Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Giving One’s Heart To Life

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published August 21, 2008

Scientists recently claim to have measured the largest eye ever found. The eye belonged to a colossal squid and is as large as a dinner plate. The lens is the size of an orange. The squid lived in the dark ocean depths, and the size of the lens enabled it to capture enough light in order to see.

I read the article in the paper. Like so many wonders of nature, the marvel of being able to see in the near total dark amazes me. Plants and animals adapt to their surroundings and in order to survive, even thrive, they are blessed with some fantastic qualities. I use the word “blessed” in its divinely relevant sense. Life in so many forms reveals an astounding array of fine-tuned attributes that can make us humans wonder what it is about us as a species that is given by God to optimize our lives.

Most of us take our senses for granted—we get through a day by seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling, speaking and understanding, using language that is a marvel in itself. Yet, when you think about it, all of these can function splendidly but unless carried out with a certain extra “something” we can see but be blind, hear and be deaf, listen and hear nothing.

The extra something is heart.

We all have one. They are all in the same place. They all beat and enable us to live. And I suppose that they are all about the same size in most people. Its true worth cannot be measured in inches or on a scale. Its prime purpose can only be measured by how we learn to use it by receiving and giving love.

To learn to use the heart wisely is to open every other sense to wondrous possibilities. Those who know love see life differently. They hear life and live life, walk through life with an awareness magnified—yes, blessed—by the God who makes himself known in and through the human heart.

A young man was recently at our guesthouse. He stayed for a few days, enjoying the peace of this place. His name is Mike. I had lunch with him one day and asked what he wanted to do for a career. He told me, in a voice that carried no small amount of passion, that he wanted to find a place in life where he could love God, other people, and serve them by healing a hurt world. Specifically, he wants to devote his life to ecological concerns. I offered him a few suggestions as to groups he may want to investigate.

“I want to give my heart to what is good in life,” he told me. With those few words, he summed up the meaning of life.

The human heart longs for many things—for God, for happiness, for love, for goodness and truth. It is seemingly never fully satisfied—for every day can bring with it new hopes, new possibilities. To give one’s heart to life in the hope of making this world a better place is a life well lived. It is to share in the very life of God—who I would think is quite passionate about all that he has made.

Mike went on his way early this morning. I have a feeling that he probably considers himself a seeker of heart in that he is looking for that place in life where he can put his heart to work.

Maybe, though, he learned in his few days here that his heart is finding him and guiding him. All he has to do is follow his dream and do what he wants and loves to do.

People like him expand exponentially the presence of God in this world—the God who becomes more real as we use our hearts to find what is good.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery Web store at His new book is “Portraits of Grace: Images and Words From the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.”