Thursday, October 13, 2005

Heart's Home - an encounter!

A few weeks ago (or was it months?), I brought my wife and children to a get-together at a working colleague’s new house. At the party, I met several people from France who are members of a Catholic movement called Heart's Home, that I had never heard of before. They lived in a residence in the Bronx. They are missionaries whose objective is to assist poor children, and "to love them as God loves them."

At the party, I met two French guys who were college students but are taking a year off to do an internship with Hearts Home. Also present were two French girls--O.K., women!-- in their early twenties who came to the U.S. from France a year ago. They are permanent members of Hearts Home and have committed themselves to a lifetime of poverty, chastity and obedience.

I had met the French women previously at a book seminar in Manhattan, but had
no idea what they did exactly. After hearing so much about how secularized Europe is now, especially with the young people, and especially in France, it was a very heartwarming experience to have met them, the guys included.

In talking with one of the French guys, I said that as an American I felt ashamed that people had to come all the way from France to be missionaries in our own inner cities. It is shameful that such a wealthy and great nation as America has so many poor people and that we do not take care of them.

He responded by saying that in many places in the world with lots of poor people, they never-the-less often have supportive networks and communities and help each other out. He said, however, that it is in the big cities of advanced countries you find many, many lonely people living in despair.

Later, I asked one of the French women how, at such a young age, was she was able to make a lifetime commitment to something like this. She immediately shot back, "You are married. How was it that I was able to make a decision to get married?"

I answered without hesitation, "I was scared, very, very scared, terrified, in fact."

She made a very good point. I do not know if her decision was difficult or not, but she made me realize that I belong to a generation and a culture that avoids commitments, especially permanent ones.

What I also felt but did not say was that of course a life of celibacy is hard, but I think married life can be even harder. In marriage I have experienced emotional pain and anguish the likes of which I never imagined.

Bear in mind that I am 50, and the people I speak of are young enough to be my children. I commend and envy the guys, and I have awe and admiration of the women.

Well, I was thinking about all this and many other details and impressions from this encounter when I drove to work, and I happened to be listening to an old music CD, Buddha and the Chocolate Box, from Cat Stevens (my favorite pop artist of all time). There is one very good song on it called, "Oh Very Young," and it occurred to me as I listened, that it touched, however ambiguously, on both what I had felt about these courageous, adventuresome and risk taking men and women who have decided to dedicate all or part of their lives to Christian service to others, as well as what I felt about myself in relationship to them. (Read the pessimistic parts as about me and the optimistic parts about them!) The lyrics also vaguely deal with commitment. Cat Steven’s best love songs are about relationships that have broken up and this is in that category. Overall, emotionally, I relate it to the fact that the two consecrated French girls have separated themselves from us guys! Just like Cat Stevens loses his girl! You really need to listen to the recording though to hear the emotions as sung by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens).

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddy’s best jeans
Denim blue fading up to the sky
And though you want them to last forever
You know they never will
You know they never will
And the patches make the goodbye harder still

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
There’ll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
You know you never will
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time

By the way, the founder of the movement, Fr. Theiry was also at the party, and I found him to be a very, genuinely humble man.

My God Bless Heart's Home and may it prosper!

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