Heaven in the Heart

“It seems to me that I have found my heaven on earth, because my heaven is you, my God, and you are in my soul. You in me, and I in you — may this be my motto.” ~ St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

What is the greatest earthly love we have known? How do we come to know what love is?

For many, the answer is our mothers. There is no one like a mother. Often, this sentiment is more intensely felt after our mother has passed from her earthly life. Jill Lemming’s poem says this so well:

My mother’s heart is so tender and her face has a gentle glow.

She’s my friend and my inspiration, she’s the sweetest mom I know.

She gives herself so freely to those who share her life.

She clearly loves her children with the love that comes from Christ.

Her eyes are full of compassion, her voice is soft and mild.

She lives for helping others, leaving “heartprints” all the while.

My mother’s love is special, and grows sweeter with every year.

God blessed me with an angel; she’s my precious mother dear.

Mothers are special beyond description. One mother stands above all other mothers. She is Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Heart of Mary, Full of Grace

The much-loved image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is rooted in Scripture: “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Because Mary’s heart is the source and wellspring of her purity, her heart is called immaculate. Her fullness of grace emanates from the center of her heart. “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us” is a sigh of love from our heart that bonds us with her heart. We ask for her intervention in our ordinary times as well as in our times of need.

It is not possible to fully understand the deep movements of love inside Mary’s heart. Her mother’s heart feels loss, distress and anguish more deeply than any other mother’s heart does. Louis de Montfort wrote, “If you put all the love of the mothers into one heart, it still would not equal the love of the heart of Mary for her children.” We cannot comprehend how this tender, motherly heart endured so much sorrow and anguish during her lifetime, and because of this, we invoke her Immaculate Heart when tribulations come our way.

The young Carmelite nun St. Teresa of the Andes reminds us: “In seeing you [Mary] so pure, so tender, and so compassionate, who would not be encouraged to unburden their intimate sufferings to you? Who would not ask you to be their star on this stormy sea? Who would not cry in your arms without instantly receiving your immaculate kisses of love and comfort?” Mary is acutely sensitive to how evil can pull people away from God. Mary can see the sins and faults of those who choose not to know God and the thoughts and desires of those who desire to love God. She ardently longs for all people to live according to the life and teaching of her Son. She never gives up on her children, even the most hardened of sinners. Her faith shines like a beacon of bright light in a sin-darkened night. Today she helps us understand the true value of femininity and the exquisite beauty of purity. With her help, we can spread Jesus’ message of authentic love and tender mercy in our living and working environments. The pristine beauty of Mary’s Immaculate Heart is far beyond our imagination or our loftiest understanding of the unutterable beauty of the word immaculate.

Mary’s heart burned intensely with love for God. Because of her strong and close relationship with her son, her heart is closely associated with the heart of Jesus. In John Paul II’s Angelus Address on September 6, 1986, he said, “We ask you, Mother of Christ, to be our guide to the heart of your Son. We pray to you, lead us close to him and teach us to live in intimacy with his heart, which is the fountain of life and holiness.”

Heart of Jesus, We Trust in You

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a beloved and familiar image in most traditional Catholic households. This image represents Jesus’ immense and consuming love for all of humankind. Each one of us, and our concerns, are deeply embedded in Jesus’ heart. And he continually asks us to be receptive to him.

Jesus communicates himself with a love so intense that it is far beyond even the love a mother has for her child, the devotion of a brother, or the affection of a friend. Jesus wants to fill our hearts with graces from his love. But we must acknowledge and accept the graces that are intended for us. His boundless love is our companion, guide, anchor, protector, stabilizer, and shield from the evils in this world. His heart represents the divine love he shares with his Father and the Holy Spirit for us.

During times of difficulty, we can hide ourselves in his Sacred Heart, or vent our ardent desires there. The heart of Jesus looks upon us more tenderly than we can look upon ourselves or each other. Jesus exemplifies continuous, selfless love. He pours his love, goodness and mercy on us. He infuses us with holy desires. How often do we ask for, or are open to, these life-giving sources? Indeed, they guide us to stay on the path of unselfish love and human respect.

Jesus’ heart beats for our salvation and is pierced by our sins. With light from his teaching, we see with a new focus and receive whatever comes our way with loving gratitude. We are awed by reverence for all creation. Jesus said, “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.” From his heart, Jesus calls all of us to learn about the source of true joy that flows from the springs of eternal salvation. Heart of Jesus, wherein are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, have mercy on us.

Teresa of Avila advises us, “Let us remember, then, that within us there is a place of immense magnificence. The entire edifice is built of gold and precious stones. . . . Truly there is no building of such great beauty as a pure soul, filled with virtues, and the greater these virtues, the brighter these stones sparkle. . . . In this palace the great King lives, who has been pleased to become your guest, and . . . he sits there on a throne of tremendous value: your heart.” Jerome, a biblical scholar, said, “Plato located the soul of man in the head. Christ located it in the heart.” In her spiritual classic, the Interior Castle, Teresa tells us how Jesus dwells at this center, and she teaches us how to get there.

