heart's home

maison de adrienne

Recently I visited the Adrienne von Speyr House (Maison de Adrienne) in Paris, France. It is one of the homes of the ecclesial movement Points-Coeur or in the English Heart's Home. Founded over twenty years ago by Fr. Thierry de Roucy, they desire to be the presence of Mary at the foot of the Cross.

They have several houses throughout the world serving the poorest of the poor in such countries as Chile, Thailand, Ukraine, Brazil, and India, but also they are in richer countries where the poverty of loneliness is extreme like in Japan, United States, Italy, and France.

Having taken on the name of Adrienne, this house in Paris serves as a spiritual home for a community of young professional women who after university are often left without a community of friends in faith. They gather for sharing in the riches of the culture of compassion through prayer and fellowship.

Immersed in heaven, living in the world, and lead by the motherly prayer of Sr. Isabel, who is a Servant of God's Presence, they gave living water to this thirsty American in Paris with their Cercle Adrienne-von-Speyr.

They read Adrienne. They pray Adrienne. They are Adrienne.

adrienne von speyr on the meaning of suffering

Recently, I spoke with the new international volunteers working with Heart’s Home to prepare them for their compassionate service to those who are suffering.

My thesis for the presentation is this:

“Things have meaning only to the extent that they lead to God, come from him and can be placed at his service” (Adrienne von Speyr, Mystery of Death, p. 47).

Two parts make up this presentation on Adrienne von Speyr and the meaning of suffering. The first part below is an overview of Adrienne’s life and thought especially as it relates the meaning of personhood and how suffering fits within her understanding of being a person in relation to God and others. Here is part one:

I hope you enjoyed that one. We go deeper yet.

The second part of the presentation below is a discussion of the chapter “Death as God’s Action” from Adrienne’s book The Mystery of Death. Here is part two:

I hope you enjoyed that one too.

For those interested in a tangent about how I’ve come to these insights about Adrienne on the meaning of suffering, please continue to read on.

I’ve been working on several major research projects on the meaning of suffering through the academic conference Making Sense of Suffering with the scholar community Inter-Disciplinary.Net. I presented at their Prague conference last year on Balthasar and the Meaning of Suffering. A version of the presentation is in the conference proceedings eBook Making Sense of Suffering: Theory, Practice, and Representation. I will be presenting at their next conference on Adrienne and the Meaning of Suffering, which I will post here when it becomes available. Additionally, if you are really interested in the postmodern debate on the meaning of suffering, I have recently co-edited a book on it, which is will be available in a few months.

Thank you for being such loyal readers of this website. I’m grateful for your comments and emails. Blessings to you all.

"service as compassionate confession" - audio presentation on adrienne von speyr

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Alfred Hitchcock’s “I, Confess”On October 23, 2010 and February 19, 2011, I presented (my best yet) orientation to Adrienne von Speyr and her theology of Confession. I was speaking to Heart’s Home international volunteers (more about them here). You may remember, I gave a presentation to them last summer on Adrienne’s understanding of finitude and infinitude

Here’s the audio from my presentation: The Mission of Service as Compassionate Confession.

Von Speyr’s theology of Confession from her book Confession places the sacrament within the divine relations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I have never met a more profound, accessible, important theology of confession anywhere else.

I begin my discussion with this central quotation:

“There is no mission that is not determined decisively by one’s confessional attitude” (Confession, p. 208)

As you follow my discussion of the confessional attitude and how it relates to mission, you will also need these quotations below from Adrienne’s book Confession (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985).

1. “In all events which are not inevitable and in whose course freedom and inclination can intervene, a person usually searches for a solution or a way out and often for a reason or cause as well. … Only when this success fails to materialize according to his wish does he look for the causes behind the failure, and it is in this search that he first encounters the question concerning the state of his own life. … Yet it is precisely when he justifies himself and concludes that he is innocent that his deeper discomfort—the feeling of a hidden guilt—begins” (11).

