A Sacred Heart Primer

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The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Feast of the Sacred Heart is a movable feast, always falling 19 days after Pentecost. This year, it falls on June 28th.

I love this devotion because it is all about how much Jesus loves us, despite how tremendously unworthy we are. This message is so important for us, in fact, that Jesus spoke about it to a great many saints: Saints Lutgarde, Mecthilde and Gertrude the Great preceded Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart and Sister Josefa Menendez. 

St John of the Cross said, “it should be known that if a person is seeking God, his beloved is seeking him much more.” I think the same can be said of Jesus and His Sacred Heart — we may love Him a whole lot, but our love for Him will never come close to how very much He loves us. In fact, we are only able to love Him because of His love for us. Knowing that, it’s impossible to not be grateful, and to want to do everything I can to love Him back, and to love others because He asks me to.

HISTORY

WHY THE HEART?

“The heart has always been seen as the ‘center’ or essence a person (‘the heart of the matter,’ ‘you are my heart,’ ‘take it to heart,’ etc.) and the wellspring of our emotional lives and love (‘you break my heart,’ ‘my heart sings,’ etc.). Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is devotion to Jesus Christ Himself, but in the particular ways of meditating on his interior life and on His threefold love –His divine love, His burning love that fed His human will, and His sensible love that affects His interior life.

–Pope Pius XII, from his 1956 encyclical, Haurietis Aquas (On Devotion To The Sacred Heart).

Kathy Schiffer does a great job summarizing the history of this devotion in her National Catholic Register blog, “Where Did Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Come From?” She says:

“Devotion to the wounded heart of Jesus has its origins in the eleventh century when pious Christians meditated on the Five Wounds of Christ. There grew up among the faithful prayers to the Sacred Heart, prayers to the Shoulder Wound of Christ—private devotions which helped Christians to focus on the passion and death of Christ, and thus to grow in love for our Savior who had suffered and died for us.”

In the 14th century, St Gertrude the Great received an apparition of Jesus on the feast of St John the Evangelist. Jesus allowed St Gertrude to rest her head near the wound in his side—and she heard His Sacred Heart beat. She later asked St John why he never said anything about hearing that in his Gospel. The saint told her that information was to be reserved for when man’s love for God became so cold, it needed rekindling.

In 1670, a French priest, Fr. Jean Eudes, celebrated the first Feast of the Sacred Heart.

“The Sacred Heart of Jesus, whether considered in His Divinity or in His humanity, is more ardently enkindled with love for His Father, loving Him infinitely more at any given moment, than all the hearts of angels and saints can love him throughout all eternity.”

–St John Eudes

THE REVELATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS TO ST MARGUERITE-MARIE ALACOQUE

I cannot improve on the words of a saint and of Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, I will let the diary of St Marguerite-Marie Alacoque (her non-Anglicized name) tell the story:

“It was to St. Marguerite-Marie Alacoque, a humble nun of the Order of the Visitation of Our Lady that Our Lord chose to reveal to the world His Sacred Heart, thus opening a New Era of Grace and Mercy in the history of the Church and the world. These private revelations took place during the years 1673-1675, and are drawn from the diary of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the witness of her fellow sisters, and that of her spiritual director, St. Claude de La Colombiere.”

On December 27th, 1673, at Paray-le-Monial, France, Visitation Sister Marquerite-Marie Alacoque was praying. She described what happened:

“I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament when I felt myself wholly penetrated with that Divine Presence, but to such a degree that I lost all thought of myself and the place where I was, and abandoned myself to this Divine Spirit, yielding up my heart to the power of His love. He made me repose for a long time upon His Sacred Breast, where He disclosed to me the marvels of His Love and the inexplicable secrets of His Sacred Heart, which so far He had concealed from me. Then it was that, for the first time, He opened to me His Divine Heart in a manner so real and sensible as to be beyond all doubt, by reason of the effects which this favor produced in me, fearful, as I always am, of deceiving myself in anything that I say of what passes in time. It seems to me that this is what took place:”

Jesus said to her:

“My Divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men, and for you in particular that, being unable any longer to contain within Itself the flames of Its burning love, It needs to spread them abroad through you, and manifest Itself to them (mankind) in order to enrich them with the precious graces of sanctification and salvation necessary to withdraw them from the abyss of perdition. I have chosen you as an abyss of unworthiness and ignorance for the accomplishment of this great design, in order that everything may be done by Me.”

