In my interactions with students at Boston College, where I teach and live with freshmen, I often speak to them about the need for continued care of the senses of the heart. I emphasize the need to exercise these interior senses, because the physical senses already receive so much attention during college formation. During studies, it is simply a given that the physical senses will constantly be tapped. Students use their eyes to read texts and their ears to listen to lectures. Indeed, such sharp and consistent use of the physical senses enables a person’s intellect to blossom and thrive during formation. Of course, this is precisely what we desire for our students during such an important time of growth like college. We want them to leave the college experience with sharp minds.
Yet I also very much desire they receive sharp hearts. It is for this reason that I emphasize the need to listen with the ears of the heart and to see with the eyes of the heart. Protecting and promoting the senses of the heart, exercising them daily through prayer, conversation, contemplation, and wonder, will ensure that they continue to thrive. I believe such exercise will always produce extraordinary depth of heart that, combined with a great mind, results in an extraordinary human being. This is humanity at its best.
In my opinion, this is the summit of the imitation of Christ, for we Christians believe that Jesus best exemplifies this union of heart and mind.
I find this to be very worthy of our seeking, asking, and knocking. I find myself at my very best when the ears of my heart are aligned with the ears of my head. Virtues like gentleness, hope, and love seem to flow from this communion of interior and exterior listening. I’d say the same is true for vision and touch and taste.
I believe God desires this union of heart and mind for each of his beloved daughters and sons. We draw closer to God when we see and feel and taste and listen interiorly, because it is within the heart that God’s spirit resides. When we receive from this Holy Spirit, we discover that our interior expands. This magnanimity, this big heartedness, is the way that Jesus lives and moves and has his very being within us. It is how he reveals himself in the world today.
Casey Beaumier, SJ, is director of the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies at Boston College, the school from which he received his Ph.D. in United States religious history. He lives in Fenwick Hall, where he serves as mentor and spiritual director for students, seminarians, women religious, and priests. Fr. Beaumier is the author of A Purposeful Path: How Far Can You Go with $30, a Bus Ticket, and a Dream?