THE NINE FIRST FRIDAYS DEVOTION TO THE SACRED HEART
What is meant by the expression “Sacred Heart”? We mean the Person of Christ, but viewed under a special aspect. Because of the richness and grandeur of Christ's being, we can consider Him under many titles. Thus, we can think of Him as the King of all creation, and represent Him in statue or picture as a crowned Ruler. Or we can consider Him as the eternal High Priest, and represent Him in that semblance. But if we think of Him as the God-man, loving us with a sublime and boundless love, yet as being loved so little in return, we represent Him as the Sacred Heart. A devotion that is to be nurtured must have a symbol which will keep its memory vividly in our minds. Our Lord provided such a symbol. In one of His apparitions to St. Margaret Mary, He showed her His heart. Flames of love were bursting forth from it, a crown of thorns circled it round and round, and a cross surmounted it; and holding forth that fiery symbol, He said, “Behold the heart which has loved men so much that it has spared nothing even to exhausting and consuming itself to prove to them its love, and in return I receive from the greater number nothing but ingratitude.” This blazing heart is the symbol of that immense love which is not loved in return. The reason for representing it in pictures and statues is to remind us of Love which is not loved, and to inspire us to generous reparation.
One way to make reparation to the Sacred Heart, and a way which will be of great advantage to ourselves, is the devotion of the nine first Fridays. Christ Himself expressly indicated this when He said to St. Margaret Mary, “I promise thee, in the excessive mercy of My heart, that My omnipotent love will grant to all who shall communicate on the first Friday of nine consecutive months, the grace of final perseverance; they will not die in My disfavor, or without receiving their sacraments, and My heart will be for them a secure refuge in that last hour.” Such is the devotion our Lord asks of us, and such is the promise to which He has bound Himself. This is after the nature of a bilateral contract; if we perform the work, He obligates Himself to give the reward. What He asks of us is not difficult: the worthy reception of Holy Communion, on the first Friday of nine consecutive months; the Holy Communion to be received in the spirit of reparation to His abandoned heart. The work is within the power of all of us, and the reward will not fail; “for He Who has given the promise is faithful.” (Heb. 10:23) “God is not a man, that He should lie: nor as the son of man, that He should be changed. Hath He said then, and will He not do? Hath He spoken, and will He not fulfill?” (Num. 23:19)
One might object that the work is so small, and the reward so astonishing: is it possible that “the great gift of perseverance” can be secured at such a little price?* But do not forget that an infinite mercy intervenes between the work and the reward, “the excessive mercy” of His heart, His “omnipotent love.” Shall we put limits to omnipotent love — “Hath He spoken, and will He not fulfill?” Shall we not securely hope for divine generosity from the heart of Jesus? Do not let the magnitude of the reward make you incredulous, for the Apostle writes that God “is able to accomplish all things in a measure far beyond what we ask or conceive.” (Eph. 3:20)
*The conditions are clear, namely: the worthy reception of Holy Communion on the first Friday of nine consecutive months. Hence, to substitute another day for Friday, or to interrupt the series, even through no fault of one's own, would make the matter doubtful. Before we can lay claim to the reward, we must be sure to have fulfilled the required conditions. Even if the interruption occurs because the first Friday falls on Good Friday, it would be more prudent to recommence the series.
It is almost superfluous to remark that the promise of our Lord cannot be abused. Should anyone say to himself, “I will make the first Fridays and thus secure for myself the grace of a happy death, and thenceforth I shall be free to live as I please; Christ will be bound to His promise” — he not only would not win the promised reward, but would even be unworthy to receive Holy Communion, for his will would be bad. “Let not such a one think that he will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:7)
(Taken from “Show Me Thy Face!” by Silvano Matulich, O. F. M., Saint Anthony Guild Press, 1948.)
THE PROMISES OF OUR LORD TO SAINT MARGARET MARY FOR SOULS DEVOUT TO HIS SACRED HEART
1. I will give them all graces necessary in their state of life.
2. I will establish peace in their houses.
3. I will comfort them in their afflictions.
4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all in death.
5. I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall grow fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
9. I will bless every place where a picture of My Heart shall be set up and honored.
10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.
12. I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that My all powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this their last moment.
O adorable Heart of Jesus! I feel deep sorrow in seeing the marks of thy love received with such disdain and indifference by the majority of mankind. I am full of shame and regret because I myself am among those ungrateful ones. In atonement for such insults I offer thee, O divine Heart! the love of all just souls, the ardor of the angels and saints of paradise and above all the tender feelings of Mary and St. Joseph. Allow me O most lovable Jesus! to unite to this precious offering that of all the affections and good wishes of mine own heart. Amen.
ACT OF CONSECRATION
My most loving Jesus, I consecrate myself today anew and without reserve to Thy divine Heart. I consecrate to Thee my body with all its senses, my soul with all its faculties, and in short, my entire being. I consecrate to Thee all my thoughts, words and deeds; all my sufferings and labors; all my hopes, consolations and joys; and chiefly do I consecrate to Thee this poor heart of mine, to the end that it may love nothing save only Thee, and may be consumed as a victim in the fire of Thy love. Accept, O Jesus, Thou dearest Spouse of my soul, the desire which I have of consoling Thy divine Heart, and of belonging to Thee for ever. Take possession of me in such wise that from this day forth I may have no other freedom, save that of loving Thee, and no other life, save that of suffering and dying for Thee; I put my trust in Thee without reserve, and I hope for the remission of my sins through Thine infinite bounty. I place within Thy hands all my cares and anxieties, especially as touching my eternal salvation. I promise to love Thee and honor Thee to the last moment of my life, and to spread, as much as I can, the worship of Thy most Sacred Heart. Dispose of me, my Jesus, according to Thy good pleasure; I would have no other reward save Thy greater glory and Thy holy love. Grant me grace to find my home in Thy divine Heart; here would I pass every day of my life; here would I breathe forth my last breath; only do Thou establish in my heart Thy dwelling place, the seat of Thy rest, in order that we may thus remain inseparably united; and so may I one day be able to praise Thee, love Thee and possess Thee for ever in the kingdom of heaven, where I shall sing without end the infinite mercies of Thy Sacred Heart.