“After this He asked me for my heart, which I begged Him to take. He did so and placed it in His own Adorable Heart where He showed it to me as a little atom which was being consumed in this great furnace, and withdrawing it thence as a burning flame in the form of a heart, He restored it to the place whence He had taken it saying to me:”

“My well-beloved, I give you a precious token of My love, having enclosed within your side a little spark of its glowing flames, that is may serve you for a heart and consume you to the last moment of your life; its ardor will never be exhausted, and you will be able to find some slight relief only by bleeding. Even this remedy I shall so mark with My Cross, that it will bring you more humiliation and suffering than alleviation. Therefore, I will that you ask for it with simplicity, both that you may practice what is ordered you and also to give you the consolation of shedding your blood on the cross of humiliations. As a proof that the great favor I have done to you is not imagination, and that it is the foundation of all those which I intend further to confer upon you, although I have closed the wound in your side, the pain will always remain. If before, you have taken only the name of My slave, I now give you that of the beloved disciple of My Sacred Heart.’

“After such a signal favor which lasted for a long time, during which I knew not whether I was in heaven or on earth, I remained for several days, as it were, on fire and inebriated (with divine love) and so completely out of myself, that I had to do myself violence in order to utter a single word. The effort I had to make in order to join in recreation or to take food was so great that itwas all I could do to overcome myself, which was a cause of considerable humiliation to me. I was not able to sleep, because of the pain of the wound, which is so precious to me; it produces such heat within me that it burns and consumes me alive. I also felt such a plentitude of God,that I could not explain myself to my Superioress, as I should have wished, regardless of any suffering and confusion which the recital of these favors might cause me. I would rather have accused myself of my sins before the whole world than speak of these graces on account of my extreme unworthiness. It would have been a great consolation to me had I been permitted to read aloud my general confession in the refectory, in order thereby to make known the depth of corruption which is in me, so that none of the favors I received might be attributed to me.”

Our Lord makes known the Devotion of the First Fridays: June 1674

“On the First Friday of each month, the above-mentioned grace connected with the pain in my side was renewed in the following manner: the Sacred Heart was represented to me as a resplendent sun, the burning rays of which fell vertically upon my heart, which was inflamed with a fire so fervid that it seemed as if it would reduce me to ashes. It was at these times especially that my Divine Master taught me what He required of me and disclosed to me thesecrets of His loving Heart. On one occasion, while the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, feeling wholly withdrawn within myself by an extraordinary recollection of all my senses and powers, Jesus Christ, my sweet Master, presented Himself to me, all resplendent with glory, His Five Wounds shining like so many suns. Flames issued from every part of His Sacred Humanity, especially from His Adorable Breast, which resembled an open furnace and disclosed to me His most loving and most amiable Heart, which was the living source of these flames. It was then that He made known to me the ineffable marvels of His pure love and showed me to what an excess He had loved men, from whom He received only ingratitude and contempt:”

“I feel this more than all that I suffered during My Passion. If only they would make Me some return for My Love, I should think but little of all I have done for them and would wish, were it possible, to suffer still more. But the sole return they make for all My eagerness to do them good is to reject Me and treat Me with coldness. Do you at least console Me by supplying for their ingratitude, as far as you are able.’

 “On representing to Him my inability, He replied: 

“Behold, this will supply for all that is wanting to you.’”

 “And at the same time His Divine Heart being opened, there issued from It a flame so ardent that I thought I should be consumed, for I was wholly penetrated with it, and being no longer able to bear it, I besought Him to have pity on my weakness.” 

‘I will be your strength. Fear nothing, but be attentive to My voice and to what I shall require of you that you may be in the requisite disposition for the accomplishment of My designs. In the first place, you shall receive Me in Holy Communion as often as obedience (to your confessor and superiors) will permit you, despite the mortification and humiliation it may cause you, which you must receive as pledges of My Love. You shalt, moreover, communicate on the First Friday of each month. Every night between the Thursday and the (first) Friday I will make you share in My mortal sadness which I was pleased to feel in the Garden of Olives, and this sadness, without you being able to understand it, shall reduce you to a kind of agony harder to endure than death itself. And in order to bear Me company in the humble prayer that I then offered to My Father, in the midst of My anguish, you shall rise between 11 P.M. and midnight, and remain prostrate with Me for an hour, not only to appease the divine anger by begging mercy for sinners, but also to mitigate in some way the bitterness which I felt at that time on finding Myself abandoned by My Apostles, which obliged Me to reproach them for not being able to watch one hour with Me. During that hour you shall do what I shall teach you. But listen, My daughter, believe not lightly and trust not every spirit, for Satan is enraged and will seek to deceive you. Therefore, do nothing without the approval of those who guide you; being thus under the authority of obedience, his efforts against you will be in vain, for he has no power over the obedient.’”

