The Sacred Heart: Prefer Nothing to the Love of Christ

06-09-2024Weekly ReflectionFr. Leonard F. Villa

Importance: Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is intimately associated with the most fundamental teachings of the Gospel: (1) Jesus is the revelation of the Father’s infinite love in Person. (2) As true God and true Man he has a personal interest in every human being. (3)This love was seen from the very outset to be symbolized in Christ’s human heart.

The earliest Christians contemplated the crucified Savior with deep veneration and love. They meditated on his wounds with a special emphasis upon the wound in his side. At a later date under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they came to see in the opened side the wounded Heart of the Lamb of God. Devotion to the Savior’s Heart is the extraordinary remedy for the extraordinary needs of our time. (Pius XI). It is the perfect practice of the Christian religion and not simply some piety which one can treat as of no consequence or set aside as inferior to others. (Pius XII). It is the most efficacious means to contribute to the spiritual/moral renewal of the world called for by Vatican II. (Paul VI).

In the Heart of Christ, man's heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love for God and the love of neighbor. (John Paul II). Moreover, not only does this mystery of God's love for us constitute the content of the worship of and devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but in the same way it is likewise the content of all true spirituality and Christian devotion. It is consequently important to stress that the basis of the devotion is as old as Christianity itself. (Benedict XVI)

Scripture: A key text in this devotion is John 19:33-34;36-37: …(B)ut when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear and at once there came out blood and water… For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled,… “They shall look on him whom they have pierced. The prophecy from Zechariah to which St. John refers is as follows: And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly over him as one weeps over a first-born. Zech. 12:10 The Lord draws St. Thomas’ hand to his wounded side to draw him to belief in the resurrection. The Heart in Scripture: In Hebrew thought the heart means the entire interior life of the person. It is the center of the person’s identity and the center of understanding and free will.

Tradition: The Fathers and theologians from St. Augustine and St. Cyril of Alexandria down to St. Peter Canisius speak of the fountain of living waters of divine love as taking their source in the side of Christ. By this the Fathers meant that the Holy Spirit was poured forth on mankind because he who possessed the Holy Spirit in all his fullness had sacrificed his own Heart. As a direct result the Church and all its effects, her sacraments and the life of grace flow out from the Heart of Christ as the work of the Holy Spirit. St. Margaret Mary/St. Claude: These two saints have a special connection with devotion to the Sacred Heart in our time and the meaning of the First Friday devotion. The revelations of the Lord to St. Margaret brought nothing new into Catholic doctrine. Their importance lay in this, that Christ in showing forth his Heart with flames, a crown of thorns, wished in an extraordinary way to invite Christians to contemplate the depth of God’s love for all people, especially to appeal to lukewarm Catholics to depart from stingy and cold response to such love in their own spiritual lives.

The Sacred Heart Badge and Prayers

The devotion of the Sacred Heart Badge was started in France through the instruction of Our Lord Jesus Christ to St. Margaret Mary. Our Lord revealed to St. Margaret Mary His wish for her to order a picture of the image of His Sacred Heart for people specifically to venerate and have in their homes and also small pictures to carry with them. In the year 1720, Marseilles was ravaged by the plague. The Bishop led a procession to the center of the city. There he consecrated Marseilles to the Sacred Heart, and everybody present put on a Sacred Heart Badge. From that moment not one new case of the plague was reported.

The Chouans, heroic Catholics from Mayenne (Western France), especially from the Vendee, who resisted the impious French revolutionaries of 1789 and confronted them with energy and religious ardor, embroidered the Badge of the Sacred Heart on their clothes and banners. The Cristeros in Mexico, in the first half of the 20th century, also wore the Badge. They took up arms against the anti-Christian governments that oppressed the Church in Mexico. In Spain, the famous Carlista regiments called "requetes" likewise wore the Badge. They were famous for their religious piety and boldness on the battlefield, and their intervention was decisive for the triumph of the anti-Communist Catholics in the Civil War of 1936-1939.

More recently, similar events took place in Cuba. The Catholic Cubans who fought against the Communist regime had a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When they were imprisoned and taken to the 'paredon" (shooting wall) for summary execution, they faced Fidel Castro's executioners with the cry, "Viva Cristo Rey!" (Long Live Christ the King!). After Castro's Communist tyranny took over Cuba, beautiful statues of the Sacred Heart were demolished and replaced with representations of Che Guevara. Thus, statues of the Sacred Heart, which represented His Love and forgiveness, were replaced with likenesses of a guerilla fighter whose hands were soaked in innocent blood which he had caused to flow in several Latin American countries.

The Badge is a reminder of reparation by which we accept with love and faith our share in the sufferings of Christ. Thus we cooperate more closely with Christ in the vital work of the redemption of mankind by accepting the obligations of God's commandments, by our fidelity to the daily tasks of our state in life, by the patient acceptance of the trials, disappointments, and crosses thrust upon us each day. On the badge there is the prayer Cease, the Heart of Jesus is with me Thy Kingdom come. “Cease the Heart of Jesus is with me!” This few words teach us that no matter where we go, no matter what we face, He is always with us. We might say it this way, “No matter what evil is working against me, no matter what troubles assail me, cease and desist!

Another prayer: My loving Jesus, out of the grateful love I bear Thee, and to make reparation for my unfaithfulness to grace, I give Thee my heart, and I consecrate myself wholly to Thee; and with Thy help I purpose to sin no more

The Sacred Heart Promises:

  • I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
  • I will give peace in their homes. -I will console them in all their afflictions
  • I will be their secure refuge in life, and especially in death.
  • I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
  • Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
  • Tepid souls shall become fervent.
  • Fervent souls shall rise quickly and mount to high perfection.
  • I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
  • I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
  • Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
  • 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.