Seeing Anew with the Eyes of the Heart

Reflection Questions and Shared Responses

As Franciscans are called to a whole life of daily conversion. So, this year we decided to focus our Lenten journey on conversion of the heart, seeing anew with our converted hearts, and then acting from our hearts.

Below you will find the reflection questions from our weekly emails and any responses shared from our members. We offer these as a way to build relationships and journey together through open dialogue.

Posts represent the views of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


What does “seeing with the eyes of the heart” mean to me?
In what ways could my heart be converted towards God this Lent?
On which issues does my heart need conversion in order to be able to act with compassion?

The heart sees what is invisible to the eyes. I am able to see the true person through the eyes of my heart.

How my heart may be converted toward God, I refer to Ephesians 1:18-21 “having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance to the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come;”

In understanding the racial divide between us and how I can be compassionate towards those who hate just because of the color of someones skin. I just want to walk away from a person who feels this way. How can I understand and maybe change that person’s mind if I just walk away?

Br. Christopher Anesi, OSFM

Laudato Si’ encourages us to undertake a conversion, a change of heart, with reference to our creator and the world. For Christians that appears to be a necessary process for effective sustainable action in support of achieving a flourishing future for our species and all of creation. I think this overarching project is what lent is all about. But from knowledge must come action energized by our hearing the “cry of the Earth” in contemplation. In that way we can see that God is in all and all is in God.

George Gerardi

Seeing with the eyes of the heart involves contemplation and centering prayer. By doing this, I believe I can identify and assess my needs from within by letting go of my mind, putting my ego on hold, and descending from my head to my heart.

My biggest issue is how to act with compassion towards others who deny election results, climate change, structural racism, gun control, and economic repression. Perhaps I should adopt the words of Jesus: Forgive them Lord for they know not what they do.

Jim Reader

As I understand more and more about systemic racism, I have committed to facilitate JustFaith Ministries programs on civil dialogue and understanding racism.

Dorothy Moczygemba

The little prince in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s book of that name said, “Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” For me, seeing with the eyes of the heart means seeing through or beyond what my physical eyes see. It means seeing the person on the street who asks me for change as a child of God rather than an awkward interruption in my day.

Louise Lears, SC

Praying for good and helpful thoughts from the heart and soul.

John Rapach

Seeing with the eyes of the heart involves risk, in a positive way. It involves feeling and experiencing what the other person is feeling and experiencing, and the energy to stay connected. It’s entering into the other’s space without prejudice, and accepting the person as he/she is. It’s about seeing others and the world as God’s sees–with love, compassion, and tenderness. One of the best examples is the Gospel of the Good Samaritan, quoted and magnified by Pope Francis in “Fratelli Tutti”– to be kin to one another, to be in relationship with all of creation.

All of us can learn and pray to be more God-like in the manner of our daily living, to become more tolerant and forgiving, more sensitive to what is weak and wounded, and being vulnerable. To see, discern and go forth.

Christopher Panagoplos, TOR

Seeing Gun Violence Anew

How did Greg’s story as a survivor of gun violence affect me?
Does my heart need conversion on the issue of whether violence is the solution to violence?
What is my understanding of what Jesus and Saint Francis said to their followers about bearing arms?

In my 25 years of working with communities of people who had a horrible act of violence on their street/neighborhood, there is so much work to be done there. And so many times they, the street/neighborhood are forgotten.

William Coffey

I see the abortion issue strongly tied to the gun issue. So many Republicans who care more for the unborn than the impoverished young, gain enormous support on the issue. It is hard then for their supporters to challenge these same people on their pro gun stance. We need to encourage the Catholic Church to sever it’s relationship with the Republican Party.

Robert Grems

I am grateful that Greg survived and I have compassion for him and his family in their experience of gun violence. I live on Long Island, a suburb of New York City. Gun violence is slowly creeping into our safe suburbs. I am especially concerned with the combination of racism and Greg’s experience of being treated as a suspect instead of an injured human being. I pray that his advocacy with his personal experience will combine to give him credibility, passion and truth to stand on.

Louise Sandberg

We need to experience people who are disadvantaged by the systems our culture has put in place. Instead we spend hours in meetings about what needs to happen but we never get there.

William Coffey

My greatest concern is for our children. They have grown up in a world were the reaction to others when they anger us is violence. We must again learn to talk to each other, and to listen. To listen with an open heart.

