A Glance of the Heart

Blog of Ewa Bartosiewicz

Final “yes”

Yesterday I had the opportunity to witness again the moment when a close Jesuit said his final “yes” to God (for the second time, because he already made his perpetual vows in the novitiate). During the ceremony, Romek decided to break some convenances and said a few words of his own after the Gospel, many of which reminded me of what is important, what gives life and what burns up the heart.

First, he told us about a dream he had a few years ago, in which he discovered three important rules of life: love people, trust life and live through everything. Even though I had heard this story before, the words about trust resonated strongly within me. God is constantly calling me to trust the journey and the process, and I am still impatient. I would like to know the plan and see the goal on the horizon. During my last retreat, this truth about trusting life came to me in the form of words from a song by Dream Theater: “let the story guide me”. So the story goes on and takes me forward step by step.

A large part of the sermon was filled with Romek’s understanding of the vows, which he was soon to renew in front of everyone, before the Eucharistic Jesus. This understanding is very close to my heart and reminds me that although my vows expired over two years ago, I still want to live them with all my heart here and now, where God has placed me.

Chastity is loving people in deep relationships, without fear, without faking, without selfishness, it means constantly expanding your heart and learning to be for others. Obedience is trusting that God works in the sinful Church, it means freedom to stick to His plan and not your own ideas, it means brotherhood and conscious cultivation of small gestures of love despite various prejudices. Poverty is accepting yourself and others in your greatest weakness, allowing yourself to be dependent and vulnerable, it means simplicity on many different levels.

These three rules of the Gospel are for everyone who wants to follow Jesus, because, as Romek put it: to say “yes” to Him is to say “yes” to life within yourself and to let this life flow into the world. One sentence especially resonates with me today: “When I think about Him, everything in me is deeply moved.” I can relate to this. So it is.

You can listen to the entire ceremony here (with English translation!).
Photo by Asia Wiśniewska. More photos here.

Unripe plums

The new school year is just around the corner. New challenges and old difficulties. Although I have to admit that I already miss some of my students, I am aware that it’s probably just the teacher’s optimism manifesting itself in mid-August 😉 Anyway, I had a beautiful holiday and I’m coming back to fight everyday life with new strength. Once again, I had the great pleasure to spend a whole month on various types of spiritual exercises, leaving my own retreat for dessert. I won’t tell you much, but I can share one little adventure that turned out to be quite interesting.

One day I woke up in the morning thinking that I would like to have some plums. I was a bit surprised by this thought, because they are neither my favorite fruit, nor was there any particular reason to feel like eating them right now. However, I quickly rationalized my sudden fruit craving, realizing that the time for plums is probably not until September, so I should wait patiently. It would seem that this was enough in the topic, but to my great surprise, it was them that appeared at dinner – plums in their beautiful purple form! I had not yet managed to get over my admiration for God’s wonderful surprises when it turned out that this is not going to be sweet spiritual candy, but rather a sour lesson to remember. It is not difficult to guess that the plums turned out to be unripe and I swallowed them with difficulty as part of my afternoon snack. They left their mark in my spiritual diary: “Have patience or else you will eat unripe plums.”

Patience is a virtue that we all need. It is not surprising that it is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, because clearly grace is needed to wait without complaining and trying to force certain processes. Sometimes the road through the desert is getting long, but God knows what He’s doing. But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard delay, but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2Pt 3:8-9) Fortunately, although we often lose patience, He will never run out of it!

Holy Saturday


In the face of death, words are always unnecessary. You can only be silent and persevere, you can trust and love. However, we are afraid of silence, because it brings out what we might not expect. We drown it out even in prayer – we constantly have to say something, sing, ask and sometimes get angry with God. And silence is an opportunity to listen.

We carry this deep silence within us, just like the ocean, which, turbulent and tossing waves on the surface, is an oasis of calm at the bottom. If we only find the strength to go deeper, we will discover something very important about ourselves, about God, about the world. More than flashy articles and loud comments.


The hardest thing about Holy Saturday is that nothing is happening. It is often easier to suffer than to wait, easier to give up than to hold on to hope, easier to escape than to persist. This time invites us to be patient and trust that what may seem like the end is not the end at all.

