The Invitation

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.


8 thoughts on “The Invitation

  1. Anne Marie Lom

    Ah, yes. I, too, love efficiency and being useful. I am constantly reminded that my presence is what is needed; my heartfelt presence, full of mercy and attentive to the pain and joy of others. Thank you for the reminder, Madeline.

    1. Madeline Bialecki

      Anne Marie, Just “being” was one of the most difficult parts of living in l’Arche for me, and I really learned the lesson (in hindsight) when I was living with Mennonites and came to see that I was not being particularly productive and they loved and accepted me anyway. What a gift.

  2. Patrick

    Great timing Madeline as Friday, June 7th (the end of this week) is The Feast of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus! Thank you for your wonderful reflection Madeline. Yes it is blessed to receive and as an activist-type-extravert (nervous-defensive) it is a most blessed grace when I can (as in “am-able”) receive from the gifts of others. When I esteem others enough to experience their gifts. Usually when I am at the end of self though!

  3. Madeline Bialecki

    Thanks Patrick, I am united with the Cabrini Community in prayer these days before the Feast of the Sacred Heart (I am searching for some Italians for the “feast” part of the holyday–the Cabrini Community always celebrates with a huge meal.)

  4. Marie Morrissey


    It sounds like you are right where you should be and surrounded by “mercy”.

    When I went to Our Lady of Lourdes I was introduced to St.Francis in a broader realm that the statue on a bird bath.  the medical center was started by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany,NY and my role with mission and values is to engage everyone with the Franciscan charism.  It has been amazing how I look to St. Francis and the values he lived to incorporate his lessons into the activities of our Mission Ministry Team.

    I hope everything goes smoothly for your two settlements.


  5. Justine Cadet

    This is a beautiful perspective on how to welcome/invite new phases of our lives. Would love to catch up. ~ Justine Cadet


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