Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is popularly associated with St. Margaret Mary Alocoque, a nun of the Visitation Order who during the years 1673-1675 who received a number of private revelations through which Our Lord chose to reveal His Most Sacred Heart to the world. ‘My divine Heart is so inflamed with love for mankind … that it can no longer contain within itself the flames of its burning charity and must spread them abroad by your means.’ In the course of these apparitions Our Lord had St. Margaret Mary ask that a Feast in honour of His Sacred Heart be offered to Him by the Church on the Friday after the Solemnity of Corpus Christi; that the King consecrate France to the Sacred Heart, and that the mission of propagating the devotion be entrusted to the Order of the Visitation, as well as the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuit Order. St. Margaret Mary was assisted by St. Claude de la Colombière, a Jesuit priest who was her spiritual director. From Paray-le-Monial, the site of the apparitions, the devotion has spread throughout the world; and since then, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been a source of strength and consolation especially in times of persecution. As with hope we look to an end to the lockdown measures that have caused so much harm to society and to the practice of the faith, especially as it concerns the celebration and reception of the sacraments, this devotion can serve as a source of renewal of faith and life to God’s glory and the salvation of souls.
The Nine First Fridays Devotion is by far the most common expression of devotion to the Sacred Heart. In the course of His apparitions to St. Margaret Mary, Our Lord made twelve promises to those who practise this devotion. The last of these promises states: ‘I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that its all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on nine first Fridays of consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they will not die under my displeasure or without receiving their sacraments, my divine Heart making itself their assured refuge at the last moment’. In addition to Holy Mass and Communion, the faithful who observe this devotion also participate in a Holy Hour of Reparation and Exposition and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in their homes.
Sadly, as with many other traditional practices, this devotion was eclipsed in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. As with many post-conciliar developments that contradicted the very texts of the Council’s documents, it may come as a surprise to many that in 1965, as the Council was coming to a close, Pope Paul VI exhorted the Catholic faithful to deeper devotion to the Sacred Heart: This, therefore, seems to us to be the most suitable ideal: that devotion to the Sacred Heart which, we say it sadly, has declined somewhat in some, now re-flourish daily more and more, and be esteemed by all as an excellent and acceptable form of true piety, which, in our times, especially because of the norms laid down in the Second Vatican Council, is strongly called for toward Christ Jesus, the king and center of all hearts… We especially desire … that through a more intense participation in the august Sacrament of the Altar, a greater devotion be given to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose outstanding gift is the Eucharist” (Pope Paul VI, Investigabiles Christi, Feb. 6, 1965). Near the very end of his turbulent pontificate, on October 13, 1977, on the 60th anniversary of the apparitions, Pope Paul VI observed: The tail of the devil is functioning in the disintegration of the Catholic World. The darkness of satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit. Apostasy, the loss of the faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels within the Church. These are very sobering words spoken by a pope. A few years earlier, he had made an even more sobering, often-quoted observation: We believed that after the Council would come a day of sunshine in the history of the Church. But instead there has come a day of clouds and storms and of darkness of searching and uncertainties…It is as if from some mysterious crack, no it is not mysterious, from some crack the smoke of satan has entered the temple of God (Sermon of June 29, 1972).
In view of the weakened state of the Church everywhere on account of the restrictions imposed on sacred worship by the pandemic lockdown, the scheduled reopening of churches at least in Ontario on June 14th, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, observing this Feast, preferably in church but even at home, may serve as a springboard for spiritual renewal after so long an absence from Holy Mass and reception of the Sacraments. It is possible in a sense, to pick up where we left off during Eastertide and renew our commitment to faithful discipleship by contemplating the Sacrifice of Our Lord on Calvary. On Good Friday, in the reading of the Passion according to St. John, these words were heard: One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water (Jn. 19:34). The spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus recognises the profound spiritual and mystical significance in this incident in Our Lord’s Passion. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water (Jn. 19:33-34). To emphasise the significance of what had taken place, St John adds, He who saw it has borne witness – his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth – that you also may believe (Jn. 19:35). The preface of the Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus fittingly summarizes the spiritual and sacramental significance of an incident that witnesses to the bitterness of Our Lord’s Passion and to the Church’s sacramental economy and the sacrificial nature of the Mass: For raised up high on the Cross, he gave himself up for us with a wonderful love and poured out blood and water from his pierced side, the wellspring of the Church’s Sacraments” (Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, The Roman Missal).
