Seasonal Reflection: ‘Numbers of the Heart’

HNP Communications Features

As the one-month anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings nears, a friar who for nine years was was executive director and guardian of St. Anthony Shrine there, reflected on the meaning of dates – both those with scarring memories and those that offer hope and joy. The following, written after the Boston Marathon bombings, is part of a series of emails distributed by HNP’s executive director of development. Most can be found on the websiteof the HNP Development Office.  

9/11 and 4/15 — these two dates will be seared into my heart for the rest of my life, along with some other dates that are very public. Some, like 6/28 — the day my Dad died — are only for family and friends.

Since 9/11, a date most of us can never forget, we have used these numerical sequences, or “numbers of the heart,” to label the horrific times that have confronted our nation, and now we add 4/15, the date of what has become known as the Boston Bombings. National dates, to be sure, but don’t we all also have our own tragic “numbers of the heart” that are seared into our hearts and souls?

These kinds of recent national or personal “date sequences” are usually centered on a tragedy that has befallen our country or us personally. They may be the date of a ruptured relationship, an act of violence we suffered, or the sudden realization that our lives are never going to be what we thought they would be.

Looking for Hope
Maybe the date is when you first felt the illness or were officially diagnosed with this “thing inside you” eating away at the hope you had for your life and your future.

Your personal, tragic “numbers of the heart” belong to you. Yet, whatever your personal daily tragedy may be that you carry inside you, this might be the time to look for other, more hopeful, “numbers of the heart.”

We must never forget or deny the personal injuries, sadness and tragedies that have and are happening in our lives, but what about securing new “numbers of the heart” that bring us joy and hope?

Suppose we begin to add more hopeful and joyful sequences to our lists of tragic dates and times. Suppose you add dates of births, new relationships, lost and found friends and family, and moments when it feels like God is standing right next to you.

What if we begin to add the times when we felt like full human beings and, even though the hurt was in our hearts, a fresh spirit came into our spirits? Maybe we could begin to peel back the tragic hurts and see the hopeful smiles of the others who came into our lives because of the pain we felt. What if we could begin to name the dates of proud moments — moments when we were proud of ourselves, our children, significant others, friends and co-workers?

Peeling back the Hurt
What would happen if we began to have more hopeful, happy, proud and wonderfully significant dates than tragic ones?

What if our lives began to be more positive than negative, more hopeful than cynical, more loving than spiteful, and more of God than against God?

What if our 9/11s and 4/15s with our other personal “numbers of the heart” began to reflect all the hope we can muster, the service we can provide, and the love we can share?

Then maybe these dates will also become productive moments in the times of our lives that bring a sense of the possibilities that await the God-created human family when we face our fears and our pain together — new and hopeful “numbers of the heart.”

Fill in the blanks for your own new hopeful “numbers of the heart”: ____________.

 Fr. David has served as executive director of the HNP’s development office, as well as director of St. Anthony’s Guild and the National Shrines of St. Anthony and St. Jude, since June 2011. Previously, he served as executive director and guardian of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston.

Friars interested in submitting reflections about holy days, holidays and other timely topics are asked to contact the HNP Communications Office by phone (646-473-0265 ext. 321) or email.