“O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.” Today, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Catholics throughout the world are making this petition. Our Lord Jesus was, of course, preeminently meek and humble, but, we may wonder, what other virtues are we asking for in this short prayer? In what other ways do we desire our hearts to be “like unto his”? I would suggest that the life of our Holy Father Saint Dominic can help us find an answer to this question.
In the biblical sense, the “heart” refers to the very depths of one’s being, where one decides for or against God (CCC 368). A heart that is purified is one that is given over to God alone, and to those who have such hearts eternal life is promised:
Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who shall stand in his holy place?
The man with clean hands and pure heart,
Who desires not worthless things” (Psalm 24:3-4).
In the Gospel, we hear this promise again from the lips of Christ himself: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
To some, this might seem to suggest that one should keep the concerns of sinners far away from one’s own heart. Under this interpretation, the less one thinks about sins and sinners, the more pure one’s heart is. In the life of Saint Dominic, however, we see purity of heart manifested in a very different way. Blessed Jordan of Saxony, Dominic’s immediate successor as Master of the Order, wrote of him, “God gave him the singular gift of weeping for sinners, the wretched, and the afflicted, whose sufferings he felt within his compassionate heart, which poured out its hidden feelings in a shower of tears.”
Dominic, far from keeping sinners at bay, welcomed them into his heart and made of them an integral part of his prayer and contemplation. In his nightly vigils, he could often be overheard asking the Lord, “What will become of sinners?” Not only in his prayer, but also in his relationships with others, he was known for this solicitude: “All men were swept into the embrace of his charity, and, in loving all, he was beloved by all.”
Saint Dominic challenges our notion of what it means to have a pure heart, and it is a truly Christian challenge. His embrace of sinners is the manifestation of an authentic imitation of Christ. To be pure of heart is to have one’s heart so closely conformed to the Sacred Heart, that his concerns become ours. We do not need to search the Gospels for long to discover that Our Lord carried the concerns of sinners and the afflicted in his Sacred Heart: “At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Here, in the Gospel and in the life of Saint Dominic, we find one more gift we might obtain by asking our Lord, “Make my heart like unto thine.”