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Spiritual gifts for a world in need of God

In my childhood home, our picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hung in the hallway near the large crucifix that held the holy water and candles for last rites. Many of us who grew up in Catholic homes can remember this devotion and the promises of the Sacred Heart, made to Margaret Mary Alocoque, that the places wherein the image was exposed and honored would be blessed, that God’s love would be imprinted on the hearts of those who wear the image. Those who promoted the devotion would have their names written in God’s heart, never to be effaced. Those who made the nine first Friday Masses would be guaranteed a peaceful death.

The Litany of the Sacred Heart recited at those Masses called the Heart of Jesus the mystic winepress, poured out as a gift, God’s joy, God’s shalom.

In this special section on spirituality, Wendy Wright, professor of theology at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., and past president of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, invokes this old Catholic devotion and shows its continued relevance to our times, especially since the events of Sept. 11, in a world in need of God’s shalom.

NCR’s special report writer, Patricia Lefevere, profiles Sr. Arleen Hynes, Benedictine nun and mother of 10 children, who uses poetry in her retreat work to inform and inspire the spirituality and prayer of those who come looking for guidance and renewal.

Finally, I look at a growing trend on the spirituality scene toward finding God at work in the world as it presents itself to us here and now. Some of our spiritual leaders are asking that we update our religious imagination and our stories in the light of the knowledge science has been giving us about how the world was formed and how we humans got here. What does it mean to be a Christian today, in a world informed by significant advances in knowledge? This call for a more mature spirituality also addresses a need in a world plagued with both fundamentalism and New-Age fuzziness.

-- Rich Heffern

National Catholic Reporter, December 7, 2001