Cor ad Cor has been a great tool to grow in the spiritual life

Since the middle of October, I have been accompanying four students from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in the Cor ad Cor Spirituality Year, an outgrowth of the Veritatis Splendor Institute (VSI), sponsored by the Office of Faith formation. We meet every Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.

The title Cor ad Cor is a Latin phrase meaning “Heart speaks to Heart.” Cor ad Cor is a 30-week retreat in which the first eight weeks are devoted to the Oremus program from Ascension Press and the next 22 weeks focus on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola according to the 19th Annotation.

The 19th Annotation is an opportunity for people who cannot devote 30 days to an Ignatian retreat to do the prayer, readings and meditations over a period of several months.

Cor ad Cor has been a great tool to help all of us, including me, to learn and grow in the spiritual life, and to have the courage to be vulnerable as men by sharing our faith and the work the Lord is doing in our lives.

The center of the Cor ad Cor Spirituality Year is to pray at least 20 minutes every day with a series of Scripture readings, often praying them again and again, going deeper and deeper. We use our imagination to put ourselves into the Scripture scene and to apply our five senses to the Word of God, so that we’re able to see, hear, smell, and touch this living word, letting it penetrate and touch us deeply.

This process reminds me of one of my favorite scripture passages: “Indeed, the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” (Heb 4:12).

It is awesome to see how the Word of God, so alive and explosive, touches the hearts of these four young men week after week. I have been blessed to journey and accompany them for the past six months, and I can hardly wait to see how the Holy Spirit is going to move this small band of brothers in the months ahead.

Several weeks ago, we were praying with The Visitation of Our Lady to Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-56. Several lines hit me in my prayer time: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb” (41) and “And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home,” (56).

The child John leaped in the womb of Elizabeth, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, when she heard Mary’s greeting. I imagined that this was not a one-time occurrence for the infant John, but something that happened repeatedly as Elizabeth and Mary had conversations with one another that were charged with the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary remained with Elizabeth and Zachariah for three months before she returned to Nazareth.

In my prayer time, I imagined what the conversations were like between Mary and Elizabeth, and even Mary, Elizabeth and Zachariah. How many times did Elizabeth ask Mary during that three-month stay to tell her again and again how the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced that she was to be the Mother of the Son of God; how the Holy Spirit came upon her; and how God overshadowed her?

I imagine Mary saying to Elizabeth, “With God all things are possible.” And Elizabeth nodding and smiling with great joy and replying, “I know, Mary. I am in my 90s and will give birth to my first son, John.”

How many times did Mary ask Zachariah to tell her his story? I imagine him going through the difficulty of writing down his story, that while offering incense in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, telling him that his prayers had been answered and Elizabeth would bear a son.

Then he would describe his own unbelief at the angel’s word and how he became mute and unable to speak. I am sure that in those three months, Mary, Elizabeth and Zachariah had amazing conversations, encountering the infant Jesus in the womb of Mary and the Holy Spirit over and over again. Pondering these incredible miracles in their heart and then sharing them with one another filled them with amazing joy.

I continue to ponder this prayer period and have preached on it several times. In my work as vocation director, and as the chaplain of St. Thomas More middle and high school as well as chaplain at the Newman Center, I am convicted of the importance of having similar conversations — conversations where we, too, speak of how God is at work in our lives.

This is a key to fostering abundant vocations. When all of us — moms, dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors and our parish priests — share with our young people how we ourselves have encountered Christ and were touched by the joy and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our young people will learn to seek that encounter for themselves. When they begin to encounter and experience God in this way, their hearts will be open to his call for their lives.

Cor ad Cor – “heart speaks to heart.” Let the Sacred Heart of Jesus speak to our hearts so that our hearts might speak to other hearts, encouraging the living and deep abiding Word of God to penetrate our joints and marrow.