On the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

On this June 7th, 2024, the entire Church is celebrating the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, falling this year some 19 days following the Solemnity of Pentecost.

Initially it was a diocesan celebration, in Rennes, France, celebrated with its approved liturgy on August 31, 1670, at the request of St John Eudes. The latter managed to write a Mass and appropriate prayers to be prayed outside the Mass (commonly referred to as Office). Other places in France swiftly took over these prayers. It was Pope Blessed Pius IX who established the Feast of the Sacred Heart as an obligation for the entire Church, to be celebrated on the Friday following Corpus Christi.

The roots of the Sacred Heart devotion go back to the Fathers of the Church. In fact, the latter, such as Origen, St Ambrose, St Jerome, St Augustine of Hippo, St Hippolytus of Rome, St Irenaeus, St Justin Martyr as well as St Cyprian oriented their theological thought towards God’s love which is symbolized by the heart of Jesus. Later, in the 11th century, the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries reinvigorated this devotion thanks to their writings. Notable at this time is the poem/prayer written by St Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century O Sacred Head Surrounded.

The Franciscans, influenced as they were by the humanity of Christ, contributed immensely for this devotion. Of particular importance is the 13the century work by the Franciscan St Bonaventure With you is the Source of Life. As we know, it is this reading which the Church purposely chose for the Divine Office on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. In St Bonaventure’s view, the heart of Jesus is the fountain from which God’s love is poured into our lives. He writes:

Take thought now, redeemed man, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder. It was a divine decree that permitted one of the soldiers to open his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced.’ The blood and water, which poured out at that moment, were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting.

Another source which speaks about the heart of Jesus is surely the extremely popular devotional Vitis mystica (the mystical vine). In this long devotional dedicated to Jesus and commonly attributed to St Bonaventure, we encounter a very poignant description of the “Sacred Heart” of Jesus, as being the source and completion of love which poured into the world. In this treatise on the Passion of Our Lord, exactly in chapter twenty-four, which is An exhortation to the contemplation of the Passion and Charity of Christ, we find written:

Finally, through the door of his lanced side, we enter that humblest of all hearts, the heart of Jesus the most high. Here without any doubt lies that ineffable treasure, the love for which we have ever longed. There, too, we shall find that devotion whence the grace of tears is drawn, and from which we may learn gentleness and patience in adversity and sympathy with all who are afflicted. In particular we shall find there a humble and contrite heart. So great a love longs for and craves for your heart; such love longs to embrace you.

St Gertrude, in the 13the century, also gave her contribution for this feast in the Church. It was Jesus himself who showed her his Divine Heart in one of his appearances to her. He told her: Behold, I manifest to the gaze of thy soul my deified Heart, the harmonious instrument whose sweet tones ravish the Most Adorable Trinity. I give It to thee, and like a faithful, zealous servant, this Heart will be ready, at any moment, to repair thy defects and negligences. … Make use of it and thy works will charm the eye and ear of the Divinity.

At this magnificent grace the Lord has granted her Gertrude was overwhelmed. She was amazed at the immense condescending of our Lord. However Jesus encouraged her by these loving words: If thou hast a beautiful and melodious voice, and takest much pleasure in chanting, wilt thou not feel displeased if another person whose voice is harsh, wishes to sing in thy stead, and insists on doing so? Thus my Divine Heart, understanding human inconstancy, desires with incredible ardor to be continually invited, either by words or signs, to operate and accomplish in thee what thou art unable to accomplish thyself. Its omnipotence enables my Heart to act without trouble. Its impenetrable wisdom enables It to act in the most perfect manner. And its joyous and loving charity makes it ardently desire to accomplish this end.

Another example from St Gertude’s life which shows desire to comfort, relieve, refresh as well as quench the thirst of her divine Lord coupled with Jesus’ tenderness for her is the following one, taken from her Insinuationes Divinae Pietatis: One night, as she was occupied in thinking how she could arrange some straw as a sepulchre for the crucifix, at the commemoration of the Passion after vespers, the God of love … [led her to understand] that when we take pleasure in such things for the love of God, His Divine Heart is pleased thereby … She replied: “If thine immense goodness can find pleasure in this, what dost Thou say of [devout meditation on] the verses in which all Thy passion is commemorated?” “I take the same pleasure in them,” replied Our Lord, “as a person would who was conducted by his friend, with marks of tenderness and friendship, to an agreeable garden, where, while breathing the fresh air and sweet odour of the place, he would also have the pleasure of admiring its beautiful flowers, hearing a concert of exquisite music, and of refreshing himself with the rarest and most exquisite fruits.”

The devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus was greatly renewed by the revelations to St Marguerite Marie Alacoque. These revelations are important because they have given the form for this devotion, mainly the reception of Holy Communion on the first Friday of the month, Eucharistic adoration during a “Holy hour” on Thursday as well as the celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. He told this Visitation sister: My Sacred Heart is so intense in its love for men, and for you in particular, that not being able to contain within it the flames of its ardent charity, they must be transmitted through all means.

On June 16, 1675, Jesus not only entrusted Sr Mary Margaret to promote a feast which rightly honoured his Sacred Heart but also gave her 12 promises for those who venerated as well as promoted the Sacred Heart devotion. These are Jesus promises in his very own words:

 1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.

  1. I will give peace in their families.
  2. I will console them in all their troubles.
  3. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
  4. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
  5. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
  6. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
  7. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.
  8. I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
  9. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
  10. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
  11. In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.

Let us wholeheartedly venerate and promote from the depths of our heart the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. Grant, Good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you. Protect me in the midst of danger. Comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.


Previous articleTraditionalism, the Charismatic Renewal and the End of Christendom
Next article
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.