Whenever we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Lamb’s High Feast, we are drawn to the Heart of Jesus. Jesus, our Good Shepherd who lays down His life for us is the food for our journey. He is the way and our life for life comes through devoutly receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him’ (Jn. 6:53-56). This mutual indwelling which is ours through the reception of the Sacraments and most especially the Holy Eucharist is the desired goal of our life both here on earth and in eternity – a participation in God’s own life a share in the divine nature.
As noted, in a time of His own choosing, Our Lord revealed His Most Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary, a humble nun of the Order of the Visitation, for the Lord guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way (Ps. 25:9). He instructed her that with the help of St. Claude de la Colombière, whom Our Lord called His faithful and perfect friend, she should make known the treasures of His Sacred Heart. It is in the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we already abide by virtue of Our Lord’s human nature. His Heart, substantially united to the Word of God, expresses the central Mystery of our faith, the Redemptive Incarnation. God has become man so that we might share in God’s own life. In the twelve promises that our Lord made to St. Margaret Mary He said, ‘I will bless every place where a picture of my Heart shall be set up and honoured’. Ideally, it is best to honour our Lord’s Sacred Heart in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. However, since Our Lord assures us that He will bless every place where a picture of His Heart is honoured, His image should grace our homes and especially our churches and oratories. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a most effective means of living always in the company of Our Lord Jesus whom we receive in Holy Communion. In other words, our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an extended act of love for Him who shows us the greatest possible love by offering His Body and Blood for us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice (Raymond L. Cardinal Burke). Enthronement of the image of the Sacred Heart in the home is a central aspect of this devotion. By the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart, we link the tabernacle of our parish church to our home, inviting Our Lord to be our constant and most intimate companion. The Enthronement is a way of life. It means that Christ is King of our hearts, and we desire Him to be present with us always.
The gospels contain some key texts, easily memorized, that can help us to be mindful of this devotion and practice it in a manner that enables us to grow in charity and in holiness. ‘Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Mt. 11: 28-30). It is very significant that this is what Our Lord enjoins on all His disciples. These two virtues of humility and gentleness are all that we need in the face of any trial or difficulty. Humility is truth and only the truth can set us free. As for gentleness, it is both the fruit of humility and its indispensable ancillary. These enable us to dispose our own hearts in attitudes of adoration, reparation, atonement, love and empathy. One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water (Jn. 19:34). The manner in which the wellspring of the Church’s Sacraments first began to flow speaks to us of the manner of God’s saving grace. God hastens to save us; and He comes quickly, immediately, gently, lovingly. The immediacy of His saving grace compels us to imitate Him also in the manner of His coming to our aid, for it can be said that we are saved by our adverbs. As we celebrate this Feast after so long an absence from our churches, may we resolve to listen to God’s word attentively; receive His Body reverently; worship Him truthfully; love Him passionately; serve Him generously; and adore Him humbly and devoutly. So generous and so passionate a love made manifest in Christ and revealed in the Sacred Heart of the Saviour can only be reciprocated by an equally ardent love. Cor ad cor loquitur. Heart speaks to heart. This is how we can best understand and appreciate the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion that expresses the central Mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation; a mystery that we profess, celebrate, live and pray in a dynamic of progressive identification with God Himself through grace and love.
The Pierced One upon whom we gaze, draws us to His Sacred and Wounded Heart, the fullest expression of God’s love for humanity and as if in a mirror, we also look to the Heart of Jesus as the expression of all that we are called to be by virtue of our Christian discipleship; men and women whose own hearts, though often wounded by sin and its consequences, are nevertheless places of consolation, reparation, and healing for others. In the Heart of Jesus, we encounter the God who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Cor. 1:4).
Jesus meek and humble of Heart; make my heart like unto Thine. This simple yet profound prayer expresses in a manner that all can easily understand the purpose of all our prayers, works and sufferings. Simple prayers often express the very essence of our Christian faith. Those who endeavour to practice the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus endeavour to conform their hearts to the Heart of the Saviour. The pierced Heart of Jesus is a complete summary of our Christian faith. Those who follow Jesus, Way, Truth and Life along the path of devout discipleship understand quite simply, that Christian life is a progressive identification with the life of Jesus. The devotion to the Sacred Heart assists us in this effort and we become one with Him in His saving mission. With Him we cooperate in working out our own salvation, and we journey with Him into the Mystery of the Redemption which He brought about through His Passion, Death and Resurrection.
