On the 28th day of August, 2018, as the Church commemorates the feast of St. Augustine; the statue of Our Lady Healer of Hearts arrived at Kansas City International Airport.
We know from history that in his youth, St. Augustine stole merely for the sake of stealing, had a long-term affair, fathered a child outside of wedlock, and abandoned the Christian Faith.
Back then, in the eyes of most people, St. Augustine would have likely been referred to as sinful, shady, and what we commonly refer to as, “bad news.”
Through the fervent prayers of his mother, St. Monica, and inspired by a divine child-like voice instructing him to read a passage in scripture; Augustine, like the Prodigal Son, returned home to the Father. Today he is revered as one of the great doctors of the Church.
It was through the unconditional love of a mother that Augustine was reunited with the Father. It was through God the Father, Who delights when sinners return home, that Augustine gave the Church timeless wisdom and witness.
Like Augustine, many of us have led lives that weren’t always pleasing to God. Perhaps some of us have even been referred to as shady, sinful, and “bad news.” And like Augustine, we all have the opportunity to experience healing, returning our hearts, minds, and actions to a life pleasing to God.
Like St. Monica, Our Blessed Mother’s love is unconditional. She never ceases to pray that all Her children return home to the Father. Nothing pleases Her more than when a heart, hardened by sin, is softened by Her Love and the Divine Mercy of Her Son.
It is likely no coincidence that this beautiful depiction of Our Lady Healer of Hearts begins the final leg in her journey home to our house of prayer on the plains of Kansas on the feast of St. Augustine. We are all on a journey home. The symbolic nature of this date, therefore, carries with it two messages: one for the sinner, one for those that would judge the sinner.
To the sinner: The Blessed Mother delights in coming to the aid of Her children. She calls even the worst of sinner to come, embrace her Immaculate Heart, to be enveloped in her motherly love. Mary is a Divine Mother, whose love transcends our comprehension. She desires that our hearts be healed, filled with unceasing love and abundant forgiveness so that we can fully experience Our Lord's Divine Mercy. For our part, we must have the courage to love, to forgive, to pray, and seek to follow God's Will for our life. Our Lady promises us that if we do these things, the reward will be so great that it will surpass our ability to comprehend.
To those who would judge the sinner: Just as Augustine, who at one point led a reprehensible life, found our Lord, so too can any sinner who genuinely seeks repentance. To shame the sinner for his or her previous actions, to dismiss him or her as shady, sinful, and “bad news” is an act no less destructive than the acts committed by the sinner. Our faith teaches us to hate the sin, but to pray for the sinner. Such prayer has the potential to heal hearts and draw even the most sinful closer to God. Be careful - the seeds of discontent you sew when you harshly judge a sinner yield thistles where God may be sewing seeds that will bear good fruit. The thistles will only make walking your path to holiness more uncomfortable.
May Our Blessed Mother embrace hearts that are darkened by sin and fervently plead before God that they be transfigured. It is only when our hearts are healed, when they are genuinely united with Our Lord’s Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Our Most Blessed Mother, that can we truly appreciate the gift of Divine Mercy. When our hearts are united with theirs, they are more precious than gold.
May each of us, through the intercession of Our Lady Healer of Hearts, attain a heart of gold. When we attain such a heart, may we offer our gratitude in words similar to those of St. Augustine:
"Blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay you with praise and thanksgiving for having rescued a fallen world by your generous consent? ...accept then such poor thanks as we have to offer, unequal though they be to your merits. Receive our gratitude and obtain by your prayers the pardon of our sins. Take our prayers into the sanctuary of heaven and enable them to bring about our peace with God...Holy Mary, help the miserable, strengthen the discouraged, comfort the sorrowful, pray for your people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God. May all who venerate you, feel now your help and protection. ...Make it your continual care to pray for the people of God, for you were blessed by God and were made worthy to bear the Redeemer of the world, who lives and reigns for ever.”
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J. Basil Dannebohm is the founder and moderator of the Society of Our Lady Healer of Hearts.