Evelyn LeCato

I have been converted to the cause of gun control ever since the carnage in Newtown, CT and have supported Sandy Hook Promise. I do not understand why our politicians can not at least reduce the number of casualties by outlawing assault weapons. I believe that there are at least 3 areas of greatest concern: gun control, mental health and anger management. I feel that most of the effort should be directed at 18 to 29 year olds. They must be the change by running for office and by voting. The older generation of which I am a member has failed for the most part by politicizing this life and death issue. I continue to pray. I continue to donate and sign petitions. Most of all I continue to vote.

Joan Burlew

A gun took the life of my cousin who had rejected a mentally ill “would-be-suitor.” Greg became a victim of racism, judged by his skin color over reality and truth. Fear rather than wisdom, compassion, and Gospel justice blind many in this country.

Ongoing efforts are warranted to restrict access to and use of weapons in the United States. We must try again to have Congress create sensible gun laws. I advocate for 1.) thorough background checks, 2.) steep insurance rates for gun possession and manufacturing of guns, 3.) mandatory gun safety workshops, 4.) mandatory locks for guns in homes, 5. end of weapons of war in the possession of civilians, 6. removal of toy guns for sale, 7. censoring of games and movies that glorify guns.

Sister Carol Czyzewski

I thank Greg for sharing his story. This past Monday I was scheduled to testify before the CT State Legislature on a bill regarding safe storage of guns at home and on ghost guns. Listening to those who testified before me was an eye opener. Most were testifying for bringing guns (and for many, wearing body armor) everywhere. I was struck by how so many people are living and reacting with fear. Their only way of responding is to carry a gun to presumably protect themselves.

Sister Maryann Mueller

Seeing Poverty Anew

In what ways does my heart need to be converted regarding the causes of poverty and possible solutions?
How do I respond to ideas about how the economy could be structured to prevent people from falling into and remaining in involuntary poverty?
How might I truly practice and advocate what Sts. Francis and Clare as well as eight centuries of Franciscans living the Gospel have shown about an “alternate economy”?

Thanks so much, FAN, for the Lenten journeying you are helping to facilitate! Seeing from the heart fits well with, indeed complements, the radical grace Dr. Russell encourages. These are ways of thinking and doing that depart dramatically from “business as usual” to instead promote a culture of care. Here, I use “business as usual” to mean more than just the global economic system because, as Russell demonstrates, that system itself is produced by how we think. If we value rugged individualism, then pursuing communal good gets in the way; if material possessions measure a person’s worth, then living with less seems odd or a complete failure; if the natural world is viewed mostly as a resource, then honoring its sacredness is eccentric. But while I know a society’s thinking rarely changes suddenly and dramatically, history records exactly this kind of change, a heart change, in individuals (with St. Francis a perfect example). So I have hope: hope that I will better cultivate seeing from my heart, hope that I will better live the Gospel by practicing generosity and simplicity, and yes, hope too that more and more individuals will be freed from ways of thinking that prevent our human yearning toward an economy of tenderness and grace.

Michelle Frisbie-Fulton

As long as we continue to give tax breaks for the rich and corporate profiteers coupled with deregulation of business operations there can be no opportunity for economic justice. Our system of capitalism, fueled by corporate, political, and personal greed will continue to enslave those who have fallen or have been forced into involuntary poverty. Until such practices are remedied, more grassroot actions, such as voluntary poverty, are necessary to limit consumption and abstain from unnecessary and excessive spending. One such action of protest is to initiate the practice of an economic boycott of specific goods and services. There is a need for more actions similar to the Montgomery bus boycott in the 1950’s to enact real change and place economic power back in the hands of the people.

Jim Reader

Seeing Migration Anew

How has Merwyn’s story affected me? Did I weep when I heard Rosa and Violetta’s stories?
Has my heart become hardened towards my sisters and brothers who are fleeing impossible conditions in their countries to seek refuge in ours?
If I feel compassion for migrants and refugees, how do I deal with any dark thoughts that arise in me when I hear about the terrible suffering they face?

The horror of this is beyond upsetting, but it shows as nothing else could about what our country is doing.

William Coffey

Yes I did have tears for these beautiful souls. It sickens me to think that people have to fear for their lives. That you can’t say or walk free among this world. So much anger, hatred and negativity in this world. It is so disheartening…all I can do is keep praying for freedom, mercy, compassion, love and change of hearts on for these people who committed these crimes. Lord change these hardened hearts that these people in our world have. I lift them up to you our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Patty Reynolds

I also accompany refugees in accord with the works of mercy commanded by Jesus and followed by St Francis. I have problems also with anger and temptation to actions that are not peaceful. Merwyn’s witness and coping methods sound good to me and I will try them.
Thank you for the help.