Once my spiritual director told me that our faith is strengthened in “the time between the trapezes”. This is the moment when the acrobat performing stunts in the air has already released one trapeze, but has not yet managed to catch the next one. I’ve never done such acrobatics, but I imagine that these few seconds can last forever and be accompanied by a lot of anxiety. This is the experience of Holy Saturday – after all, you know that this story has a continuation, but are you sure?… This is where my trust is tested, not in times when I already know and understand everything.

How difficult it is to wait for the fulfillment of a promise is seen in the example of Abraham. Before the words he heard from God were fulfilled, he tried many times to push his own plan through, making a lot of mistakes along the way. I remind myself of this whenever I have the feeling that time is passing and nothing is happening, and I am starting to lose hope. God really knows what He’s doing and He’s not delaying (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).


There is no liturgy on Holy Saturday. Don’t be fooled by the inscriptions on posters in parishes, because there is no such thing as “Holy Saturday Liturgy”! The Easter Vigil is already a celebration of Resurrection Sunday, which, according to Jewish tradition, begins after dark. The only liturgy of Saturday is the Liturgy of the Hours, which is especially beautiful these days. The ancient homily for Holy Saturday delighted me from the first reading. Jesus, bringing everyone out of the Abyss from Adam and Eve themselves, shows in practice what the victory of life over death means. These are the specific people in the history of the world that we will meet someday in Eternity.

Besides, there is emptiness in the Liturgy. This is the time to stay in Adoration, but above all, to deeply experience the emptiness we have inside. The one that we clog with the multitude of tasks, the number of words, the noise of everyday life. It is not comfortable, it causes pain, but without it we will not take full advantage of the grace that God has for us, because for this we need an empty vessel.

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph  5:14).

Good Friday

The Lamb will shepherd them

Good Friday is an amazing celebration of love, although it is not easy to see that through the suffering of the cross. I experienced it very personally during the third week of the Spiritual Exercises, which focuses on the Passion of Christ. There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, much less for his enemies! The sacrifice in this case has no equal, because it is the Son of the Living God.

In John’s Gospel and Revelation, Jesus is called the Lamb of God. This has its consequences also in the events of Good Friday. According to John’s message, Jesus died on the cross exactly at the moment when the Jews were getting ready for supper and were preparing the lambs that were to be eaten during Passover. He turns out to be the truest sacrificial Lamb.

When I was in the novitiate, I read many times the inscription on the cross in the chapel: “The Lamb will shepherd them” (Rev 7:17). Contemplating these words from the Apocalypse, I marveled at how God fills every space. He is lamb and shepherd, sacrifice and priest, God and man, alpha and omega. There is no experience with would not include His presence.

The veil of the Sanctuary

Synoptics all noted that during the death of Jesus “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mk 15:38). It was a breakthrough for me to realize what that means. The veil of the sanctuary in the Jerusalem temple separated the part accessible to the priests from the most holy place, where the High Priest could enter only once a year to offer incense. It was a physical reminder of the gulf between holy God and sinful people. By dying on the cross, Jesus bridges this gap. There is no more sacred and profane, the whole reality is permeated with God’s presence. I am reminded of this whenever it seems to me that God has more important things to do, then listen to me, that I am too small and too sinful to be close to Him. But the veil is not there anymore!

I am

In the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, the most important thing for me is the Gospel. While on Palm Sunday we read the description of the passion according to one of the synoptic authors, on Good Friday we read it according to St. John. Here we see Jesus not so much suffering and martyred as full of glory, showing His true dignity as the King of the Universe. The first moment when this manifests itself is already the arrest in Gethsemane. When Judas comes with the cohort and they ask about Jesus of Nazareth, He replies “I am”. They turn away and fall to the ground, because this is not a simple answer, but the name of God Himself (Greek εγω ειμι, equivalent to the Hebrew JHWH). Jesus’ “I am” has been with me for a long time as a constant reminder that I am never alone, and He simply is. And that’s always enough.