2. “Ultimately, only the Creator of the human soul will be able to treat it so that it becomes the soul he needs. Only he can heal it, and he does this in ways that only he knows and discloses and prescribes for healing. … the decisive way of God—confession—is based on obedience: more specifically, on the obedience to God” (15).

3. “If a person … comprehends himself as standing before God, and if he knows that he, like Adam, was created by God and redeemed by Christ and that Christ opens for him the way to the Father and the doors of heaven, then … he will expect confession with a kind of necessity” (16).

4. “As long as a person is not confessing, he feels free to speak or keep silent about whatever he wishes. What he then hates in confession is not the humbling experience of revealing himself, and not the fact that he is a sinner—he already knows that somehow—but the necessity of capitulating before and within total confession, the fact that the freedom of selection has been withdrawn and that the only choice remaining is to reveal everything or nothing. He is sick as a whole person and must be healed as such, and not eclectically. That is the first humbling experience. The second is that he is only one of many and has to accept the same conditions as do the others … [he experiences] the elimination of all external differentiation … merely one penitent in the line of other sinners. The peculiarities of my particular ‘case’, which made it seem so interesting to me and which I would so gladly have explained to the listener, do not matter at all any more” (18).

5. “Whoever would learn how to confess must first look at the life of the Son of God” (20).

6. “God stands before God in the attitude that is fitting for God. Analogously, we can designate this as the attitude of confession, since it is the attitude in which God shows himself as he is. … When the Son institutes confession at Easter, he does so to bring this divine attitude closer to human beings, to mediate to them part of the trinitarian life” (21).

7. “One can say that the Lord lives on earth before the Father in the same condition in which the perfect penitent should live before his own confessor, before the Church and before God: in complete openness, concealing nothing, always ready in every moment to expect the intervention of the Holy Spirit, drawing security from the Father and his Spirit instead of from within himself. The Son lives in perpetual contact with the Father, and the expression of this contact is his word, ‘Not my will, but thy will be done’” (23).

8. “Anyone who has recognized, in confession and in the prayer belonging to it, the possibility not only of ridding himself of his own sins through the grace of the Lord but also of helping others at the same time will suddenly realize that there is a place where confession and mission encounter and permeate one another to the point of coincidence” (206).

9. “There is no mission that is not determined decisively by one’s confessional attitude” (208). 

I hope that you enjoy this discussion. Please leave your comments below.

NB: If you want to read more, chapter eleven of Confession, which is on the confession of the saints, can be found here.

"our finitude encounters the trinity's infinitude" - audio presentation on adrienne von speyr

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On June 17, 2010, I presented an hour and a half long orientation on Adrienne von Speyr to the new volunteers for Heart’s Home, a religious movement I wrote about earlier. I thought I would share the digital audio version of the presentation. 

The presentation is divided into three parts. The first third of the talk (00’-22’) gives an interpretive key to Adrienne’s thought. In the second third (22’-41’), I present an biographical overview to her life. In the last third (41’-1:08’), we read and discuss a few quotations from Adrienne’s book, The Boundless God, which I give to you below. In closing (1:08’-1:25’), we have question and answer.  

I am presenting to the six new volunteers for Heart’s Home for their orientation program before they are sent to their destination for 14-18 months. Oh, and you’ll also hear me laughing at my own jokes. If I don’t, who will? There is much imperfection here, but you may find this worth listening to if you would like to learn more about who Adrienne was and how to begin to understand her.

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Quotations from The Boundless God referenced during the presentation:

1. “When God creates the world he makes a beginning right in the middle of his eternity, a beginning that inaugurates the realm of number and numeration; day and night are already separated, and so times are placed in rhythmic succession.  … The realm of number and of finitude does not close in on itself; it remains the arena of infinite, that is, eternal life.  And when we are told that the Father is in communion with the Son and with the Spirit from eternity, we also experience that he is a God of love who begets the Son as his image and likeness, who pours out the Spirit, and who lets them both participate in the same eternity and infinity while receiving from them this very same eternity and infinity. Love thus knows no bounds; it proceeds from and to the eternal God.” (21)

