As part of Jesuit Heritage Week 2018, we had the pleasure of hosting Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, for a Dahlgren Chapel Sacred Lecture. Sister Simone shared with the community her reflections on the importance of heartbreak in the work that she does to advocate for marginalized groups in society.
The most moving and inspiring part of Sister Simone’s talk was her discussion of heartbreak. Like many people, I try to avoid heartbreak as much as possible. Heartbreak reveals my vulnerability—that I am not in total control when outside forces can have such a disturbing impact on me. Sister Simone’s conceptualization of heartbreak, however, highlighted the courage and boldness it takes to be willing to have our hearts broken, for when we open ourselves up to listening to and witnessing the life experiences of others, it is then that our hearts are able to break. Break for the mother whose son has been murdered, for the ill man who cannot afford medical treatment, and even for those who hurt us, who have themselves been hurt by someone else.
I had to ask myself throughout the lecture, how often do I let my heart sincerely and compassionately break? As much as I may pat myself on the back as an educated Georgetown student who wants to make positive changes in our world, what do I do when I’m confronted with pain and suffering? How easy it is for me to turn to numbing activities, scrolling through social media or watching Netflix, because if I paid enough attention I might actually be called to do more than tweet the latest #PrayFor____. As Sister Simone put it, if we are too busy protecting our hearts, then we are not engaged with our communities.
Sister Simone’s words were sobering, but they were inspiring and hopeful at the same time. For as she said, when we have the courage to have our hearts broken, when we move from a spirituality that is only for ourselves into a spirituality that engages with others, that is when the Spirit comes alive. As she talked about her experiences listening to and speaking with others and having her heart broken, she showed that when we speak from a broken heart, a heart that has genuinely been opened up to see and understand others, that is when healing takes place.
What does this mean for me as a college student? As Ignatian spirituality has helped me to develop my interior life, through things like praying the examen or going on retreat, it is tempting for me to use my spirituality for my own gain. However, if I as a student am to truly embody what it means to be a person for others, I must actively push past myself and engage with the realities and experiences of those around me. As Sister Simone said so eloquently, the desert is able to restore us, but then we must dare to go into the center of life—that area of life where we are most vulnerable, where we see one another, and where we embrace the brokenness of our humanity.
Written by Alexis Larios, COL ’18