The Refuge Within

for May 2nd, 2017
Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
Memorial of St. Athanasius

Liturgical texts here


THERE is a scene in one of Michael D. O’Brien’s novels that I have never forgotten—when a priest is being tortured for his faithfulness. [1]Eclipse of the Sun, Ignatius Press In that moment, the clergyman seems to descend to a place where his captors cannot reach, a place deep within his heart where God resides. His heart was a refuge precisely because, there too, was God.

Much has been said about “refuges” in our times—places set aside by God where He will care for His people in a global persecution that seems more and more an inevitability in our times.

No less than ordinary individual Catholics can survive, so ordinary Catholic families cannot survive. They have no choice. They must either be holy—which means sanctified—or they will disappear. The only Catholic families that will remain alive and thriving in the twenty-first century are the families of martyrs. —Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., The Blessed Virgin and the Sanctification of the Family

Indeed, I wrote how these places of solitude, reserved particularly for the “last times,” have precedence in Scripture and were mentioned in the early Church (see The Coming Refuges and Solitudes). But today’s Mass readings imply another kind of refuge, one that is neither a barn or a forest clearing, nor a cave or a hidden loft. Rather it is the refuge of the heart, because wherever God is, that place becomes a refuge.

You hide them in the shelter of your presence from the plottings of men. (Today’s Psalm)

It is a shelter hidden far beneath the blows to the body; a place where the exchange of love itself becomes so intense that the real suffering of the flesh becomes, as it were, a love song to the Beloved.

As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Today’s first reading)

Just prior to this prayer, Stephen saw Jesus with His eyes, standing at the right hand of the Father. That is, He was already in the refuge of God’s presence. Stephen’s body was not preserved from the stones, but His heart was safeguarded against the fiery darts of the enemy because it was “filled with grace and power” [2]Acts 6:8 This is why Our Lady repeatedly calls you and I to prayer, to “pray, pray, pray”, because it is through prayer that we are likewise filled with grace and power, and enter into the most sure and safe refuge: the heart of God.

Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him… Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2658

If this is so, then the greatest refuge on earth must be the Holy Eucharist, the “Real Presence” of Christ through the sacramental species of His Body and Blood. Indeed, Jesus proves that the Eucharist, which is His Sacred Heart, is a spiritual refuge when He says in today’s Gospel:

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

And yet, we do know hunger and thirst in the limitations of our human flesh. So what Jesus speaks of here is refuge and deliverance from spiritual affliction—that hunger for meaning and the thirst for love; the hunger for hope and a thirst for mercy; and the hunger for heaven and that thirst for peace. Here, we find them in the Eucharist, the “source and summit” of our faith, for It is Jesus Himself.

All this is to say, dear brothers and sisters, that I do not know what physical preparations anyone should take in these uncertain days beyond normal prudence. But I do not hesitate to shout:

Enter into the refuge of God’s presence! Its doorway is faith, and the key is prayer. Hasten to enter the place of God’s heart where you will be safeguarded from the wiles of the enemy as the Lord shields you with Wisdom, shelters you in His peace, and strengthens you in His light.

This doorway to God’s presence is not far away. Even though it is hidden, it is not a secret: it is within your heart.

…the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands… Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…? Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him… Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. (Acts 7:48; 1 Cor 6:19; John 14:23; Rev 3:20)

And where Christ is in one’s heart, that one can be assured of His strength and protection over his soul, for that one’s heart has now become a “city of God.”

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea… Streams of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High. God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken. (Psalm 46:2-8)

And again

Be not crushed before them; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city… They will fight against you, but not prevail over you. for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:17-19)

In closing, how then should we understand the sublime words of Our Lady of Fatima who said,

My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God. —Second apparition, June 13, 1917, The Revelation of the Two Hearts in Modern Times,

The answer is two-fold: who has united his or her heart more perfectly to God than Mary such that she truly is a “city of God”? Her heart was and is a copy of her Son’s.

Mary: “May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Jesus: “…not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Second, she alone, of all human creatures, was designated our “mother” as she stood beneath the Cross. [3]cf. John 19:26 As such, in the order of grace, she who is “full of grace” becomes herself an entry to Christ: to enter her heart is at once to enter Christ’s because of the union of their “two hearts” and her spiritual motherhood. So when she says her “Immaculate Heart” will be our refuge, it is only because her heart is already within the refuge of her Son’s.

The key to your heart becoming a refuge within, then, is to follow in their footsteps…

Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety. You are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me. (Today’s Psalm)



The Great Ark 

The Coming Refuges and Solitudes


Contact: Brigid
306.652.0033, ext. 223



A special evening of ministry with Mark
for those who have lost spouses.

7pm followed by supper.

St. Peter’s Catholic Church
Unity, SK, Canada
201-5th Ave. West

Contact Yvonne at 306.228.7435


1 Eclipse of the Sun, Ignatius Press
2 Acts 6:8
3 cf. John 19:26