To return to the history of this devotion, Our Lord’s request for the consecration of France was refused by King Louis XIV, the Sun King as he was known. This refusal resulted in much suffering not only for France but indeed, for the whole world. The collapse of the moral order and the secularism unleashed by the French Revolution would, in time, wreak havoc on the French nation and subsequently on those nations and societies like our once Christian nation, that have either violently or stealthily implemented the revolutionary program. Our own struggles with the overreach of the state and the health dictatorship have their origin in the errors of the French Revolution. The horrors and terror of political atheism, first unleashed in France have ravaged many nations and have also caused world wars. Wherever and whenever primacy of God and His law is supplanted by the rebellious will of man and the will to power, there is only death and destruction
In 1875, two hundred years after the apparitions of Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary, construction of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart began in Montmartre in Paris, as an act of national reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These words are inscribed in the dome of the basilica: Christo Eiusque Sacratissimo Cordi Gallia Poenitens et Grata et Devota; To Christ and His Most Sacred Heart from France, Penitent, Grateful and Devoted. Man’s disobedience however tragic in itself and in its consequences, can never overwhelm God’s plan of salvation for His own designs shall stand for ever; the plans of his heart from age to age (Ps. 33).
In our certain hope in Divine Providence, may the Feast of the Sacred Heart this year inspire us to pray and to work for the establishment of the social Kingship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It begins first and foremost in the intimacy of our own hearts. Cor ad cor loquitur. Then, in union with others who share our love for and devotion to Our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart and His mercy for humanity we resolve to adore, to imitate and to repair. The Heart of Our Saviour is the King and centre of all hearts, fount of life and holiness, source of all consolation and delight of all the saints (Litany of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus).
Adveniat Regnum Christi per Cor Immaculatum Beatae Mariae Virginis !
May the Kingdom of Christ come through the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary!
The twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary to encourage all Catholics to know and understand the benefit of practicing the Devotion and to encourage all to take up its practice.
1. I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
- will give peace in their families and will unite families that are divided.
- I will console them in all their troubles.
- I will be their refuge during life and above all in death.
- I will bestow the blessings of Heaven on all their enterprises.
- Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
- Tepid souls shall become fervent.
- Fervent souls shall rise quickly to great perfection.
- I will bless those places wherein the image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored and will imprint My love on the hearts of those who would wear this image on their person. I will also destroy in them all disordered movement.
- I will give to priests who are animated by a tender devotion to my Divine Heart the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
- Those who promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart, never to be effaced.
- I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence: they will not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their Sacraments. My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
The Nine Fridays must be made in honor of His Sacred Heart; meaning, practising the devotion and having a great love of Our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart. They must be on the first Friday of the month for nine consecutive months, and Communion must be received.
Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O sweet Jesus, Whose overflowing charity for men is requited by so much forgetfulness, negligence, and contempt, behold us prostrate before Thy altar eager to repair by a special act of homage the cruel indifference and injuries to which Thy loving Heart is everywhere subject.
Mindful, alas! that we ourselves have had a share in such great indignities, which we now deplore from the depths of our hearts, we humbly ask Thy pardon, and declare our readiness to atone by voluntary expiation not only for our own personal offenses, but also for the sins of those who, straying far from the path of salvation, refuse in their obstinate infidelity to follow Thee, their Shepherd and Leader, or, renouncing the vows of their baptism, have cast off the sweet yoke of Thy Law. We are now resolved to expiate each and every deplorable outrage committed against Thee; we are determined to make amends for the manifold offenses against Christian modesty in unbecoming dress and behavior, for all the foul seductions laid to ensnare the feet of the innocent, for the frequent violations of Sundays and holydays, and the shocking blasphemies uttered against Thee and Thy saints. We wish also to make amends for the insults to which Thy Vicar on earth and Thy priests are subjected, for the profanation, by conscious neglect or terrible acts of sacrilege, of the very Sacrament of Thy Divine Love; and, lastly, for all the public crimes of nations who resist the rights and teaching authority of the Church which Thou hast founded.
Would, O divine Jesus, we were able to wash away such abominations with our blood. We now offer, in reparation for these violations of Thy divine honor, the satisfaction Thou didst once make to Thy Eternal Father on the Cross, and which Thou dost continue to renew daily on our altars; we offer it in union with the acts of atonement of Thy Virgin Mother and all the saints, and of the pious faithful on earth; and we sincerely promise to make recompense, as far as we can with the help of Thy grace, for all neglect of Thy great love, and for the sins we and others have committed in the past. Henceforth we will live a life of unwavering faith, of purity of conduct, of perfect observance of the precepts of the Gospel and especially of charity. We promise to the best of our power to prevent others from offending Thee, and to bring as many as possible to follow Thee.
O loving Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother, our model in reparation, deign to receive the voluntary offering we make of this act of expiation; and by the crowning gift of perseverance keep us faithful unto death in our duty and the allegiance we owe to Thee, so that we may all one day come to that happy home, where Thou with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.