2. “Because man sins and becomes unworthy of God’s love, God creates a punishment while at the same time also creating—as a new testimony of love—time which alone can be identified as the experience of finitude in the actual sense: he creates death. Through death, God puts an end to the creature who has chosen sin so that the condition of being in sin does not continue without bounds.” (22)

3. “the Son has taken upon himself the end that is death and has died for all men … Because the Son dies for and with him, he will be entrusted in death completely to the grace of God. Therefore, he already knows in life that the finitude of his existence corresponds to a grace from God that has been granted to all men and not just to him. The experience of his finitude, however, affords him knowledge of God’s infinity: his knowledge of the end of earthly life is a recognition of eternal life.  He can thus regard death, not only as punishment, but equally as the Father’s grace. The Son has taken death’s purely punitive character upon himself and thereby released the character of grace for his brothers, whereby he unveils and fulfills the purpose of finitude.” (22-23)

4. “His descent into the underworld is part of this sign: he does not just pass fleetingly through these areas unknown to us; he stays there for three days. He therefore takes the entire accumulation of his strength into the sacrifice that led to his death, beyond death and into the underworld.  … the world that he brought with him is his heavenly world, the world of the Father and of the Spirit, a world that infinitely surpasses our own. As humans, we are inclined to regard each act that the Son performs as finite, yet with each act he opens up infinity. Each time he does something as man, he does something divine. In everything he is and does, he grants us glimpses into the boundlessness of heaven. “ (24)

5. “Confession grants us just such a view of infinity. When we go to confession, we pass through a kind of death and, by acknowledging our sin, reach the end of it—the end that God has instituted through death. We repentantly confess and reach a boundary, an endpoint given us by the Son. The absolution we receive comes from beyond the here and now and is comparable to going to heaven. Sin is  shown its end in accordance with God’s punitive judgment, but a new life is also shown its beginning. Man experiences through this that God is exercising his love anew. He has been granted death and confession so that he can grant new space to the infinite love of the triune God.” (24-25)

6. “for the individual is always invited by the Son to satisfy the demands of the Father with the strength of the Holy Spirit, in the unity of the Son who lives on in the communion of saints, and with the definitive wherewithal of the Mother’s Yes.” (150)

My thanks to Sr. Regine for the invitation to present on Adrienne von Speyr.  Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

a speyrian interpretation of the prodigal son as the prodigal Word

The gospel reading on the Fourth Sunday of Lent is the story of the prodigal son (Lk 15:1-3,11-32). My friend, Deacon Paul Anel, who is the Art Director of Heart’s Home USA in Brooklyn chose to use a Speyrian interpretation of the passage for his sermon last Sunday.  Here we see von Speyr’s principle at work—everything in Scripture must be brought into the trinitarian relations. 

By permission, I present the sermon here for you:The prodigal Word kneeling at the feet of the Father

“‘A man had two sons…’ We heard that story so many times that we know it by heart. Yet each time we hear it again, we cannot help identifying with this man. I am the prodigal son, the son who strayed away from his Father’s love and home. I wasted my time and life for things that could not make me happy. This parable is the story of my life, my journey, it is the story of my sins and conversions.

Conversion, we believe, is our responsibility. That’s what Lent and penance is about, isn’t it? Sin is something that pertains to us, whereas everything good in us pertains to God: patience, tenderness, courage and, above all, charity. He has taken everything from us. Everything but sin. Sin still belongs to us. It is our thing, our responsibility. Sin is what God cannot take away from us. It belongs to us, and therefore, conversion too. It is our work, our lifelong effort. Maybe our pride.

