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NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local diocese, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

~ Peter, Ministry Administrator


Friday, July 1, 2011

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

 
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Today, July 1st, is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Most of us who grew up Catholic are familiar with this devotion and with its accompanying image of the Lord with his exposed heart, encircled by thorns and sending forth flames. As a child, I often saw these images in churches and in the homes of my relatives, but I must confess that I never truly appreciated them until I got older and educated myself about the history of the Sacred Heart devotion. It was only then that I began to understand the rich symbolism depicted in these familiar images, which give us visual references of God’s immense love for us, as represented by the image of a heart wounded by sin and indifference, but on fire with love.

The History
So what is the 'Sacred Heart' of Jesus? Well… the heart, undoubtedly, is the universal symbol of LOVE; it’s been that way for ages. Theologically, the Bible abounds with scriptural references about the immeasurable love of God for all humanity… but there are no solid references specifically pointing out the image of the wounded heart of Christ as a symbolic representation of Divine Love. It wasn’t until 1637 that this connection was firmly established after the Lord made a powerful revelation of it to a humble French nun named, Margaret Mary Alacoque, now a Canonized Saint in the Church.

St. Margaret Mary will forever be immortalized as the great Apostle of the Sacred Heart for having been the favored recipient of these revelations. As a member of the Visitation Order in Paray-le-Monial, France, we know from existing reports that the Lord appeared to her in a series of visions beginning on December 27, 1673, by which he successively revealed the sublime devotion to his heart of flesh, and his desire to have it honored as a visual reminder of his immense love for all mankind.

 
The Message
On June 16, 1675, St. Margaret Mary reported seeing Christ with his heart resplendent with fire, standing in glory upon the altar of the chapel; the message Jesus spoke to her on that day became the foundation of the Sacred Heart devotion that we now treasure today:

"Behold, this heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. 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. And what is most painful to me is that they are hearts consecrated to me… It is for this reason I ask thee that the first Friday after the octave of the Blessed Sacrament be appropriated to a special feast, to honor my heart by communicating on that day, and making reparation for the indignity that it has received. And I promise that my heart shall dilate to pour out abundantly the influences of its love on all that will render it this honor or procure its being rendered."

Of her experiences with Jesus, St. Margaret Mary wrote:

"And he [Christ] showed me that it was his great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin that made him form the design of manifesting his heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification, and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render him and procure him all the honor and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which his heart is the source."

With the encouragement and support of the monastery's confessor - St. Claude de la Colombiere - St. Margaret Mary was able to fulfill her mission from the Lord in establishing devotion to the Sacred Heart. It was first started within the Visitation monastery of Paray-le-Monial, among the nuns, then slowly spread outside its walls and throughout the entire Church.  The devotion finally gained official approbation by Papal Decree in 1856.
 
   
 A close likeness of St. Margaret Mary, a window in the Honolulu Cathedral depicting the Sacred Heart apparition, & a relic of St. Margaret Mary in my personal custody
 
The 12 Promises
During the course of his visits to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus reportedly made the following promises in favor of those who practice the devotion to his Divine Heart and promote its cause:

1.   I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2.   I will give peace in their families.
3.   I will console them in all their troubles.
4.   I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
5.   I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6.   Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7.   Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8.   Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great 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 power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11.  Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
12.  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.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is now deeply rooted in traditional Catholic culture… and through the fire of love that radiates from this Divine Heart, many Saints have been inspired to continue the spiritual mission begun by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Among the long list of holy persons who were devoted to the Sacred Heart, we have St. Annibale di Francia, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. Gaetano Errico, St. Gemma Galgani, St. Giulia Salzano, St. John Eudes, St. Madeleine-Sophie Barat, Bl. Maria Droste Zu Vischering, Bl. Marie Deluil-Martiny, St. Teresa Margaret Redi, and St. Padre Pio, just to name a few… and as the inexhaustible love of God continues to flow from the Sacred Heart, we should rejoice in the knowledge that many more Saints will arise in the future to bless our Catholic Faith.
 
"Jesus has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
pierced by our sins and for our salvation, is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol
of that love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father
and all human beings without exception."
 
~ Words of Pope Pius XII
 

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