How do we explain the charism, the “gift,” that Fr Jules Chevalier received from the Holy Spirit? Fr Nick Harnan, MSC shared a story back in 2008 that illustrates simply and clearly what our charism means and what it implies for us.
Here is a version of the story… After Jesus died and before he ascended into heaven, he wanted to find a way to keep his memory alive and effective in the world. So he went up the mountain and called his followers to him. They came from all times and places.
He began saying – when I was living here on earth, I was a great teacher. I gave sermons and taught like no Rabbi did. It is essential that this part of me be continued after I go. A man from Spain whose name was Dominic raised his hand and said, Lord I will continue that part of you. I will begin an order of preachers and together we will go to the ends of the earth teaching and preaching like you did. The Dominicans were born.
Jesus continued – here on earth, I was a poor man. I had no home of my own. I lived simply like the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. In my poverty, I had a personal and intimate relationship with creation. A young man from central Italy stood up, took off his clothes, dropped his mantle and said eccomi, mi chiamo Francesco! I will continue that part of you and will gather men and women in a life of poverty and love and respect for creation. The Franciscans were born.
And Jesus went on and on and for every part of him, someone stood up and volunteered to keep that part of his memory alive.
Finally Jesus said, in becoming a human being, I was the incarnation of God who is Love. Any form of pain or suffering moved my heart with compassion. I treated everyone, especially the poor and the marginalised, with kindness and mercy. My love was the answer to the ills of society. Who would like to keep this part of my memory alive? A parish priest from a small French town called Issoudun, Fr Jules Chevalier, raised his hands and said “I will”. Lord, I have seen and believed in the greatness of your love and I wish to share this with all. I will gather men and women, lay, religious and priests, who will join me in keeping this part of your memory alive, everywhere and forever! And so the Chevalier Family was born!
Our charism is knowing “Jesus as the love of God incarnate”. This is the gift of the Spirit to Fr Chevalier, this is the gift he passed on to us. To keep this part of Jesus’ memory alive is our spirituality and mission. What Fr Chevalier called “Devotion to the Sacred Heart”, now we call the “Spirituality of the Heart.”
So how does this charism become a spirituality, a way of life for us? How do we learn to live in a compassionate way? How do we keep the memory of Jesus as the love of God made flesh alive and effective in our day? How do we make the Sacred Heart of Jesus loved everywhere and forever?
The “Four movements” from Fr Eugene Cuskelly, MSC give us a practical guide in living a spirituality of the heart. What are these four movements?
1. We go down to the depths of our own hearts and there we see our profound need of life, love and meaning.
This is the movement of awareness. It is the invitation for us to know ourselves better, to go down into our own hearts and become aware of our deepest desires. To be aware and to embrace our own need for life, for love, for meaning. In this place, the depths of our own hearts, we meet Christ.
2. We go to the Heart of Christ and there find the answer to our own questioning.
This is the movement of encounter. In the depths of our hearts, we encounter Christ. He is there, meeting us where we are and He calls us to himself. He points to us His Heart, the source, the fount, and there we find the answer to our desires. In his Heart we find life, we find love, we find meaning. For many of us, the invitation to go to the Heart of Christ comes through Mary whom we call, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. She who gave birth to Jesus brings us to Him and we become part of the Love that binds Jesus to Mary and Mary to Jesus, the Love that binds us to them and to each other. As our lay members love to say today, we become heart-bonded.
3. We allow our hearts to be fashioned by the Heart of Christ. Our own heart will become an understanding heart, open to, feeling for, and giving to our brothers and sisters in Christ;
This is the movement of formation. Encountering the Heart of Christ transforms us. Our hearts become like His such that any form of suffering touches us with compassion and pushes us to action for love and justice. The experience of being loved by Christ calls us to love as He did. Our eyes are opened to the pain of others and of our world. Our ears hear more clearly the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Our hands and feet are strengthened to respond in love to the needs that we perceive. And this brings us to the fourth movement.
4. We follow Christ who loved with a human heart. Rooted in his love, we are not dis-heartened or discouraged in the face of difficulties.
This is the movement of mission. Loved by Christ and falling in love with Him, we now follow his will and his way of mercy. We share in his mission of establishing here on earth God’s kingdom of justice and compassion. While on our mission of loving, we experience joys and successes as well as difficulties and pain but we do not lose heart. We go down into the depths of our hearts and the four movements start again. They never end. The charism is now a spirituality, a way of living lovingly.
Fr. Jules Chevalier, MSC lived keeping the memory of Jesus as God’s love incarnate alive. He lived making the Sacred Heart of Jesus loved everywhere and forever. We are called to do the same. May his “yes” live on is us, members of the Chevalier Family, today.