“‘A man had two sons…’ I would like to suggest that we read that Parable differently. ‘A man had two sons…’ God the Father lived in perfect communion with the Word and the Holy Spirit. Everything that belonged to him belonged to them: his divinity, his perfect knowledge, his love. One day though, the Word decided to set off to a country far away. Taking his heritage, that is, his divine nature, he left his Father’s home and came down into the world. The Word was made flesh and he dwelt among us. There he was, walking among us. Wasting his divine heritage during thirty years in the silence of Nazareth. Then sitting in the house of the sinners, eating with tax collectors and prostitutes. Giving away everything he possessed: his time, his words, his strength. Giving away everything, up to his flesh and blood. Up to his garments. Until he found himself starving on the cross, starving for love, for forgiveness. Far from his Father, no longer deserving to be called his Son, abandoned by him and by us.

“Sin does not belong to us. Not anymore. If there is one thing that Jesus took away from us, it is sin, precisely. Not that he committed sin. It did much more than that: ‘He was made sin’, says St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. He was made sin. That is, he experienced the agony, the exile, the consequences of sin to an extent never quite experienced by any human being. He endured the agony of sin and the loneliness of hell in a way we cannot even imagine.

Love One Another by Georges Rouault, 1923“Lent is not about our conversion, not primarily. It is about Christ’s conversion. It is about Christ confessing on the Cross the sin of the world, our sin, my sin. It is about the Father embracing Jesus-Christ on Easter morning, absolving him from the burden of Sin. Covering him with the mantle of victory. Putting at his finger the nuptial ring… For Jesus did not come back alone to his Father’s home. He married our humanity, saving us from our prostitutions to lifeless idols. Making us the Church, his pure and sinless bride.

“During the next three weeks before Easter, let us ask the Father - not for our conversion - but that we may keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ with faith and gratitude. That each confession may be a participation in his own Great Confession on the Cross. That each confession may fill us with the certitude of the Absolution, that was given once and for all on Easter morning. That each Eucharist may give us the joy to celebrate with him, in his Father’s house, the gift of Salvation.”

—Thank you for this, Deacon Anel.

 

von speyr's spirituality influenced the founding of heart's home

For me one of the great blessings of this website is meeting all of you who read it.  Since moving to New York City, I have had the pleasure of meeting the living saints who work for Heart's Home USA, which is an international charitable organization and Catholic ecclesial movement.  The reason for featuring them on this website, which is dedicated to all things Adrienne, is that the founder of Heart's Home or Points-Coeur, Rev. Thierry de RoucyRev. Thierry de Roucy, was significantly influenced by Adrienne von Speyr's spirituality in creating this ecclesial movement.

Founded in France in 1990 and now in twenty countries, the international movement is truly spreading a culture of compassion inspired by Speyrian spirituality.  Père Thierry who usually works from their International Center for a Culture of Compassion in Woodbourne, NY leads retreats, gives talks, and offers schools of community that are usually based on Speyrian themes and writings.  Père Thierry, of course, has written about the spirituality of Adrienne von Speyr (e.g. Adrienne von Speyr: Théologienne de toujours plus and Jésus, les Chrétiens et la Confession: Essai sur le Fondement Christologique de la Confession chez Adrienne von Speyr) and when you meet him and others from Heart's Home you know that von Speyr's spirituality, particularly her understanding of the evangelical counsels, is being lived concretely.

Laetitia Palluat of Heart's Home with a friend from a nursing homeTheir good, loving works are many.  For example at their house in Brooklyn, NY, with which I am the most familiar, the priests, sisters, young lay men and women care for those who are sick, disabled, poor, or homebound.  They visit with these suffering people offering whatever they can, but most importantly as Sr. Regine Fohrer likes to say, they offer compassion that shares these peoples' suffering just as Mary intimately shared in Jesus' suffering.  Here in New York City, they also engage in a profound evangelization of culture through their ministry to artists.  I think for example here of the work of Fr. Paul Anel.  You will also find them, especially Père Thierry, giving presentations and retreats that are imbued with Speyrian spirituality: unreserved readiness for anything, obedience as performative love, confession as a profound way of being present within God, and the importance of compassionate engagement with the secular world.Heart's Home Volunteer

As you learn more about Heart's Home, please consider volunteering with them in the US and internationally.  Above all, pray for them that they always reside in the heart of Jesus, sharing his love with all.