One more moment of the Friday liturgy always evokes a lot of emotions in me. It is the beautiful, prolonged prayer of the faithful. In its extensive structure, it takes into account various spheres of our lives, but above all, it includes the circles of belonging to the Church, which were formulated in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. We pray not only for Catholics and Christians, but also for Jews, Muslims and all people of good will. The arms of the Church on Good Friday are wide open. However, the Heart of Jesus is always open to the greatest extent, so that everyone, without exception, can find their place there. 

Holy Thursday

The Eucharist in action

The turning point in my understanding of Holy Thursday was understanding that while the Synoptic Gospels describe the Last Supper as celebrating Passover, St. John writes about the events before Passover (which will be crucial tomorrow) and in the place where the Eucharist is instituted, he shows us Jesus leaving the table and washing the disciples’ feet.

These two realities must complement each other like two wings without which you cannot fly. Jesus gives us his Body, which strengthens, nourishes and purifies us, but also obliges us to share Him with others. The Eucharist must be implemented in service to our brothers and sisters.

I am incredibly humbled by the thought that Almighty God kneels before me like a slave to once again wash my feet, which I have previously covered in mud myself, while I so often do not have time, courage, inner freedom and humility to stop and focus on my neighbor…

Spiritual agony

Holy Thursday ends with one of the most important moments in Jesus’ earthly life in my opinion – the prayer in Gethsemane. Once I realized that this is really the most difficult moment of the passion, because God who became man, although He was completely obedient to the will of the Father, He experiences moments of spiritual struggle so dramatic that he sweated blood. After that, there will only be torture of the body and physical pain – nothing compared to the paralyzing fear. Jesus is victorious in the dark of night, surrounded by the Apostles who are dozing off, without witnesses or crowds. It is at this point that He makes his final free decision that He gives his life for the salvation of the world. Without this decision, Jesus would have been just savagely murdered although it would have looked exactly the same.

Whenever I think about this scene, I remember how fundamental my motivation, intentions and attitude are in what I do. I can do exactly the same tasks with and without love. Regardless of whether I am humanly successful or unsuccessful, the most important thing is what happens in my heart. It is also there that I experience the greatest struggle, the greatest suffering and the greatest joy of victory.

Interrupted feast

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which begins the period of the Holy Paschal Triduum, has many beautiful elements, such as the already mentioned washing of the feet or the silence of the organs. But what always impressed me the most was the ending itself. It is worth noting that this Mass does not end with a blessing, it is interrupted and waits for its continuation in the following days of the Triduum. However, it should end with a gesture that, for practical reasons, we very rarely see in our parishes – tearing the tablecloth off the altar. This is to symbolize the stripping of Jesus’ clothes and leaving Him by his loved ones. Before this naked altar tomorrow, on behalf of all of us, the priest will fall on his face to show our helplessness against evil and suffering and to stand in truth of our human condition. The Blessed Sacrament is moved to the darkroom and the Tabernacle will be opened and left empty. “Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand” (Mark 14:42)

Life without illusion

I was in Rome over the weekend and a lot of beautiful things happened there! First, of course, my friend Ala’s final vows, which I attended. A lot of joy and emotions, the power of the Word and the multicultural community. I love accompanying people in their “yes” forever, because it’s an amazing moment! I also feel the responsibility of being a witness to this public obligation. After all, it should be the closest people who we are able to count on when fighting for fidelity in our vocation during a crisis – be it marriage, priesthood, consecration or any other form of giving our lives to people and God. This is why we are a community, to support each other on the way.

This time, being in Rome, I had the opportunity to see the rooms of Ignatius Loyola for the first time (thanks, Dominik!), where the founder of the Jesuits spent many years of his life and where he died. There’s always something special about touching history that changed my life hundreds of years later. With gratitude, I later also visited the church dedicated to him on the Campus Martius. A tourist attraction in this place are the frescoes made by an Italian artist, also a Jesuit, Andrea del Pozzo. The craftsmanship of these works lies in the fact that they perfectly show the illusion of three-dimensionality. We have the impression that the painted figures are sculptures coming out of the walls, and the ceiling is higher than it really is. We can even admire a large dome that is not there, but standing in the right place, we can be absolutely convinced that it is so much there and looks great.

