The Cathedral of the Heart


Holy Trinity in Guatemala I stood beneath this dome today listening to orphan kids sing an a capella liturgy. I stood there for about two hours. The dome pressed down on me. It was a lot to take in. In many ways this place was an utter impossibility. I mean, this was a first class Russian Orthodox cathedral rising up out of the Guatemalan jungle. How could it be here? What kind of crazy was this?

I have an answer, at least my answer: The cathedral first existed in the hearts of these nuns who built it. The stone and mortar cathedral is simply the icon of that which already stood strong and resolute in the hearts of human beings. And I think this goes for just about every edifice we see during our day. Wall Street first existed as an idea in the hearts of men interested in loaning money. Schools first existed in the minds of people who imagined a better way to instruct their students.

In many ways our thoughts determine our lives. In many ways our interior lives build our exterior existence. And so it was with this cathedral in Guatemala.

Some twenty years ago Madre Ines and others accepted an invitation to rehabilitate a state orphanage that was failing kids. They did so without knowing what would come next; they were clueless when it came to running an orphanage. Humbling themselves they tried as best they could to love, and therein laid the cornerstone of the cathedral of the heart. Once built there, it simply rebuilt itself on the outside, here, where I now stood in awe.

Humility and the willingness to take on the suffering of others, even when you lack the answers, is one way to build the cathedral of the heart. There are others, I suppose. Some cathedrals aren't so pretty. Some are downright ugly. But all of them, all of our "work" starts deep in the unseen soul. May each of us have the courage and humility to lay that cornerstone upon which good things may rise and stand as sanctuaries for beauty.

Join us at First Things Foundation as we do development work stone by stone.