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Opening Our Hearts


By Gregory Kepferle
CEO, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and President, Charities Housing Development Corporation

What does it mean to have an “open heart”, to be “open-hearted”? If we take it literally, it can be quite risky and painful. Years ago as a lay hospital chaplain, I had the opportunity to attend an open heart surgery. In my memory it was both an efficient practical ballet by competent medical professionals and a holy intimate moment of witnessing a wounded heart exposed in order to be healed. The physicians and nurses had their own “open hearts” to save the life of another human being.

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of attending an audience with Pope Francis at Saint Peter’s in Rome. After the audience was over, he made the slow journey of greeting dignitaries, guests, and the faithful lined up behind barricades around the piazza. I was struck by his gentle, joyful countenance as he greeted each person and as he waved to us. I thought, here is a man with an open heart, whose heart is open to the Spirit.

Each of us is invited to feel this same joy as we are filled with compassion for others in need. Even as we address terrible human challenges, we can be filled with joy because of our faith and our hope in that same Holy Spirit who came upon the first disciples, as we trust that ultimately God’s love will prevail.

Yes, we have too much homelessness and hunger in the midst of plenty in this valley. Yes, there are too many people with mental illness who are not being helped. Yes, immigrant families are fearful of being split up and war refugees fear for their very lives.

Yes, isolated seniors feel neglected and lonely and, yes, youth in tough neighborhoods are tempted to join gangs to protect themselves. Yes, former prisoners have a hard time finding work and a place to live. Yes, flood survivors are still not back in their homes. And yes, at the same time, we have thousands of generous people with open hearts who care for these very vulnerable neighbors.

This is the joy that I am privileged to experience at Catholic Charities, the joy of witnessing so many open hearts who truly are changing lives for good. I invite you to open your own heart and experience the joy of the Spirit.

For more information please visit, www.catholiccharitiesscc.org.