Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Father Robert Spitzer is a Catholic priest in the Society of Jesus (commonly known as the Jesuits) and serves as president of the Magis Center for Science, Reason, and Faith, as well as president of the Spitzer Center for Visionary Leadership. Father Spitzer is one of the brightest people I have ever met. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy Summa cum Laude from the Catholic University of America in 1988 and served as president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., from 1998 to 2009.

In 2011, Father Spitzer joined with Tim Busch to co-found the Napa Institute in an effort to empower Catholic leaders to renew the Church and transform the culture of our increasingly secular society. What makes Father Spitzer’s achievements even more remarkable is that his eyesight has deteriorated due to macular degeneration over several years to the point where he is now nearly blind. He sees at about 5 percent of normal vision and must rely on the help of assistants to read to him and transcribe his dictated thoughts into writing. Despite this disability, Father Spitzer lectures brilliantly from memory, since he cannot read from notes or a prepared text.

Over the years I have been impressed and amused by the way he responds whenever we meet, as we did again a few months ago by chance at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport or when I attended the Napa Institute’s summer conference last month. Without identifying myself, I will go up to him and say, “Father Spitzer, how are you?” Without missing a beat, he will respond, “Bishop Paprocki, nice to see you!”

What impresses me is his instantaneous recognition of my voice. What amuses me is his saying, “nice to see you,” when I know that he is not literally seeing me at all except perhaps as a blurry shadow. At first, I thought he was just using a polite greeting so as not to draw attention to his physical blindness, but I have come to understand that Father Spitzer does indeed see me in the image of me that he holds in his mind, even if not in the literal vision of his bodily eyes.

I thought of Father Spitzer’s practice of seeing people in his mind even if not with his eyes recently when I was reading the Scripture passage where Our Lord says, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:16). Jesus was not talking literally about physical eyesight or hearing, but about seeing Him with the eyes of faith as Our Savior and hearing Him as the Word of God.

This is what we are called to do every time we come to Mass. We listen to the readings from the Bible not just as wise literature, but as God revealing His Word to us. When the bread and wine are consecrated and elevated before our eyes, many of us respond quietly to ourselves with the traditional affirmation of faith, using the words of St. Thomas, by exclaiming, “My Lord and my God,” even though what we are looking at appears to be simply a piece of bread and a cup of wine. Following the example of Father Spitzer, seeing the image of Christ in our minds with the eyes of faith, we might add, “Jesus, it is good to see you!”

Many people are praying for a miracle to restore Father Spitzer’s eyesight. I have been praying through the intercession of Venerable Father Augustine Tolton for Father Spitzer’s full healing and the complete restoration of his eyesight. I invite you to do so also.

Father Spitzer has a statement posted on the Magis Center’s website that says, “I appreciate the concern expressed by so many of you and your prayers for me as I await a treatment approved by the FDA. Though this would be a true blessing, I receive so many graces from the condition of near blindness — such as, humility, deepened faith, detachment from the world, and enhanced empathy and compassion for others. The graces are so deep and manifold that I often wonder whether I should be praying for alleviation of my condition, so I have decided to put myself completely in the hands of God — the best course of action for all dimensions of life. I will pray for all of you who are praying for me, so that the Lord’s will may be done in our lives and that we may all experience Paradise together. God bless you.”

May God give us this grace. Amen.