We have an infinite number of illusions that we succumb to every day. In a world where artificial intelligence can create a perfect imitation of reality, soon we will not be able to distinguish truth from falsehood. However, it is much more difficult for us to get rid of the illusions we have about others and ourselves. Aren’t they the cause of most of our crises? We say to ourselves: ” But we were hoping!” and we lose strength to fight for what was so alive when we said our “yes”. Jesus is the master of freeing us from all illusions. He never promised that it would be easy and pleasant, on the contrary – persecution, cross, pain and tears. At the same time, in the midst of all this, a happiness so great that one cannot imagine a greater one – as witnessed by these 7 women who on Saturday vowed obedience, poverty and chastity to Him.

In today’s Gospel, speaking to the Jews, Jesus says: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” It is not any illusions that will give us happiness, but only the honest truth – sometimes painful and hard. However, how difficult it is to allow yourself to see this truth (especially about yourself). It is much easier, like the Jews, to be convinced that we are already free, so we do not need the truth.

How do we protect ourselves from illusions? As for frescoes, just stand slightly to the side. Then it is clear that what we are looking at is just a carefully prepared trap for the brain. A change of perspective also helps in the case of other illusions, and that’s why we are a community, to pull each other out of them and make our vision of the world real. Only those who can listen to others and look at things from many different angles will be able to grasp the truth which surely sets us free.


p.s. for those interested in optical illusions, a great video about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBap_Lp-0oc

About those, who looked up

Recently, unbelievably many of my close and distant friends have started recommending a movie on Netflix. At the moment when comments began to appear in most of the media, and I was already afraid to open the fridge and see the words “Don’t look up” there, some of my favourite Youtubers referred to the film in yesterday and read a review by Michał Oleszczyk: ” This is a film born of pride and superiority, written with a pickaxe and directed with a jackhammer. ” After that, I already knew that I had to watch and form my own opinion.

Regardless of the ideological intentions of the creators, it seems that they very accurately diagnosed the state of modern society. Looking at successive exaggerated, grotesque attitudes of the characters (played by the best actors in the world), I realized many times that not only are they pleasable, but that they are happening just before our eyes. I think the world might react exactly as in the movie to the information that we will all die soon. This arouses a longing for the common good and solidarity to be able to stand above politics and “business as usual”, but the fact that it will not be so does not mean that nothing can be done. And I am not referring to the ecological crisis, but to our usual everyday life, in which we often feel powerless in the face of decisions made somewhere above. Maybe it is enough for each of us to be guided by what is deep in our hearts?

2,000 years ago, some magi, who we would rather call scientists today, also spotted an unusual astronomical phenomenon in the sky. They didn’t talk about it on TV or on social media, but went on the road taking myrrh, incense and gold with them. In the background there is also great politics and Herod trying to stay in power. Little is known about those who visited baby Jesus in Bethlehem. We don’t know how many there were – it could have been three, but it might as well have been a bunch of people with three gifts. We don’t know exactly where they came from, but we do know that they were not Jews, so they did not expect the Messiah at all. So why did they decide to walk a long way to meet a newborn baby in a small village on the outskirts of the Roman Empire? Maybe they were driven by curiosity, maybe a desire for adventure, or maybe they just had a deep conviction in their heart that this was what they should do. They were looking for nothing pious, yet they found God.

If I were to look for a moral in the movie “Don’t Look Up”, it would be: “Do what you can and live as if today was the end of the world”. Absolutely nothing revealing, yet still true and up to date. The words of the only believer in the film remained in my head: “If God wanted to destroy the Earth, He would destroy it.” He would have many reasons to do so, but apparently He is still giving each of us time to convert. Maybe it is worth spending this time with those we care about and doing what we love? Banality. But I guess still relevant.

The grace of darkness

In my Advent this year, so far I find much more darkness than light. Maybe this will make the experience of Israel waiting for the Messiah a little closer to me. When lack of strength and hope creeps into life, longing becomes natural. You want to cry to God that salvation may come at last. He always responds to that call, but almost always quite differently than we might expect.

