“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 want to manifest 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 honour and love possible might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which His heart is the source.” —from Revelations of Our Lord to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque
Today, the Roman Catholic Church commemorates St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. St. Margaret Mary was a French Visitation sister who was born in 1647, and died in 1690. Jesus Christ appeared to St. Margaret Mary, and instructed her on the infinite love contained in His Sacred Heart. Additionally, he entrusted her with a mission to spread devotion to His Sacred Heart, as seen in this brief sketch of her life:
After a girlhood marked by painful illness and even more painful family discord, Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90) entered the Visitation convent of Paray-le-Monial, France, at the age of 22. She was ignorant, sickly, and clumsy, but she had great charity and humility. Our Lord chose her to spread devotion to His Sacred Heart, at a time when rebellion without (Protestantism) and heresy within (Jansenism) were doing their best to separate Catholics from their faith and their God…After violent opposition, the devotion to the Sacred Heart triumphed and is now one of the most beloved in the Church. source
St. Margaret Mary wrote of the Sacred Heart, and the following is an excerpt from one of her letters:
The sacred heart of Christ is an inexhaustible fountain and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble so as to free them and prepare them to lead lives according to his good pleasure. From this divine heart three streams flow endlessly. The first is the stream of mercy for sinners; it pours into their hearts sentiments of contrition and repentance. The second is the stream of charity which helps all in need and especially aids those seeking perfection in order to find the means of surmounting their difficulties. From the third stream flow love and light for the benefit of his friends who have attained perfection; these he wishes to unite to himself so that they may share his knowledge and commandments and, in their individual ways, devote themselves wholly to advancing his glory. This divine heart is an abyss filled with all blessings, and into the poor should submerge all their needs. It is an abyss of joy in which all of us can immerse our sorrows. It is an abyss of lowliness to counteract our foolishness, an abyss of mercy for the wretched, an abyss of love to meet our every need. Are you making no progress in prayer? Then you need only offer God the prayers which the Savior has poured out for us in the sacrament of the altar. Offer God his fervent love in reparation for your sluggishness. In the course of every activity pray as follows: “My God, I do this or I endure that in the heart of your Son and according to his holy counsels. I offer it to you in reparation for anything blameworthy or imperfect in my actions.” Continue to do this in every circumstance of life. But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure. In order to preserve it there is nothing more useful than renouncing your own will and substituting for it the will of the divine heart. In this way his will can carry out for us whatever contributes to his glory, and we will be happy to be his subjects and to trust entirely in him.”– from a letter by Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque
The following is long, but it is instructive on devotion to the Sacred Heart:
“Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a devotion that focuses attention on the physical Heart is the symbol of His redemptive love. Although tradition often situates the beginning of the practice of the devotion to the year 1000, it might be more accurate to place its birth during the time of the great mystics [St. Anselm and St. Bernard] between 1050 and 1150. By the middle ages, because of a strong emphasis on the Passion of our Lord, and because of the efforts of St. Bonaventure and St. Gertrude the Great, the devotion became popularized as a means of worshiping the mystery of Christ, living in the Church.
This devotion was promoted by great Saints, including St. Albert the Great, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis de Sales, as well as the great religious orders, such as the Benedictines, the Dominicans, and the Carthusians. However, it must be recorded that the Saint who is most often associated with this devotion is St. Margaret Mary Alacoque [1647-1690]. After she received the Vision of the Sacred Heart, which popularized the devotion, she was scorned by her mother superior who thought her to be delusional. The Saint took ill. Mother superior told St. Margaret Mary that she would believe the miracle of the vision if the Saint were cured. She was and St. Margaret was able to promote the devotion under the guidance of her spiritual director, St. Claude Colombiere. Several books have been published on her extensive letters, sayings and the revelations given to her by Our Lord.
Her private revelations promoted the establishment of a liturgical feast day and the practice of offering reparation for the outrages committed against the Blessed Sacrament on the First Fridays and the Promises of the Sacred Heart.
St. Alphonsus was heavily influenced by St. Margaret Mary in his own devotion to the Sacred Heart.
In modern times it was Pope Pius IX who, in 1856, established the Feast of the Sacred Heart and encouraged the efforts of the Apostleship of Prayer, a confraternity of faithful Catholics who encourage groups, families, and communities to consecrate themselves to the Sacred Heart. In 1928 Pope Pius XI issued his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor on reparation to the Sacred Heart. In 1956 Pope Pius XII published his encyclical Haurietis aquas on the nature of devotion to the Sacred Heart.
The devotion is usually practiced in preparation for the Feast of the Sacred Heart following the Second Sunday after Pentecost. It is also practiced in conjunction with the monthly First Friday observance that is traditional in many parishes.
The devotion of all devotions is love for Jesus Christ. A devout author laments the sight of so many persons who pay attention to various devotions, but neglect devotion to the Sacred Heart. there are are many preachers and confessors who say great things, but speak little of love for Jesus Christ.
The love of Jesus Christ ought to be the principal devotion of a Catholic. Lack of devotion to the Sacred Heart is the reason for frequent relapses into serious sin, because people pay scant attention, and are not sufficiently encouraged to acquire the love of Jesus, which is the golden cord which unites and binds the soul to God. . . The Father will love us in the same proportion as we love Jesus Christ. . . We will never be formed in the image of the Lord, nor even desire to be formed in His image, if we do not meditate upon the love which Jesus Christ has shown us.
