The heart is used metaphorically as the centre. For example, a son or daughter is referred to as the heartbeat of parents. The rhythm of the heart indicates the quality of our overall health. By using a stethoscope, medical doctors listen to the heartbeat. Positioning it in their ears, the stethoscope drowns out external noise and the doctor becomes aware of the heart’s rhythmic beating. To create a healthy society, therefore, the listening to the heart is vital for individual citizens.
The dynamics of the synodal journey is similar. The quality of the discernment process of the community relies heavily on the ability of individual participants to listen. If listening to the Holy Spirit is essential in the discernment of God’s will for the People of God, then each participant needs to engage in spiritual listening in order to contribute to communal listening. It’s like cooperative farming. The overall success of an agricultural cooperative depends largely on the quality of the fruits that each farmer brings to the organization.
Individual participants on the synodal journal need to visit the chapel of their hearts to listen to the Spirit who comes in a “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). Disciples of Christ are invited to “go into your room, close the door and pray. . . in secret. . .” (Matthew 6:6). The secret place is the silence of the heart. It’s sacred because that’s where God is awaiting our broken lives. A visit to the chapel of our heart is essential because “What we give time to creates us” (Joan Chittister, Monastic Heart). If we give time to silent listening to the Spirit, then we become discerning disciples. In a word, listening and discerning disciples form listening and discerning communities.
Many disciples don’t have ready access to a physical chapel each day. However, disciples have immediate access to their own hearts where God is awaiting them. It costs nothing to travel there except the awareness and willingness to pause for few moments during a meeting, a conversation, a conference, at the computer or during manual labour, and listen with the “ear of the heart” (St. Augustine).
“God acts in the simplicity of open hearts, in the patience of those who pause until they can see clearly” (Pope Francis, Let us Dream: The Path to a Better Future).
“In every beating heart is a silent undercurrent that calls each of us to the more of ourselves” (Joan Chittister, The Monastic Heart).