Brian’s Reflections

​We are thrilled to present this series of reflections and observations written by Heart of Life founder, Fr Brian Gallagher msc.

Broken Hearts

Photo of Jacinda Adern in a black veil in March 2019, mourning the tragedy of the mosque massacre in Christchurch NZ. Text in white reads: "we are broken-hearted, but we are not broken. Reflection by Brian Gallagher msc"

Image: Jacinda Adern, then Prime Minister of NZ visits the mosque less than 24 hours after the tragedy. Christchurch City Council Newsline/Kirk Hargreaves via WikiCommons

Editor’s Note: Continuing with our 40th Anniversary celebrations, we present Brian’s Reflections, a series of observations from Heart of Life co-founder, Fr Brian Gallagher msc.

I was in New Zealand early in 2019 at the time of the massacre of Muslim people in their mosque in Christchurch.  Though in a different town, I went to the local mosque to offer support, only to find hundreds of people already there, standing in silence outside a see-through fence adorned with bouquets of flowers in mourning.  Apparently the same was happening in many towns around the country.

In Christchurch itself, the leader of the Muslim community, the Imam, spoke to the crowd there.  His strongest words were: ‘we are broken-hearted, but we are not broken.’ These words have never left me.

Christian faith identifies with this.  Jesus died of a broken heart: the lance thrust into his side to make sure he was dead went right through to his heart – the Gospel tells us that what came out was blood and water.  The blood and water, symbols of life, assure us that in Jesus’ death, life emerges.  We are not broken.

Much of our daily news is heart-breaking: sexual abuse, family violence, famine, homelessness, refugees rejected by governments. Indeed, the church is not exempt.  Our spirituality, our quest for meaning cannot ignore the heart-breaking reality of everyday life.  Reality invites acceptance, but how can we say we are not broken, that life emerges from death?

For many people, meaning in life is found in their very living in the reality of our world.  For others, the group I fall into, much of life’s meaning comes from our faith perspective on the reality of our lives.  My lived faith takes its inspiration from the experience of Jesus.  Jesus did not try to make sense of the brutality of his torture and death, he accepted the reality in silence. Though he felt abandoned, even by God, he was not broken.  Jesus trusted to the end: ‘into your hands I commend my spirit.’  It seems that we discover we are not broken only in the acceptance of our broken hearts: then, life emerges from death.


Religion & Spirituality

Editor’s Note: Continuing with our 40th Anniversary celebrations, we present Brian’s Reflections, a series of observations from Heart of Life founder, Fr Brian Gallagher msc.

The 2021 census revealed that 39% of Australians say that they have no religion.  A statistic which has increased annually for some years.

I know some of these people.  My suspicion is that very few of them would want to be seen as ‘irreligious’, though it’s true that they have no religion.  I suspect, in fact, that most live by strong values in their life – for many, even what we call Christian values, sometimes spiritual values.  It seems that, while many people are turning away from traditional institutional religion, they are no less ‘spiritual’.  They still believe, they still long for truth, goodness, fulfillment, they are still caring and generous in their relationships.

Many of these people come to Heart of Life.  And Heart of Life encourages and supports such people, the seekers amongst us.  When churches and all the former religious practices no longer speak to them, people have to turn elsewhere to find nourishment for their souls.  I suggest that the nourishment that they seek – alongside their community involvement and generous relationships – is on a deeper level, a more personal level.  I hear people speaking of their longing for a God who cares and who stays alongside them in their everyday lives.  Whereas the God they find in church is somewhat remote, demanding and judging.

I am well aware that this is not the whole story. There are churches and pastors who are happily in touch with their followers and do speak of God more personally and intimately. And 61% of Australians say that they do have a religion.  (We are not told how many of this group, in fact, practise their religion, or what their religion means to them.)  Still, each to his own!  Certainly, all of us need to be true to our personal calling.  As well, I suggest there is an invitation here to all of us: we are invited to utter respect and acceptance of one another, even those quite different from ourselves and searching in different ways from our own.  May our shared desire for God unite us, not divide us.