I once believed that new opportunities were primarily invitations to use my talents and skills in ways that would be helpful. I believed that I was called to situations where I had something to give. Living in l’Arche taught me that this is only one perspective, and probably not the most important.
When I was preparing to move to l’Arche, I imagined ways I could be useful—cooking, driving, shopping—everyday tasks. While these are important aspects of community life and I was happy to contribute what I could, I quickly learned that l’Arche was offering me something greater.
I came to see that I was being offered the gift of unconditional acceptance. It was an “aha” moment—this realization that God invites, encourages and sometimes compels me into situations where I am to receive what I need, and that what I receive is more important than what I give.
Since leaving l’Arche, I have tried to pay more attention to these kinds of invitations in new situations and to be open to what is being offered in every situation.
By the time I went to work at Cabrini, I understood that I was being invited to accept and spread the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (the Cabrini Sisters are formally known as the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). Mother Cabrini felt called to exchange her heart with the heart of Jesus and to live out of Jesus’ loving heart. St. Mary Margaret Alacoque calls the love of the heart of Jesus “an abyss of love.”
When I visualize this abyss of love, I see myself standing at the rim of the abyss, being invited to plunge in. I imagine stepping off into the vast emptiness of the abyss—only to be caught up and absorbed in love. It is a beautiful image, and one I have contemplated many times.
The image of the abyss returned to me as I made the move from Pennsylvania to Michigan, leaving the security of my life there for the unknown here. I felt like I was stepping off a cliff.
Now, I am blessed by the opportunity to work for the Mercy Education Project in Southwest Detroit, a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy and a work very similar to what I left in Pennsylvania. (I love the sound of the word “mercy,” with its suggestion of tenderness.)
Sr. Maureen, a Sister of Mercy, took me on a tour of the neighborhood around our building, and our first stop was the Cabrini Medical Clinic. Inside stands a life-size statue of Mother Cabrini.
As far as I know, Mother Cabrini did not visit Detroit or start any missions here, so seeing this clinic and Mother Cabrini’s statue was striking. I was reminded of the love of the Sacred Heart and the invitation to plunge into the abyss of love—and to add a little tenderness for good measure.