emblazoned for all to see as soon as one enters the building: “Firmum est cor meum” “My heart is steadfast.”
As we enter the midway part of the season of Lent, I am drawn to the words of Psalm 57:8 “My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast.” These words are, of course, well chosen for the heart of a seminarian eager to purposefully draw close to the Lord for sacred service; but I also find a certain sense of strength in them as we, baptized and committed Catholics, continue our Lenten journey.
We find ourselves in a time when we are literally challenged to defend our faith. Murderous, barbaric actions are presented to us as daily news events. Christians are rousted from their homes and communities, brutalized and humiliated—or worse—in cruel denial of their basic human dignity. In our own country, the laws and customs we have cherished, that have formed the basis of our self- government, are being trampled or restructured in a willful denial of divine purpose or plan.
I realize there is so much that is genuinely out of our control in the day-to-day living of life. That fact alone can sometimes lead us to throw up our hands and say: “Enough, I surrender.” There can and should be an alternative, especially for us who claim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Our hearts need to be steadfast in trusting Jesus Christ and realizing that He is still in control of our lives—and, more importantly, that we WANT Him in control of our lives.
During Lent our thoughts center on the desire for Jesus and the awareness of His unique and singular love for each of us. The desire for Jesus helps us to grow ever more spiritually connected with the real Person of Jesus—not an idea or a philosophy—but the real Person of Jesus who exists right now, gloriously alive at the right hand of the Father in heaven.
“My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast;” the Psalmist wrote. That phrase is meant to stir a desire for God and reveal the reality of God in action within us. I am unafraid with such knowledge. As I look at the condition of the world and think about the unknown brothers and sisters being hatcheted, beheaded, burned alive, or otherwise derided or persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ, I know that I am one with them in the solidarity of faith and in the knowledge of the Christ who loved us all to His death and resurrection, who loves us today—and whom I will follow wherever He leads. My heart is steadfast!
I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!