Daily Step – Is my heart open?


During the homily at the closing mass of Day 3 for JESEDU-jogja2024, this image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was shown. Unlike most images we encounter of the Sacred Heart, this one had Jesus holding his heart in his hand in an open posture towards the other. The homily reminded us that if our heart is offered in a closed fist, it alienates us from one another. Instead, if our heart is offered with an open palm, it draws us to one another in love.

I know from experience how easy it can be when you go to a conference to stick with your usual crowd – the people from your school or your particular region. It is even easier to do so when you are at a global conference. There is comfort in the familiar. However, reaching out beyond that comfort zone brought me many blessings during yesterday’s pilgrimage.

The first connection that I made was on our bus rides. A Jesuit colleague from Jakarta, Indonesia sat down next to me, and during the ride, we discussed a wide variety of topics including food, weather, community, politics, the treatment and acceptance of the LGTBQ-IA in our respective countries, and more. At each site, she gave me her local insights being from Yogyakarta herself. It added such richness to the journey.

The second set of connections I made was interacting with the various groups of students at the Pambaram temple. I walked up to one of my colleagues who was being interviewed by a group of young girls, and inadvertently inserted myself into their interview. As they asked their questions of us, one of the girls got stuck on a word. As I had done many times this trip, I took out my phone to attempt to use google translate, but I quickly put it away as my colleague reminded me that within the struggle – true human connection can be realized. The lack of fear and the presence of joy in the many young girls and boys as they learned about us, why we came, and what we loved about our own homelands was palpable. They helped me release the grip on my own heart and begin to imagine what an open palm might feel like.

The third connection I made was walking through the narrow streets back from the Mosque (our second stop on the journey). A Jesuit priest from India introduced himself to me, and we connected on both being mathematicians! Of course, he has a doctorate in it, so his “mathematician” status far exceeds my own! As we left the narrow walkable streets and navigated the main road (always carefully observing the motorbikes), we discovered that we knew a Jesuit priest in common. I am not sure why this type of cross-continental connection among the Jesuits surprises me each time it happens, but I was struck by the global brotherhood that started with Ignatius and the first companions and clearly continues to today. It was an unexpected taste of home for me.

Finally, on the bus ride home, another Jesuit priest from India joined me and my new Jakarta friend and engaged us in conversation. At that point, I must admit after a day of outside journeys in long clothes and at one point a head covering, I was hot, tired, a bit internally grumpy and ready to just either close my eyes or scroll aimlessly through my phone. However, as he began to engage my Indonesian colleague, I was struck by the unique flow of conversation between them. He asked her questions I had not – getting to know about her family and her future plans and what she really loved about her homeland. In between, he sang verses of various songs we might know in common and interjected knowledge and random facts he had acquired from his years as a Jesuit, serving what seemed like every continent around the world. Despite my desire to shut myself off at the end of a long day, he wouldn’t let me. He showed me that there was still more of our shared humanity (this time joy, laughter, and music) to explore.

As I experienced each of these encounters yesterday, we were journeying first to Prambanan Temple (which is a 9th century Hindu temple with the Sewu temple also sharing the space, a form of Buddhist temple heritage, in a predominantly Muslim-inhabited area), then to Mataram Grand Mosque (Kotagede Mosque which is surrounded by a Hindu-style fence which was a form of acculturation between Islam and Hindu at the time of construction in 1500s which we got to by walking through a traditional Muslim community), and finally to Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Ganjuran (A Catholic shrine where sacred heart of Christ represented in the image of Javanese king exists and interfaith celebrations are held, the open-air church turns 100 soon). I found that as I engaged with three spaces that demonstrated what a deeply rooted faith in dialogue with faiths different than our own could look like, I was learning that in practice in my interactions with fellow Jesuit colleagues. Though, for the most part, our faith is Catholic in this group, we still have much we can learn about each other to help us grow and deepen our connection to Christ who lives in all our hearts and all our unique spaces.

I am currently in Yogyakarta, Indonesia as one of twelve North American delegates, 100 global delegates overall, meeting to discuss Catholic/Jesuit identity and in-depth faith formation in Jesuit schools at II Seminar JESEDU-Jogja2024. Since I keep forgetting about the 12 hour time change and texting all those I love at 2 in the morning, I decided I would write some blog posts about the most important moments for me and perhaps the moments that might stir something in you as well. Thanks for reading! More to come!

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