First, a little riddle:
What am I? …I’ve been considered the center, while holding many seats. I reveal your emotions & intellect, both the physical & the spiritual. Yet you might swear with me. And some will cross me… But I could melt, or become hardened. Sometimes real, sometimes not… Restless when wrong. Cured when open. I’ll sing for you, but best at keeping beat. In need of silence to hear well. Heavy or broken at times. Despised, pierced, forgotten. Still, without me there is no life; yet humble I am… What am I to you?
Yes. Now that February is here, time to remember it once again… The one & only heart! After all, we do have Valentine’s Day right at the very center of the month; But it’s also “American Heart Month”… Indeed it is, ever since 1964 (50 years now!). And although the news makes mention of it each year, I’m hoping you’ll still consider reading on because there is a much bigger and broader picture in need of seeing.
But initially, this is a picture that gets painted by numbers – Lots of numbers that must matter − all special & unique… Yet it will all come down to just ONE.
To begin, the American Heart Association [AHA] released their annual report (12/18/2013) which provided a compilation of the latest statistics [from CDC&P and NIH], noting “the burden and risk factors remain alarmingly high” for heart disease within the USA. Their data revealed the following:
● Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the USA: #1 = Heart disease; #2 = cancer; #3 = chronic lower respiratory diseases; #4 = Stroke; #5 = accidents. This would mean that cardiovascular diseases (CVD) claimed more lives than all forms of cancer combined in 2010; and about 1 out of every 3 deaths in U.S. was due to CVD. [Heart disease is also #1 cause of death in the world per report.]
● Stroke is a leading cause of disability; and considered the leading preventable cause of disability.
● African-Americans have nearly 2X the risk for a first-ever stroke, and a much higher death rate from it.
● About 83.6 million Americans are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or after-effects of stroke.
● Direct & indirect costs of cardiovascular diseases & stroke in USA = more than $315.4 billion .
● Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for U.S. women as well (like men) which should have us all seeing RED… with the “Go Red” for women campaign, and annual National Wear Red Day each February, now marking their 11th anniversary.
The AHA also tracks 7 key health factors and behaviors that are known to increase the risk for heart disease & stroke:
1.) Smoking 2.) Physical Activity (lack of) 3.) Diet (if poor/unhealthy) 4.) Body Weight 5.) Blood Cholesterol 6.) Blood Pressure 7.) Blood Sugar. [Plus, degree of alcohol use & chronic stress are factors as well.]
And if we were to look at the specific tracking (stats) for the above health factors, it would be very fair for us to say that we haven’t been scoring well for many, many years. But the good news is that each & every one of these factors are capable of being changed! …We can actually do something about them, which can lower our risks for such disease, and ultimately transform the picture that’s being painted!
There’s much to consider, though, when it comes to the heart – a matter so important that this word can be found within the Bible more than 500 times [depending upon translation used]… Where the Hebrew understanding of this word conveys profound meaning to who we are and called to be… Where the heart is center – and central to the physical, intellectual & spiritual life, closely tied to our decisions – our acts of the will.
But it seems such understanding [meaning] has been lost… forgotten these days, which has a way of making us ill — physically, intellectually & spiritually. But will this part of the picture continue to be left unseen?
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. [Matthew 5:8]
In making the health of the heart central, how much more could be addressed and fall into place? How do we treat the heart? How do we nourish it? After all, this is not about going on a diet again. It’s about needing a new way! …and a way that is simple and honest – not complicated – not burdensome (weighed down with unrealistic or unsound man-made notions). [For] they tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders [Matthew 23:4]. However, the new way will require a decision of the heart – a commitment – to get back to what’s central – for the sake of your heart. Because the further we go from the center of it all (and that which is good for the heart), the more unstable and ill we seem to become – physically, intellectually & spiritually. It all comes back to the heart… and our need for the Sacred Heart for this picture to be made complete!
So naturally I love the “coincidence” of how the AHA’s “National Wear RED Day” — to raise awareness in the fight for health [against heart disease; particularly for women] — falls on the FIRST FRIDAY of February.
Perfect for us Catholics who have long been called to a First Friday devotion to THE HEART! …deserving of our Focus and Adoration every day. But no need to take my word for it (of course) when there are words such as these (!):
♥“To keep me from sin and straying from Him, God has used devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. My life vows destined to be spent in the light irradiating from the tabernacle, and it is to the Heart of Jesus that I dare go for the solution of all my problems.” −Pope John XXIII
♥“My greatest happiness is to be before the Blessed Sacrament, where my heart is, as it were, in its center.” −St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
♥“Plunge yourself often into the charity of that lovable Heart so that you may never act towards your neighbor in a manner which may in the least wound the virtue of charity, never doing to others what you would not wish done to yourself.” −St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
♥“When we are before the Blessed Sacrament, instead of looking about us, let us shut our eyes and open our hearts; and the good God will open his. We will go to him, and he will come to us, the one to give, and the other to receive. It will be like a breath passing from one to the other. What delight we find in forgetting ourselves that we may seek God!” −St. John Vianney
♥“When Mass ended I remained with Jesus to render Him thanks. My thirst and hunger do not diminish after I have received Him in the Blessed Sacrament, but rather, increase steadily. Oh, how sweet was the conversation I held with Paradise this morning. The Heart of Jesus and my own, if you will pardon my expression, fused. They were no longer two hearts beating but only one. My heart disappeared as if it were a drop in the ocean.” −St. Padre Pio
♥“Jesus seems continually to exclaim from the altar: Come to me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens and I will refresh you. Come, He says, come you who are poor; come, you who are infirm; come, you who are afflicted; come, you who are just and you who are sinners, and you shall find in me a remedy for all your losses and afflictions. This is the desire of Jesus Christ: to console every person who calls upon Him.” −St. Alphonsus Liguori
♥“My daughter, know that My Heart is mercy itself. From this sea of mercy, graces flow out upon the whole world. No soul that has approached Me has ever gone away unconsoled” −Our Lord to St. Faustina, (Diary, 1777)
♥May thy heart dwell always in our hearts! May thy blood ever flow in the veins of our souls! O sun of our hearts, thou givest life to all things by the rays of thy goodness! I will not go until thy heart has strengthened me, O Lord Jesus! May the heart of Jesus be the king of my heart! Blessed be God. Amen. −St. Francis de Sales
And speaking heart to Heart, my favorite song [prayer] of 2013 & still: Matt Maher’s “Lord, I Need You“…
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. [Matthew 6:21]
So I will be wearing RED this First Friday, February 7th, in honor of the heart, and my love of Jesus! How about you? Let us wear red together — for us and for Him. (:
And to conclude my “picture” here for now — words of wisdom from our beloved John Paul II:
The Saviour’s Heart invites us to return to the Father’s love, which is the source of every authentic love… Contemplation of the Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist will spur the faithful… [And] each person needs to be more committed to praying the Lord of the harvest to grant the Church ‘shepherds after his own heart’ who, in love with Christ the Good Shepherd, will pattern their own hearts on his and be ready to go out into the highways of the world to proclaim to all that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. ♥[Amen!!]
−Blessed John Paul II [Letter 6/11/1999 per vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/1999/documents/]
©2014.—The Way to Nourish for Life: Ideas expressed within this post are those of The Way to Nourish for Life RD. [EF] Note: Please refer to ABOUT section of “The Way to Nourish for Life” for caveat: https://thewaytonourishforlife.wordpress.com/about