A Heart on Fire:
Andrew Cera, SJ
November 2021 – In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis says, “We achieve fulfillment when we break down walls and our heart is filled with faces and names” (EG 274). Those words emerged while I meditated during my most recent eight-day silent retreat at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Parma, Ohio. I realized, as I begin my seventh year as a Jesuit and my second year of regency at John Carroll University, that I could not count the number of times I have said to myself, to God, and to others, “THIS WAS SO FULL,” after reflecting on some experience or encounter. And in that retreat’s silence, I understood that my vocation—my heart—has been formed and filled by so many names and faces!
I thought of my three years at Fordham University in New York (first studies)—doing master’s studies in philosophical resources and Christian spirituality (concentrating in spiritual direction)—and all the professors, fellow graduate students, brother Jesuits, residents in Finlay Residence Hall (where I was a resident minister), students on the retreats I was present on, and all those I chatted with at Starbucks and Rod’s Coffee, as well as on the quad!
Most immediately, though, my reflection lays on the names and faces that are filling my heart at John Carroll. Here, I am involved in various parts of campus: teaching Ignatian spirituality in the theology and religious studies department and serving as an instructor in the Ignatian Spirituality Institute, a two-year spiritual direction training program in the Ignatian tradition, as well as directing student retreats for campus ministry. Throughout this, the words of Caryll Houselander have held close to my heart: “One never knows when the loveliest moment of life is striking.”
I feel these lovely moments striking most palpably in what has become one of my greatest joys at John Carroll—sitting in an Adirondack chair on the quad and being attentive to God’s revealing presence. I cannot predict or control this; it’s something that I can only receive and be surprised by. It comes in the form of smiles and waves across the quad and conversations and encounters centering around anything from prayer, organic chemistry, secondary causality, and Spikeball to whatever gives life meaning or the desire and search for meaning. But behind all of this are individuals who not only show me something more of God, but who break down walls and fill my heart.
And so, as I circle around the quad every evening on my walk back to the Schell House Jesuit Community, I find myself uniting my prayer with George Herbert, saying, “O Lord, who has given me so much, give me one thing more—a grateful heart.” How else could a heart that is filled with so many names and faces respond?
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