The presence of the Lord in our hearts is a wondrous thing. He remains at the center of our hearts in times of light and darkness. Being conscious of his presence within us transforms the way we look at people. We strive to see Jesus in their hearts. If we approach people with the vision of Jesus, we can more readily recognize their worth as children of God. A good, God-fearing, honest person’s heart may be seen as a sanctuary for Jesus in this sinful society. Our heart may be his place of rest from a world where he is often ignored or rejected.

Even more wondrous is that we are present in the heart of Christ. Jesus invites all humankind to seek solace in his heart. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a place of complete peace and grace. If we imagine ourselves there, we liberate ourselves from that which causes us anguish. Whatever is troubling us does not follow us into this most sacred sanctuary. The heart of Jesus is a source of spiritual fortification where grace strengthens us so we are able to let go of irrational fears. Elizabeth Anne Vanek tells us: “Crawl into the wounded heart of God and there find mercy. Hide, take refuge from all that bounds you into the dust. . . . Crawl in deeper: there, in the heart’s core, carve a place of safety where none dare follow; secure at last, cast off fear and gaze instead on the One who weeps for you and for the world.”

The heart of Jesus is the place to rest in his goodness and his love. Bernard of Clairvaux tells us, “Let us learn to cast our hearts into God.” There the sacred becomes present in the secular. To dwell in Jesus’ heart is to be ever conscious of his attributes. Jesus invites all of us to take shelter in his heart because it is our source for strength and grace. The eyes of the heart of Jesus look upon each one of us more compassionately than we can ever imagine. Only in Jesus can we find a heart capable of loving in its highest capacity. The vibrant contractions of Jesus’ heart keep the waters of grace flowing in the Church and in the world.

At the Center

A meteorologist understands that a sequence of small occurrences in the earth’s weather system could accumulate to produce a dramatic weather event. In other words, the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can help to cause a wind storm in Texas. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote, “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone other than oneself. . . . The more one forgets himself, giving himself to a cause to serve or a person to love, the more human he is.” Therefore, the best way to find ourselves is to journey inward, find God in our heart, and then journey outward in service to others.

Even though our service might seem insignificant on a global scale, it can trigger a broader awareness of God and greater respect within humanity. We will probably not know the consequences of our small services this side of heaven, but we can be certain that every humanitarian outreach affirms the value of life. What matters most is not the greatness of the things we do, but the manner in which we do the little things. Simple, spontaneous, thoughtful acts freely given are at the highest level when they expect nothing in return. John of the Cross wrote, “Think not that pleasing God consists especially in performing numerous good works, but, rather, in doing them with an upright will, and without attachment, or craving for human esteem.”

The heart is a symbol for many things. At a high level, it represents that place where we keep dear ones and treasure good memories, our core and our center for spiritual growth. It can be a silent cloister to which we withdraw to nourish our soul. It can be the still point wherein God abides. God speaks to us in our heart and only God can judge the motivations of our heart. God alone knows fully what is in the deep recesses of our heart. The author of The Cloud of Unknowing encourages us: “If you wish to keep growing you must nourish in your heart the lively longing for God. Though this loving desire is certainly God’s gift, it is up to you to nurture it.” The more we nurture our longing for God, the more we reflect his attributes, even without saying a word. Augustine advises us, “To my God, a heart of flame, to my fellow man, a heart of love, to myself, a heart of steel.”

How often do we ponder that which lies deep in our hearts? If we dwell there, perhaps we will find gems that will make us better Christians. May the deep, good desires of our heart sustain us always. Then, like Jill’s mother, we can leave “heartprints” wherever we walk. May the Immaculate Heart of Mary that stresses the nature of Mary’s love and concern for all who call upon her, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is the source of God’s boundless love and mercy, be our guides on this quest.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;

Thou my best thought in the day and the night,

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.


Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,

I ever with thee, and thou with me, Lord;

Thou my great Father, and I thy true son;

Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.


Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,

Thou mine inheritance through all my days;

Thou, and thou only the first in my heart,

High King of heaven, my treasure thou art!


High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright sun,

Grant me its joys after vict’ry is won;

Christ of my own heart, whatever befall,

Still be my vision, O Ruler of All.


Eleanor Henrietta Hull

Daily Prayer from the Divine Office

Carolyn Humphreys, OCDS About Carolyn Humphreys, OCDS

Carolyn Humphreys, OCDS, OTR, is a discalced Carmelite, secular, and a registered occupational therapist. She is the author of the following books: From Ash to Fire: A Contemporary Journey through the Interior Castle of Teresa of Avila, Carmel Land of the Soul: Living Contemplatively in Today’s World, Mystics in the Making: Lay Women in Today's Church, Living Through Cancer: A Practical Guide to Cancer Related Concerns, and Everyday Holiness: A Guide to Living Here and Getting to Eternity. Her latest book, Courage Through Chronic Disease, was published by the National Catholic Bioethics Center. Her articles have been in Spirituality, Mount Carmel, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Review for Religious, Spiritual Life, Human Development, and other Catholic journals. Carolyn's reflections can be found online at contemplativechristianityorg.wordpress.com.


  1. Fr. David Vincent Meconi, SJ Fr. David Vincent Meconi, SJ says:

    It is always a pleasure to reread pieces like this, giving perspective and indefatigable hope, in our Victorious Christ! Fr. Meconi