Love God and Do as You Please

"The Sacred Heart of Jesus"  by Chambers

“The Sacred Heart of Jesus”
by Chambers

Sally’s baby was crying in church again. He didn’t howl during the hymns when it might have been excused as singing along. He screamed during the sermon and the prayers. He really screamed at that moment when the silence of eternity was meant to touch our lives with its tendrils of tenderness and power. Instead our ears and hearts were grabbed by Charlie’s tentacles of hunger and rage.

Afterwards one of the church ladies named Janet came up to Sally with that smile that looks like she’s baring her teeth. Janet is one of the pillars of the church. She organises the cleaning schedule, sits on the parish council, and volunteers for any job going. She’s a stalwart soldier of Christ and is taking no prisoners.  Janet cootchy-coos the baby under the chin, smiles and says, “He was certainly praising the Lord with a joyful sound this morning!” She reaches to give the baby a cuddle, but Sally makes a polite grimace, says “Yes indeed!” and shifts Charlie out of Janet’s reach.

After getting the brush off, Janet hustles off to gather up the hymnbooks and scold the altar servers for spilling candle wax on the floor. Meanwhile another church lady named Aunt Sue sidles up to Sally. Sue is also a pillar of the church. She organises fund-raising flea markets, cooks lunch every day for two hundred kids in the parish school, sits on the parish council, holds down a part-time job at the local supermarket and finds time for ballroom dancing with George the vet who is lonelier than a hermit. Aunty Sue reaches for baby Charlie and says, “He was certainly raising hell this morning. I thought baptism was supposed to kick the devil out of him!” At this Sally laughs out loud and hands the baby over to Sue for a cuddle.

Later in the week I was talking with Sally and she starts to let off some steam about Janet. As I listen attentively a curious thought occurs to me. Of the two ladies in church Janet said the right thing and Aunty Sue said the wrong thing. On the face of it, Janet made a cheerful Christian comment on the baby’s screaming while Sue’s comment, could have been construed as being rude. The odd thing was that Sally took offence at Janet’s polite comment but was delighted by Sue’s rudeness.

So what was the problem? Janet did everything right, but didn’t have love in her heart. Sue wasn’t that concerned about saying the right thing to the right people, but she did have that simple acceptance and sense of humour which are the symptoms of love.

The incident of Janet and Sue pointed to the truth that you can say practically anything in love and be thanked for it, but without love even the nicest words may be taken as an insult. The New Testament says, “Speak the Truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).

So how does anyone learn to speak the truth in love? We have to get past being like Janet and be more like Sue. The trouble is, this can’t be achieved by human effort. That’s exactly what Janet was trying to do — she was trying to be more loving. Just trying hard to get the outside right is not good enough. If you do that — like Janet — you will only be faking it.

The true answer is far more simple and far more difficult. We need a heart transplant.

In the Old Testament God says he will replace the people’s hearts of stone with a heart of flesh (cf. Ezek. 36:26). That’s the reason I’ve developed a devotion to that most sentimental example of Catholic piety — the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There it is in all its unembarrassed glory — Jesus with his heart on the outside, like some 3D valentine.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus calls me to have a heart transplant — to exchange my heart of ice for his heart of fire. It calls me be more like Sue and less like Janet. It calls me first to be loved, and then to live in that love so naturally that I can say anything to anybody and it will be the simple truth.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is “The Romance of Religion”Visit his blog, browse his books at

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About the Author

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He conducts parish missions, retreats and speaks at conferences across the USA.

His latest book is The Romance of Religion - Fighting for Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Visit his blog, listen to his radio show, and browse his books at

Catechesis teaches us what to believe and how to behave, but Catholics also need down to earth advice for putting their faith into action. For help in your practice of the Catholic faith sign up for FaithWorks! -- Fr Longenecker's free, weekly newsletter on the practical practice of the Catholic faith.

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Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. Fr Dwight was brought up in an Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson.

Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. He spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA.

Fr. Dwight is the editor of a best-selling book of English conversion stories called The Path to Rome - Modern Journeys to the Catholic Faith. He has written Listen My Son - a daily Benedictine devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern parenting. St Benedict and St Thérèse is a study of the lives and thought of two of the most popular saints.

In the field of Catholic apologetics, Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former editor of the Church of England Newspaper. More Christianity is a straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from 'Mere Christianity' to 'More Christianity'. Mary-A Catholic Evangelical Debate is a debate with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now an Evangelical Episcopalian.

Fr. Dwight’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles’ Creed.’ He wrote Christianity Pure&Simple which was published by the Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. He has also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008. His latest books are The Gargoyle Code - a book in the tradition of Screwtape Letters and a book of poems called A Sudden Certainty, Adventures in Orthodoxy and The Romance of Religion.

Fr. Dwight has contributed a chapter to the third volume of the best selling Surprised by Truth series and is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine, St Austin Review, This Rock, Our Sunday Visitor and National Catholic Register. Fr. Dwight has also written a couple of children’s books, had three of his screenplays produced, and is finishing his first novel. He’s working on a book on angels and his autobiography: There and Back Again.

In 2006 Fr. Dwight accepted a post as Chaplain to St Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, South Carolina. This brought him and his family back, not only to his hometown, but also to the American Bible belt, and hometown of Bob Jones University. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He is the Administrator of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and an oblate of Belmont Abbey.

Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, and visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias. They live in Greenville, South Carolina with a black Labrador named Anna, a chocolate lab called Felicity, cat named James and various other pets.

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