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)
(From “Show Me Thy Face!” Retreat Conferences by Silvano Matulich, O.F.M., 1948.)