Our Lord Requests the Devotion of First Fridays be practiced: June 16, 1675

During the octave in preparation for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, while St. Margaret was close to the choir grate, Our Lord appeared to her upon the Altar.

“Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for Me in this Sacrament of Love. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts which are consecrated to Me, that treat Me thus. Therefore, I ask of you that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special Feast to honor My Heart, by communicating on that day, and making reparation to It by a solemn act, in order to make amends for the indignities which It has received during the time It has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that My Heart shall expand Itself to shed in abundance the influence of Its Divine Love upon those who shall thus honor It, and cause It to be honored.”

The Devotion is Made Known to the World

Our Lord had St. Margaret ask that a Feast in honor of His Heart be offered Him by the Church on the Friday after the Solemnity of His Body and Blood (Corpus Christi), that such homage be paid to Himself by the King of France, and that the mission of propagating this devotion was to be entrusted to the Order of the Visitation Sisters and to the priests of the Society of Jesus.

After St. Margaret made this known to her spiritual director, the future St. Claude de la Colombiere.

He consecrated himself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and began to spread the devotion. From Paray-le-Monial, her convent, this devotion spread rapidly, under the care of the Jesuits, to the entire Church. Today, just outside of Paris, France, you can visit the Basilica built as an Act of National Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which commemorates the Apparitions of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. She is buried at Paray-le-Monial, which is between Lyons and Paris. Her feast day is October 16.

  • On May 8, 1873, the devotion to the Sacred Heart was approved by Pope Pius IX.
  • On June 11, 1899, Pope Leo XIII solemnly consecrated all mankind to the Sacred Heart. (Annum Sacrum)
  • On May 8, 1928, Pope Pius XI wrote Miserentissimus Redemptor(On Reparation to the Sacred Heart).
  • On May 15, 1956, Pope Pius XII wrote Haurietis Aquas(On Devotion to the Sacred Heart)

PROMISES OF JESUS TO ST MARGARET MARY

THE 12 PROMISES of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary for Sacred Heart devotees:

  1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
  2. I will establish peace in their homes.
  3. I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
  4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
  5. I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
  6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
  7. Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
  8. Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
  9. I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
  10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
  11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
  12. I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

THE NINE FIRST FRIDAY DEVOTION

Conditions required:

  • Receive Holy Communion
  • on the first Friday of the month
  • for nine consecutive months, without interruption
  • with the proper disposition (no attachment to sin)
  • with the intention of making reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to obtain the fruit of this great promise
  • Go to confession within eight days of the First Friday.

PRAYERS

DAILY OFFERING

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father.

PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist, I consecrate my body and soul to be entirely one with Your Heart, being sacrificed at every instant on all the altars of the world and giving praise to the Father pleading for the coming of His Kingdom.

Please receive this humble offering of myself. Use me as You will for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls.

Most holy Mother of God, never let me be separated from Your Divine Son. Please defend and protect me as Your Special Child.

Amen.

PRAYER BY ST GERTRUDE THE GREAT

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, fountain of eternal life, Your Heart is a glowing furnace of Love. You are my refuge and my sanctuary. O my adorable and loving Savior, consume my heart with the burning fire with which Yours is aflamed. Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Your love. Let my heart be united with Yours. Let my will be conformed to Yours in all things. May Your Will be the rule of all my desires and actions.

PRAYER TO THE SACRED HEART

O most holy Heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing,
I adore you, I love you, and with a 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 blessings on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death.
Within Your Heart I place my every care.
In every need let me come to you with humble trust saying,
Heart of Jesus, help me.
Amen.

ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE SACRED HEART

Written by St Margaret Mary Alacoque

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, to Thee I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials, and sufferings, that my entire being may henceforth only be employed in loving, honoring and glorifying Thee. This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to Thee, and to do all for Thy love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease Thee.

I take Thee, O Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my frailty and inconstancy, the reparation for all the defects of my life, and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Be Thou, O Most Merciful Heart, my justification before God Thy Father, and screen me from His anger which I have so justly merited. I fear all from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in Thee, O Heart of Love, I hope all from Thine infinite Goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or resist Thee. Imprint Thy pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget Thee or be separated from Thee.
I beseech Thee, through Thine infinite Goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon Thy Heart, for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of Thy devoted servants.

Amen.

 

Featured Image: detail of mosaic of the Sacred Heart, used with permission of Unsplash.

Image of antique Sacred Heart Holy Card, Wikimedia Commons.

Image of a woman praying, Unsplash.

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