For this purpose it is related in the life of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, a nun of the Visitation Order, that our Savior revealed to this servant His wish that the devotion and the Feast of His Sacred Heart should be established and propagated in the Church. In this way, devout believers would, by their adoration and prayer, make reparation for the injuries His Heart constantly receives from ungrateful humanity when He is exposed in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. It is also related that while this devout nun was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus Christ showed her His Heart surrounded by thorns, with a cross on the top, and in a throne of flames.
“Behold the Heart,” she reports that Jesus spoke to her, “that has loved humanity, and has spared nothing for them, even to consuming itself to give them pledges of Its love, but which receives from the majority of people, no other return but ingratitude, and insults toward the Sacrament of Love.”
The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is nothing more than an exercise of love toward our loving Savior. Therefore, the principal object of this devotion, the spiritual object of this devotion, is the love with which the Heart of Jesus is inflamed toward all. Let us now attempt to satisfy the devotion of those who are enamored of Jesus Christ, and who desire to honor him in the Most Holy Sacrament, by a novena of holy meditations and affections to His Sacred Heart.
It was the special desire of our Lord Jesus Christ, revealed to Blessed Margaret Mary, that the first Friday of each month be consecrated to the devotion to and adoration of His most Sacred Heart. In order to better prepare for it, it would be well to read, the evening before, some book treating of this devotion, or of the Passion of Our Lord, and to make a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament. On the day itself we should, on awaking, offer and consecrate ourselves, with all our thoughts, words, and actions, to Jesus, that His Sacred Heart may be thereby honored and glorified. We should visit some church as early as possible; and as we kneel before Jesus, truly present in the tabernacle, let us endeavor to awaken in our soul a deep sorrow at the thought of the innumerable offenses continually heaped upon His most Sacred Heart in this Sacrament of His love; and surely we cannot find this difficult if we have the least degree of love for Jesus. Should we, however, find our love to be cold or lukewarm, let us consider earnestly the many reasons we have for giving our hearts to Jesus. After this we must acknowledge with sorrow the faults of which we have been guilty through our want of respect in presence of the Blessed Sacrament, or through our negligence in visiting and receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion.
The Communion of this day should be offered by the adorers of the Sacred Heart with the intention of making some satisfaction for all the ingratitude which Jesus receives in the Most Holy Sacrament, and the same spirit should animate all our actions during the day.
As the object of this devotion is to inflame our hearts with an ardent love for Jesus, and to repair thereby, as far as lies in our power, all the outrages which are daily committed against the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, it is evident that these exercises are not confined to any particular day. Jesus is equally deserving of our love at all times; and as this most loving Savior is daily and hourly loaded with insults and cruelly treated by His creatures, it is but just that we should strive each day to make an the reparation in our power. Those, therefore, who are prevented from practicing this devotion on the first Friday can do so on any other day during the month. In the same manner they may offer the first Communion of each month for this intention, consecrating the whole day to the honor and glory of the Sacred Heart, and performing in the same spirit all the pious exercises they were unable to accomplish on the first Friday.
Moreover, Our Lord suggested another feature in this consoling devotion of the first Friday, by the faithful practice of which he led Blessed Margaret Mary to expect the grace of final perseverance, and that of receiving the Sacraments of the Church before dying, in favor of those who should observe it. This was to make a novena of Communions in honor of the Sacred Heart on the first Friday of the month for nine successive months.” source
The following are two prayers written by St. Margaret Mary; a prayer of consecration to the Sacred Heart, and a prayer of trust in the Sacred Heart:
I (N.N.), give and consecrate to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, my person, my life, my actions, my pains and sufferings, so that I may be unwilling to make use of any part of my being save to honor, love, and glorify the Sacred Heart. It is my unchanging intention to be all His and to do all for love of Him. I renounce at the same time with all my heart whatever can displease Him.
1. I, therefore, take Thee, O Sacred Heart, for the only object of my love, the protector of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my weakness and inconstancy, the atonement for the faults of my life, and the secure refuge at the hour of my death.
Be then, O Heart of goodness, my justification before God the Father, and turn away from me the punishment of His just anger. O Heart of love, I put my confidence in Thee, because I fear everything from my own sinfulness and weakness. I hope for all things from Thy mercy and generosity.
Destroy in me all that can displease or resist Thy holy Will. Let Thy pure love impress Thee so deeply upon my heart that I may never forget Thee or be separated from Thee. May my name, by Thy loving kindness, be written in Thee, because in Thee I desire to place all my happiness and all my glory in living and dying in very bondage to Thee.
Prayer of trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
Jesus, I believe in Thy personal love for one so sinful and worthless as I am.
(Repeat after each of the following: Heart of Jesus, I put my trust in Thee)
I believe that Thy love for me is from all eternity and that it is as tender as a mother’s love.
I believe that Thou hast lovingly and wisely planned everything that shall ever happen to me.
I will never seek pleasure forbidden by Thee and wilt never lose heart in my efforts to be good.
I will accept the crosses of life as I accept its joys, with a grateful heart, and I will always pray, “Thy holy will be done in all things.”
I will not be worried or anxious about anything, for I know Thou wilt take care of me.
However weak or sinful I may be, I will never doubt Thy mercy.
In all my temptations…
In all my weakness…
In all my sorrows…
In every discouragement…
In all my undertakings…
In life and in death…
Heart of love, I put all my trust in Thee; for I fear all things from my own weakness, but I hope for all things from Thy goodness. source
St. Margaret Mary, pray for us.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us.
May you have a good day!
•Image: 19th century holy card of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, image source.