One of the small joys that I have at this time is checking my advent tea calendar every day, where I find not only inspirations of tastes, but also sometimes spiritual ones. One day, seeing the tea called “Arctic Fire”, I immediately thought of paradoxes about God: power in weakness, life in death, infinity in limitations … It was only recently in a lecture on Christology that I learned that it is actually called “sub contrario “- bordering on contradiction . These contradictions, however, only arise in our limited human thinking. Everything is coherent and inclusive for God. There is already light in the darkness.

On the same day, I read the words of Tomas Merton:

“When the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtue; in which we have nothing to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us or give us light—then we find out whether or not we walk by faith.”

Now it was all clear. Darkness is grace.

The scent of Advent

One of the most important passages in the Gospel for me is the anointment in Bethany. Mary breaks a bottle of precious Nard oil and its scent fills the whole house. This fragrance accompanies me every year during the Holy Week, because a creative Franciscan priest from Poznań once decided to give all participants of the liturgy a tiny vial of real nard, and since then I always solemnly open it on Holy Monday. This scene was also the subject of my contemplation at this year’s retreat and made me realise how much I have recently focused on caring for the bottle, and not for the precious oil inside. It was then that I desired the experience of Paschal fragrance to spread over more of my life.

Recently I realised that Advent also has its fragrances. The smell of incense and candles, orange and cinnamon, pine needles and hay, honey and ginger, frosty air in the morning … These are not the smells that accompanied Jesus during His birth (maybe apart from the hay ;)), but they are the smells that correspond with the time of waiting for Him to come back. They express a longing for warmth, for the sun, for closeness. They make life brighter on these gloomy days.

Earlier this year, I was inspired to pray with the book “Touch, Feel, Taste” by Ginny Kubitz Moyer, which offers simple prayers based on all 5 senses. When my head was full of different thoughts, I needed an encounter with God that would involve my body and allow me to experience a God who transcends what is logical and understandable, penetrating everything with His Presence. On the threshold of this year’s Advent, this thought came back to me, especially in terms of fragrances. They have been with me for some time thanks to the aromatherapy diffuser that I received from my students and which immediately caught on in my everyday life, relaxing my shattered nerves in a bit of cedar, rosewood and marjoram. There is also raspberry seed oil on my cupboard and lavender bath salt in the bathroom. At the desk, an Advent calendar with teas inside, waiting to be opened (brilliant idea!), so that my home can fill up with new fragrances that stimulate the senses and open up the soul.

There is something about smells that makes it possible for us to remember the circumstances in which we smelt something for many years. They can also clearly influence our mood and are literally responsible for the fact that life has a taste (maybe it is worth appreciating at a time when many people have lost their sense of smell and taste, at least for a moment). Fragrances also have a special property – they quickly reveal the company we have spent our time with. Pope Francis said that it would be good for the shepherds to smell like their sheep. I think it would be very good if each of us would be filled with the scent of God. May this be our Advent experience.

In the end it doesn’t even matter

This year, for the first time in 11 years, during this November time, I visited the graves of my relatives in my home region. Well-known cemeteries with a thousand lights make an impression and provoke reflection on life and death.

I visited a friend of mine from elementary school, who was severely depressed in high school and committed suicide in her freshman year. I visited the vice-principal of my high school, who died on the day when he was supposed to be on the board of my oral Polish baccalaureate exam. I visited my Grandma, who passed away 2 years ago when I had definitely too many difficult goodbyes in one week. Each of these people and each of these deaths somehow influenced me and broadened my horizon of thinking. Over the last few weeks, I have been drowning in a sea of ​​small things to do, tests to be checked, lessons to be prepared, and tasks to be checked off my list. I desperately need a change of perspective and a constant reminder of what is really important. When looking at the end of life, questions arise about what is worth living for and what would be worth dying for.

At one of the cemeteries in Białystok, we found a piece of paper surrounded by a handful of candles. It read: “Victims of the humanitarian crisis at the border.” Is putting my own candle there really the only thing I can do? Am I sure that I couldn’t have done more? My conscience bothers me when I think about someone dying pointlessly. Because of political games, because of a drunk driver, because of a madman with a gun in his hand, because of war, because of a pandemic… Could it have been avoided? I can’t save everyone, but haven’t I neglected the opportunity to save anyone at all?

A song from many years ago came back to me.

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

In the end, nothing will matter. Only if I proved to be human at the right moment.

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