Welcome to "Inspectio Cordis," your new weekly habit

Our weekly goal is to allow Jesus to gaze into your heart and teach you self-examination, leading you to a more fruitful reception of Holy Communion at Sunday Mass, where there is a true encounter of our hearts with His Sacred Heart.

"Inspectio Cordis" for this Sunday, February 4: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Fr. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC

A gaze of the heart. Examining the depth of one’s heart.

There is no one way to translate the Latin title Inspectio Cordis, given to the collection of meditations for Sundays by the Founder of the Marians, St. Stanislaus Papczyński (1631-1701).

The name encapsulates so much that it deserves further unpacking, to appreciate our new weekly web series, posted every Friday.

Unlocking our closed hearts
Samuel, looking upon Jesse’s sons, evaluated which one would be anointed as the new king. But the Lord taught Samuel: “God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

I believe that Inspectio Cordis captures this dynamic.

Saint Stanislaus, beyond elucidating the meaning of the biblical text, attempts to access our hearts. For, as Catholics, we not only listen to the Word, but in the Eucharist, we consume the Word.

In his exhortations, made up of three points before Holy Communion and three afterwards, St. Stanislaus attempts to unlock our closed hearts to receive this Word fully, in imitation of the Immaculata. For she is the first to hold, keep, and reflect on the word of God in her heart (see Luke 2:19, 51, 11:28) and so gave birth to that Word made flesh (see Jn 1:14).

Robert Alter, in his beautiful translation of the Old Testament, explains that the Hebrew words could also suggest that, whereas man sees by means of the eyes and the appearances, God sees by or with His heart. He desires to teach us to see with our hearts.

Today, the Word of God is researched, investigated, and studied. We do well to understand the historical, cultural, and linguistic context of the biblical books. But the purpose of the Word is to discern and reveal “reflections and thoughts of the heart” since it is “living and effective” (Heb 4:12). The Word of God is spoken from the heart of the Father to our hearts, revealing His merciful, tender heart in Jesus Christ, and opening our own hearts.

Dialogue of hearts
As we hear and meditate upon His Word, we learn to gaze upon and examine the depths of our hearts. For we learn about ourselves not so much by rational introspection but through interpersonal communication, through dialogue and communion. St. Stanislaus Papczyński, in his meditations, attempts to immerse us in this dialogue of hearts.

Saint John Henry Newman chose as his motto as cardinal, cor ad cor loquitur, heart speaks directly to heart. Jesus speaks from His Sacred heart, gazing upon our hearts, examining them with His love.

A Marian, commenting on this collection of St. Stanislaus, wrote:

Throughout the book, the author frequently urges his readers to look deep into their hearts and meet God there, and then to dwell with Him, and, by contemplating Him with love and faith, to examine their own self in the light and presence of God.

The author wishes that his readers could experience the same thing that happened to Zacchaeus in the Gospel, who – encouraged by Jesus – quickly came down from the tree and hurried back home to welcome Jesus, his Lord and Savior, with joy and an open heart (Selected Writings, p. 111).

Welcoming Jesus
We do not welcome Jesus literally into our houses, as did Zacchaeus, but we do receive Him in Holy Communion. One purpose of a homily in the Mass is to prepare the heart for this encounter with the risen Jesus. But the Spirit first leads us a sincere repentance and conversion, making us aware of our sins and the steps necessary to amend the wrong that we have committed.

Only in that manner, by allowing the Spirit to scrutinize and examine the depths – the attitudes – of one’s heart (1 Cor 2:10), can we encounter the living, risen Jesus in the depths of our hearts in Holy Communion.

Now, the original collection is, of course, geared towards Piarists, consecrated religious, in 17th-century Poland. But the purpose of such reflections is to open the hearts of all who sincerely desire to follow Jesus to a serious self-examination and a fruitful reception of Holy Communion. For how often we receive Holy Communion, but we do not receive the fullness of the grace that Jesus desires to bestow upon us! This occurs because we do not first take to heart His Word, allowing it to purify and open our hearts.

Contact with God
The same Marian further comments:

The author selects the subject in such a way so that, through meditation and contemplation, the readers may more deeply understand and live out the mysteries of faith presented to them by the Church, become more willing to devote themselves to the apostolate, be more zealous in their religious and interior life, and be inspired to greater worship and love for God, for the individual Persons of the Holy Trinity, and especially for the Eucharistic Christ. The author also wants to enliven the readers veneration of angels and saints, especially the Mother of God.

The purpose of the text is to enable the reader to establish a living contact with God. For this reason, the following topics often reappear: God’s presence in the human heart; God’s action in the world and in the mystery of His Providence; the power of God’s Word that calls for conversion and strengthening of faith; the living presence of Christ in the Eucharist; and the presence of the Savior among those gathered in His name. The author speaks frequently and fervently about God’s love and His great and unfathomable mercy, wishing to arouse in this way love and unlimited trust in Him. (Selected Writings, 114-115)

These meditations, published weekly on Fridays in preparation for the Sunday Mass, follow this style and purpose of our holy Father Founder. While his original text is worth reading, his examples and style can feel outdated to the modern reader. As his spiritual son, I will attempt my best to imitate his style and imitate his ministry of preaching to hearts.

The goal is to allow Jesus to gaze into your heart and teach you self-examination, leading you to a more fruitful reception of Holy Communion, where there is a true encounter of our hearts with His Sacred Heart – especially fitting during this period of National Eucharistic Revival.

I hope you will join me every Friday, especially during the holy season of Lent!

Fr. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC, is the prefect of formation in Steubenville, Ohio, for the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.