Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Renovations: Knocking Down Walls In Our Hearts

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published January 11, 2007

My critical eye surveys the kitchen linoleum: It is old and ugly and needs to go.

We also need new sinks in the bathroom, and if I have to continue gazing at the blue-flowered wallpaper one more day, surely I will go mad.

Truth be told, most of my home-improvement jobs are done on the fantasy level. In my imagination, I strip off wall paper and refinish floors. Now and again, things actually get done, but only when time—and money—permit.

And sometimes I wonder: What if I put the same degree of energy into doing spiritual renovations?

If I were to move some of the furniture in my soul, I suspect that I would uncover some pretty big dust balls, such as old resentments that I meant to ditch years ago.

Why is it that I can say that I have forgiven someone for hurting me, but then, when I see that person, my first instinct is to turn away?

And there is that wall around my heart with a thick coat of selfishness on it, which keeps me from helping others because I am so wrapped up in myself.

What if I threw that wall down and let Christ’s light shine in?

If I did, perhaps we could add another child to our family in 2007. So far, we have three foster children overseas, through Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and all it takes to care for these little ones is $22 each per month!

Maybe, if I cut back on shopping for clothing that I really don’t need, we might add a fourth smiling face to our refrigerator door.

I hate contemplating home repairs alone, and the same is true for spiritual renovations, so I will need a book to guide me.

One favorite book is “Story of a Soul” by St. Therese of Lisieux, who admitted that she could not do great things but could do small things with great love.

At one point, this little nun wrote that she longed to become a saint but said that the distance between herself and the saints was like that between a mountain and a humble grain of sand.

However, she decided to trust in God, her Father, just like a little child, and went on to create her “little way” to heaven through small sacrifices and acts of kindness, often done in secret.

That thought will help me as I make my spiritual repairs.

For example, it is probably unrealistic to think that I am going to change from an introverted, melancholy soul into an outgoing, cheery person overnight.

But surely, in the spirit of St. Therese, I can do something small each day.

I will try to focus my attention on my co-workers and see if there is someone who needs cheering up. Often, a person can be in the darkest mood, and then a simple joke may help them see things differently.

Here’s another renovation: When I awaken in the morning, instead of complaining about how early it is, I will thank God for a new day and say that prayer I learned as a little girl.

“Dear Jesus: I offer you my prayers, my works, my joys and my sufferings this day. I offer you my heart. Make it meek and humble like yours.”

Before I can tackle all these changes, I will have to spend more quiet time alone in front of the Blessed Sacrament, just basking in Christ’s presence.

And that reminds me of another spiritual renovation job with my name on it.

For me, the eleventh commandment should read: “Thou shall keep thy mouth shut, instead of saying something stupid.”

Recently, a friend brought home-baked cookies to our book club meeting. When I asked her what kind they were, I expected her to describe something decadent and fattening, with chocolate and nuts.

Instead, she told me they were honey bran cookies, and, like an insensitive idiot, I burst out laughing. (Nora, if you are reading this article, please forgive me!)

As St. James put it, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain” (1:26)—and I must say: Amen!

New Year’s resolutions are often self-centered and dwell on getting thin and getting rich. But the point of spiritual renovations is to clear away clutter and get our spiritual house in order.

And the reason is such a good one: to make more room for Jesus Christ in our hearts.

Artwork featured in the print edition by Jef Murray. Lorraine Murray’s books include “Why Me? Why Now? Finding Hope When You Have Breast Cancer,” “How Shall We Celebrate?” and “Grace Notes.” She and her husband, Jef, live in Decatur. Readers may e-mail her at