An Open Mind and a Closed Heart

An Open Mind and a Closed Heart

What happens when others cannot see hope as you do, what an interesting question. This weekend I had the misfortune to talk to a lot of people who already made up their minds on an issue and didn’t want to discuss it. They just wanted to walk by and be done with it.

It seems many have just made up their mind. But when we say made up their mind what do we really mean? Do we really mean we’ve closed our minds? We have already decided? We don’t want to discuss the issue? We don’t want to be open? So we must ask the question is it really our mind that’s closed or is our heart?

Often our defense for not listening to another perspective is often we don’t trust the source. It might be a news channel, a newspaper, a Facebook feed, a book, a relative, or someone we don’t trust. So, we apply an automatic assumption that everything that comes from that Channel or person is false, or at least disagreeable to my previously predetermined position. Whatever that might be.

Then, if we look at the scripture which tells us to love our enemies, what the heck does that mean in this context? It doesn’t mean that what our enemies are saying is true or that we have to believe it. But in order to love our enemies, if indeed they are enemies, we at least have to listen to what makes up their opinion or position on something. If we have a predetermined mindset on something doesn’t that automatically mean that we have a closed mindset, or rather I should say closed heart set, on that person or that Channel?

People say they have an open mind, but they also have made up their minds. I was talking to someone today who said that EVERYTHING since Vatican II has been terrible for the Catholic Church. They also described some local gardens in a religious setting that needed weeding, and how disgraceful it was that they did need weeding; and that the owners of that organization should be ashamed of themselves for not weeding the garden.

If we are not careful, we just become a series of judgment statements. One opinion after the other, each irrevocable, each true, each unassailable. This is a world without research without discernment, without analysis, without science, without God. If you leave God out of the picture and you are unwilling to listen, let alone love your neighbor and your enemy alike, then what is the point?

You cannot have a closed mind and an open heart. A deaf person listens with their eyes. A blind person sees with their touch and their ears.

So, the gateway to an open heart is an open mind, but an open heart will blow any closed mind wide open. You cannot cry with joy or sadness purely from your mind. It is your heart that’s touched. If we surround that heart with barbed wire, venom, and predetermined opinions, the something happens. We become what we desire. A walking judge, a judge without judgment, just opinions which we use to whip those in shape around us who disagree, and to separate us, tribally, from those who don’t agree.

This may be the malaise of our time. A cancer of the soul that seems uncurable to many. Which can only be healed by love, and a disposition to receive it. An opening of hearts is the only way to open a mind. With love, kindness, and a willingness to say and live the truth, no matter the consequences.

And hope, God’s precious gift, will return.

Life in a Bird Box

Hope is a Two-Way Street

When we think of the gift of Hope, at least in the theological sense, we often think about it as a one-way trip. God gives to us, and we receive. Recently, I heard a reflection on Hope titled, “Two-way Traffic,” which gave me food for thought.

Two Way Traffic

“‘Life is not a one-way street,’ he replied glibly to the young lady, as she inquired why he always parked in one direction on the street.

They had been talking about Hope, and now, having returned home, the older man wondered what this woman, barely in her early twenties, was talking about. Settling down into the recesses of his well-worn favorite chair, he reached for the mug of tea, always nearby at times such as this.

She was barely out of her parents’ house, probably armed with a new degree in psychology and ready to inform all the old folks how they mistake habits for wisdom. Nevertheless, her comments were bugging this mature mind, and he pondered more of what she meant.

The earlier part of their discussion focused on why Hope was a gift from God, how we needed to remove our own needs from the usual vernacular of today, and consider what this really means. One-way street? What the heck was that all about, he mused. I was merely explaining to her how God provides Hope to us all. Then, as happens sometimes, I had a moment. Oh yes, I see it now—God to me, not me onwards to others. So, then, onwards to others is the part I am missing. I have to be in the picture as well.”


Here I was, pontificating on the love of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son and missing one of the main points. The Father was the beacon of Hope in the story for the prodigal. That meant, which the young lady was pointing out this less than wise older person, Hope was a two-way street. We are called to be Christlike in our behavior; we are Christians, which means Hope comes from God, but can, and is, transmitted through us—two-way traffic!

So often, we miss the point that we can be a beacon of Hope for someone or a traffic light that seems to be painted red. This means, the trafficking of Hope, if I can use such an analogy, is spread amongst the community. We can bring it, disguise it, perhaps not extinguish it, but certainly are involved. Maybe this is why the secular society almost always thinks of Hope and optimism as being connected. Maybe it’s not optimism but rather our disposition towards God, Hope, and others are not fully appreciated. Something to ponder as I reach out for another cup of tea.


Reflection and Image © 2022 Dr. Michael J. Cunningham, O.F.S.

The Bells of Hope

I was walking on the well-worn cobblestones in the old market town in the west of England. Melksham was Thomas Hardy countryside (Tess of the Turbeville’s, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and many others) and was still marked with the signs of an era gone by. The tiny, terraced homes and cottages led the way towards the sound of the Friday night bellringers at St. Michaels and Angels nearby.

As I walked up the narrow street leading to Canon Square, the bells became considerably louder, beckoning me towards a Church which did not have a Friday evening service, but did have the bellringers of many years gathering for their evening practice.  

Walking through the graveyard towards the side entrance, the Church was immersed in complete darkness aside from a light emitting from the north facing and near the transept. I walked around the corner to the entrance which showed an open door, stone steps and the lengthy climb for the bellringers to reach the belltower of the Church. The bells were now, very loud as I stood outside for a while, listening to various peels as they practiced for the upcoming weekend and weekly services.

It occurred to me the importance of these Church bells over the years. When few towns had, or could afford clocks, the clocktower of the Church was a way of noting the beginning and end of the workday. Cities such as nearby Bath used the tower at the Abbey to notify all those in a 14 mile surround what the time was, time to rise, time to begin work, start lunch, end the day, all nicely punctuated with prayer times. In recent years, these bells have had to be muted as they create too much disruption to the commerce and traders in the city. Seems like everyone wants to control the timeline of their workers and environment without the overreach of a clocktower or Church informing them of how their day is progressing.

There, seems to me at least, to be a direct relationship between the peel of these bells and the gift of hope. Beckoning us to listen for a moment to a call to prayer, recognizing a union, such as a marriage, remembering the death of Christ on a Friday afternoon, or even better, His resurrection.

Bells are an audible sign of God’s hope in our world. The oncoming of grace and a reminder of his presence. Here we use them extensively to punctuate the day with this special language of God, one we can all hear.

I wonder what your impression bells, particularly Church bells, make in your life? Or have made in your life? Do they invoke hope? Or just open that door to us, as bellringers for others in their lives?

The Doorway

Reflection and Photograph © 2021 Dr. Michael J. Cunningham, O.F.S.