Anne Parks-Cook

Instead of my heart being hardened, my heart has expanded and the stories are the reason. I cannot imagine the hardship and suffering and I do not pretend that any story can put me in someone’s shoes. But I can, indeed must, listen and learn and act. I am grateful and humbled by the generosity of those who share their journeys.

Sr. Louise Lears, SC

Merwin’s story is very powerful. I have experienced the lack of compassion and love for migrants that our country is exhibiting. I found his message of nonviolence to be very attractive and I am inspired to try and become more nonviolent in my life.

Br. Joseph Kotula, ofm

Seeing Creation Anew

What message or image do I want to take with me after hearing Paul’s story?
How can I seek the purity of heart that will help me see all of creation as God sees it?
How is my heart leading me to put that new vision of creation into action?

With so much negativity and anger in the world, I was touched and reminded to do breath, prayer, breathing out negativity and breathing in peace. Keeping my self centered in peace.

Patricia Soltesz

Actions truly do speak louder than words. Heartfelt actions have a way of bypassing one’s brain (and it’s primary gatekeeper: human ego) and penetrating one’s heart. The most effective way to change a persons mind about a divisive issue is to effect a change of heart within that person.

Jim Reader

Seeing Racism Anew

What stands out most to me about Joan Trumpauer Mulholland’s story of disrupting systems of racism as a white person?
When I honestly search my heart, where do I, at a subconscious level, have biased thoughts, attitudes and feelings that bring me to behave in a way that harms people of color (even if it’s not my intention)?
What can I do to keep from replicating racially inequitable systems of institutional power, authority and violence?

I want to take the final quote with me: “You don’t have to change the world, you just have to change your world.” The work of anti-racism can seem overwhelming, too big to handle in any meaningful, successful way. And it will be overwhelming if I feel like I am responsible for changing the world. But, as Joan says, if you want to make a difference, gather a few friends and do something, anything, because it all makes a difference.

Sr. Louise Lears, SC

Wow – deja vue

Back in had 60’s The Saint Anthony’s Shrine Franciscan 3rd Order Youth Group (with adult advisor and 2 associated priests) had Action For Interracial Understanding with Ralph Fenton as director. It was mainly a speakers group in the Boston Diocese. We spoke at any parish that wanted us, and many did. We also did anything else that came up – several marches, one with King. This was the 60’s and I was also teaching in an all black school, the politicians were nuts, but the police at the time were quite decent. And boy were we trained in peaceful demonstration! Enough said! Best of luck!

Pax y Bonum ML

Mary C Leavitt

Seeing War Anew

Is there violence in my own heart–towards myself, others, countries or groups–that affects my attitude towards war as a way to resolve differences?
As I meditate on Jesus’ ultimate self-sacrifice during this Holy Week, what can I learn from his teachings and example of nonviolence?
How can I move beyond my feelings of anger or helplessness to promote a just peace for Ukraine and other countries currently affected by war?

I thank Mike for sharing this example of “bending the arc” towards nonviolence, peace, light, and hope as well as being a means to process the trauma of war. As sponsors of a family of five from Ukraine whose oldest daughter Mariia is interested in drama and art, I was especially touched by the work of the two Mary’s.

Maryann Mueller, CSSF

On this Good Friday 2023, my colleague Merwyn De Mello and I joined a Nonviolent Witness for Peace at the Pentagon in the early morning, organized by our friends at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House. We called for an end to militarism, drone warfare, torture, racism, and economic exploitation. I have come, as part of a long journey, to believe in all of that. But to be truthful, the war in Ukraine presents a great dilemma. I fear very much the escalation of this conflict and the way it threatens to ignite a nuclear war. At the same time, when I traveled to Ukraine last year as part of an interfaith solidarity mission, the Ukrainians I met begged us not to call for a cutoff of weapons from the United States, as the inevitable result would be full Russian occupation of the country. What is the answer, o God of peace? Show us the way out of the nightmare of the Ukraine war, the widening Israel-Palestine conflict, the Yemen war, and the many other conflicts around the globe. Inspire us to be courageous and principled peacemakers, and not to be paralyzed by the violence all around us.

Michele Dunne