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Sorin Books publishes Sister Macrina’s spiritual journals

‘Open Wide My Heart’ shows how she built a Scripture-oriented relationship with God

Published: May 3, 2022   
Maryanne Meyerriecks
Cover art of “Open Wide My Heart,” a posthumous collection of Sister Macrina Wiederkehr’s spiritual journals from 1985-1986.

“Open Wide My Heart,” a posthumous collection of Sister Macrina Wiederkehr’s spiritual journals from 1985-1986, has been released by Sorin Books to coincide with the second anniversary of her death April 24.

Sister Joyce Rupp, OSM, a well-known author and friend, edited the journals.

Sisters Joyce and Macrina met as graduate students in religious education at the University of St. Thomas in Houston in the 1970s. Through five summers of study, they bonded over their love of God and their desire to spread his love through writing.

Their friendship lasted more than 45 years, as both became recognized spiritual writers and retreat leaders. In 2005 they collaborated on an award-winning book, “The Circle of Life,” linking the seasons of the soul to the seasons of life.

"So many ideas and insights bubbled forth from her creative spirit. She could reach out and see spirituality in everything.”

“Macrina’s first book, ‘Seasons of Your Heart,’ grew out of her graduate thesis,” Sister Joyce told Arkansas Catholic. “Writing didn’t come easily to her. She could get distracted, but once she sat down and got calm, she could focus. So many ideas and insights bubbled forth from her creative spirit. She could reach out and see spirituality in everything.”

When Sister Macrina was diagnosed with brain cancer, Sister Joyce drove from Des Moines to St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith to be with her as she surrendered her life to God. Part of letting go was gifting her spiritual journals to her nieces and friends.

“These journals show Macrina’s spiritual growth in her 30s, how she built a Scripture-oriented intimate relationship with God and found God in everyday life,” Sister Joyce said.

Each journal passage is a written record of the day’s Lectio Divina, or holy reading. In Lectio, the reader finds a particular word or phrase in a biblical passage, pondering it slowly to experience God’s presence. In “Open Wide My Heart,” Sister Macrina revisits common themes in her life, looking at them through the lens of different passages, gaining insights that comforted her and allowed her to grow.

Readers who have looked for wisdom in her books and retreats will find a fellow traveler rather than a teacher. Everyone has faced issues like her: a yearning to see God’s face, difficulty in surrendering her will to Jesus, dissatisfaction with her imperfections and determination to live in the present moment.

When her spirit is scattered, Sister Macrina found the structure of monastic life and regular spiritual practice are her compass.

“We do not have to have complete peace and resonance of mind and heart in order to be touched by grace. … Within the disorder and the daily attempts to be faithful, grace abounds,” Sister Joyce writes in the foreword.

“I don’t think she (Macrina) ever intended that her journals be published,” Sister Joyce said.

At the end of her life, she put no conditions on the gifts she gave her friends. There is an intimacy in her words spoken only to God that differs from words directed to a larger audience.

“Nothing Macrina wrote surprised me in any way,” said Beth Fritsch of Cincinnati, a close friend who received several years of her journals. “She was traveling just as we are and was showing us the fruit of her prayer. I think of Macrina as a mystic, totally devoted to her spiritual life. I was amazed at her dedication and commitment to exploring her own relationship with God.”

On July 28, on what would have been Sister Macrina’s 82nd birthday, the Benedictine sisters will celebrate her funeral and bury her ashes in the monastery cemetery. It will be a sad, but necessary goodbye, delayed by COVID concerns. “Open Wide My Heart” follows the publication of a book of memories in 2021 by Sister Macrina’s friends.

In a July 1985 journal entry, Sister Macrina wrote, “I pray for the grace to live each day as a message from Christ — to live as one sent into the world each day to be Christ.”

“Open Wide My Heart” is available at the St. Scholastica Monastery Gift Shop, Amazon and other online booksellers.

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