Sacred Heart of Jesus
The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is as ancient as the Church. It commenced upon the Cross, from the moment when this divine Heart, pierced by the soldier's spear, opened to the faithful an inviolable place of refuge. When the first Christians and the martyrs, with that faith and love, which made them triumph over torments and death itself, kissed the wounds of Jesus crucified, who can doubt that in applying their lips to the wounded side of their Redeemer, as they meditated on His Passion, they thought at the same time of His Sacred Heart, and of its infinite love which seemed to burst forth in flames through that sacred opening in His side? Thus too did the greatest saints of every age, St. Augustin, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Gertrude, St. Mechtildis, St. Catherine of Sienna, penetrate the secret of this devotion, long before it was proposed in any special revelation. But it was reserved for the seventeenth century to see the Sacred Heart of Jesus honoured by a public worship, and for France to give birth to this devotion. The person whom God employed to make known His designs of mercy in the establishment of this devotion, was a simple Religious of the Visitation, at Paray le Monial, in Charolais, known by the name of Mary Margaret.
Jesus Christ, who had already favoured her with His most precious gifts, appeared to her one day, and said: “My divine Heart is so full of love for men, that, no longer able to restrain the flames of its burning charity, it must needs spread them abroad by every means, and manifest itself to men, to enrich them with the treasures which it contains. To you I disclose these priceless treasures; they contain the graces of sanctification and salvation necessary to draw mankind from the abyss of perdition.”
The designs of our Divine Lord were made known to Mary Margaret some time afterwards in a still clearer manner. “Whilst praying before the B. Sacrament,” she says, “one day within its octave, I received from God excessive graces of His love. As I felt myself moved with the desire of making Him a return of love for love, He said to me: ‘You cannot give me any greater mark of your love than by doing what I have already so often asked of you.’ Upon this, disclosing to me His Divine Heart, He said to me: ‘Behold this Heart, which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify to them its love; and in return I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, in the neglect, irreverence, sacrileges and coldness which I meet with from them in my Sacrament of love. But what afflicts me most is, that I receive this treatment from hearts which are specially consecrated to me. For this reason, I ask you to procure the first Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi to be set apart as a special feast in honour of my Heart, by making an act of reparation, and communicating on that day, in order to atone for the indignities which it has received during the time that it has been exposed upon my altars; and I promise that my Heart shall dilate itself to shed in abundance the influence of its divine love upon those who shall render it this honour, or procure it to be rendered.’ ” The humble religious replied: “To whom, O Lord, dost Thou address Thyself? to so wretched a creature, so poor a sinner, that her unworthiness would be even capable of hindering the accomplishment of Thy design. Thou hast so many generous souls to execute it.” “Do you not know then,” replied our Lord, “that I make use of the weakest instruments to confound the strong, and that it is in the little and poor of spirit that I display my power with greater splendour, in order that they may attribute nothing to themselves?” “Do Thou give me, then,” rejoined the sister, “the means of doing what Thou commandest.”
Upon this our Lord added: “Address yourself to my servant (this was Father de la Colombière, S.J.) and tell him from me to do what he can to establish this devotion, and to afford this gratification to my heart. Let him not be discouraged at the difficulties which he will meet with, for there will be no lack of them; but let him remember that those alone are all-powerful who distrust themselves, and place all their confidence in me.”
Father de la Colombière, who had examined the sanctity of this religious with great care, and was satisfied by evident marks of the truth of her communications with God, considered himself called to contribute to the establishment of so holy a devotion, especially as it presented nothing which was open to suspicion. He began with himself, and wished to be the first disciple of the Heart of Jesus, and the first adorer of His love, according to the directions prescribed to the sister Mary Margaret. He accordingly consecrated himself to this Sacred Heart, on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, June 21, 1675, a day which may be regarded as that on which the Heart of Jesus made its first conquest.
Since that time, this devotion, censured and combatted, as are all the works of God, has been at length established with marvellous success throughout the whole world, especially after it had received the solemn approval of the Holy See. Thus did the event prove how justly founded was the confidence of Mary Margaret, when she said: “Though I should see the whole world let loose in opposition to this devotion, I should never despair of seeing it established, since I have received an assurance of it from the mouth of our B. Saviour Himself.”
O Virgin, purer than the light!
Mother of God! Thy welcome Name,
Linked by a Mother's dearest right,
Still by Thy Son's its place must claim.
To form Thy Jesus' Sacred Heart,
Mary! Thy Heart its life-blood gave;
With His in joy it bears its part,
With His it bleeds, mankind to save.
In vain an entrance do we seek
To Jesus' Heart, except through Thine;
To Thy dear Son, O Mother! speak,
And bid His Heart enkindle mine.
Mary has all power over the Heart of Jesus; she is the Mother of fair love, Mater pulchræ dilectionis; it is to her that we must address ourselves, if we would have its flames enkindled in our hearts.
The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary are too much alike, and too closely united, for one not to lead infallibly to the other; with this difference, that the Heart of Jesus more particularly favours pure souls, whilst the Heart of Mary purifies those which are not so, by means of the graces which she obtains for them, and prepares them to be received within the Heart of Jesus. Sinners should never despair of obtaining this grace through Mary; she is the refuge of the miserable, the resource of the whole world. Without a tender love towards this Mother of mercy, we can never hope to obtain an entrance into the Heart of Jesus.
One day as St. Gertrude was repeating, with great devotion, those words of the Salve Regina; Illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte; Turn, then, thine eyes of mercy towards us; the Blessed Virgin appeared to her, and showing her the eyes of the Infant Jesus, whom she held in her arms; “These,” she said, “are the eyes, full of mercy, which I can turn at pleasure upon those who invoke me.” Let us cherish, then, a tender love for Mary; we shall soon be inflamed with an ardent love for her Son. This is the recompense, beyond all price, which she obtains for all who are devoted to her. Every good has come, and will come, to us through Mary alone; Omnia per Mariam. Whoever has found her has found life and salvation.
There can be no difficulty in approaching this tender Mother, for she tells us herself that she prevents those who seek her, and that she shows herself first to them. Yes, it is she who inspires us with the desire of loving and serving her, in order that she may enrich us with all the treasures which are deposited in her hands. It is through her hands that every grace must pass, which the Heart of Jesus designs to shed upon us.
Let us address ourselves, then, to Mary, and especially to her heart, the perfect image of the Heart of Jesus; to that heart, which was so constantly united to the Heart of her Divine Son, that it shared, each moment, His feelings, His joys, His labours, sorrows, and His love for us. Never shall we find Jesus without Mary, nor Mary without Jesus.
Let us invoke Mary, especially by her Immaculate Conception, her dearest privilege, which exempted her from the sad necessity of being, for a single instant, the enemy of her God; and let us be sure, that she will never refuse us anything. Let us never separate the Heart of Mary from that of Jesus in our devotions; let us honour and love them both from the bottom of our hearts; let us devote and consecrate ourselves wholly to these amiable Hearts. Let us address our requests to God the Father through the Heart of Jesus; and let us approach Jesus by the Heart of Mary; we shall obtain everything from the Father by the Heart of the Son, and everything from the Son by the Heart of the Mother.
MONTH OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH
BY THE REV. GEORGE TICKELL, S.J.