The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart by Holy Mother Church.
Heart of Jesus, Symbol of Love
The Church, governed and taught by the Holy Ghost, has approved and recommended devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In our age of religious indifference, when fervor and charity have grown cold, Jesus exhibits to the world His Sacred Heart as the symbol of God’s infinite love – the symbol of His own generous self-sacrificing love for men. Jesus shows His Divine Heart as a furnace whose burning rays of love are able to reanimate faith and rekindle love in hearts grown cold and ungrateful.
But why His Heart? Because in every language, in every age, the heart is regarded as the natural symbol of love and affection. What more natural and expressive symbol is there, then, of the excessive love of Jesus than His Sacred Heart? The direct and material object of devotion to the Sacred Heart is the real, physical Heart of Jesus – the Heart of flesh, the living and loving Heart of our Blessed Lord; the Heart that beat in His Divine breast at the moment of the Incarnation; the Heart that loved us during the life of Jesus on earth, that poured forth its blood to the last drop on Mount Calvary; the beatified Heart now glorious in Heaven and still dwelling among us in the Blessed Sacrament; the Heart ever united to the Person of the Divine Word, to whom is due supreme homage and adoration.
We the Christians are the true Israel which springs from Christ, for we are carved out of His heart as from a rock. – St. Justin Martyr (d. 165)
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. – Matthew 11:29
There is in the Sacred Heart the symbol and express image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love in return. – Pope Leo XIII
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is devotion to Jesus Christ Himself, but in the particular ways of meditating on His interior life and on His threefold love – His divine love, His burning love that fed His human will, and His sensible love that affects His interior life. Pope Pius XII of blessed memory writes on this topic in his 1956 encyclical, Haurietis Aquas (On Devotion To The Sacred Heart). Below are a few excerpts which help explain the devotion:
54. …the Heart of the Incarnate Word is deservedly and rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that threefold love with which the divine Redeemer unceasingly loves His eternal Father and all mankind.
55. It is a symbol of that divine love which He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit but which He, the Word made flesh, alone manifests through a weak and perishable body, since “in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
56. It is, besides, the symbol of that burning love which, infused into His soul, enriches the human will of Christ and enlightens and governs its acts by the most perfect knowledge derived both from the beatific vision and that which is directly infused.
57. And finally – and this in a more natural and direct way – it is the symbol also of sensible love, since the body of Jesus Christ, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, possesses full powers of feelings and perception, in fact, more so than any other human body.
58. Since, therefore, Sacred Scripture and the official teaching of the Catholic faith instruct us that all things find their complete harmony and order in the most holy soul of Jesus Christ and that He has manifestly directed His threefold love for the securing of our redemption, it unquestionably follows that we can contemplate and honor the Heart of the divine Redeemer as a symbolic image of His love and a witness of our redemption and, at the same time, as a sort of mystical ladder by which we mount to the embrace of “God our Savior.”
59. Hence His words, actions, commands, miracles, and especially those works which manifest more clearly His love for us – such as the divine institution of the Eucharist, His most bitter sufferings and death, the loving gift of His holy Mother to us, the founding of the Church for us, and finally, the sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and upon us – all these, we say, ought to be looked upon as proofs of His threefold love.
60. Likewise we ought to meditate most lovingly on the beating of His Sacred Heart by which He seemed, as it were, to measure the time of His sojourn on earth until that final moment when, as the Evangelists testify, “crying out with a loud voice ‘It is finished’ and bowing His Head, He yielded up the ghost.” Then it was that His heart ceased to beat and His sensible love was interrupted until the time when, triumphing over death, He rose from the tomb.
61. But after His glorified body had been re-united to the soul of the divine Redeemer, conqueror of death, His most Sacred Heart never ceased, and never will cease, to beat with calm and imperturbable pulsations. Likewise, it will never cease to symbolize the threefold love with which He is bound to His heavenly Father and the entire human race, of which He has every claim to be the mystical Head.
The Two Elements of Devotion to the Sacred Heart: Consecration & Reparation
• We consecrate ourselves to the Sacred Heart by acknowledging Him as Creator and Redeemer and as having full rights over us as King of Kings, by repenting, and by resolving to serve Him.
• We make reparation for the indifference and ingratitude with which He is treated and for leaving Him abandoned by humanity.
To carry out these general goals of consecration and reparation, there are quite specific devotions authorized by the Church.
History of the Devotion
From the earliest days of the Church, “Christ’s open side and the mystery of blood and water were meditated upon, and the Church was beheld issuing from the side of Jesus as Eve came forth from the side of Adam. It is in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that we find the first unmistakable indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Through the wound in the side, the wounded Heart was gradually reached, and the wound in the Heart symbolized the wound of love.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)
General devotion to the Sacred Heart, the birthplace of the Church and the font of Love, were popular in Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries, especially in response to the devotion of St. Gertrude the Great (b. 1256), but specific devotions became even more popularized when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a Visitation nun, had a personal revelation involving a series of visions of Christ as she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote, “He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart.” Christ emphasized to her His love and His woundedness caused by Man’s indifference to this love.
He promised that, in response to those who consecrate themselves and make reparations to His Sacred Heart:
1 He will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
2 He will establish peace in their homes.
3 He will comfort them in all their afflictions.
4 He will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
5 He will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
6 Sinners will find in His Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7 Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
8 Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
9 He will bless every place in which an image of His Heart is exposed and honored.
10 He 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 His Heart.
12 In the excessive mercy of His Heart, His all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in His disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. His divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
The devotions attached to these promises are:
1 Receiving Communion frequently
2 First Fridays: going to Confession and receiving the Eucharist on the first Friday of each month for nine consecutive months. Many parishes will offer public First Friday devotions; if they do, you must perform First Fridays publicly. If it isn’t so offered in your parish, you can do this privately, going to Confession, receiving the Eucharist, and offering your prayers for the intention of the Holy Father.
3 Holy Hour: Eucharistic Adoration for one hour on Thursdays. (“Could you not watch one hour with me?”) Holy Hour can be made alone or as part of a group with formal prayers.
4 Celebrating of the Feast of the Sacred Heart
Feast of the Sacred Heart
The Friday that follows the Second Sunday after Pentecost is the Feast of the Sacred Heart which brings to mind all the attributes of His Divine Heart mentioned above. Many Catholics prepare for this Feast by beginning a Novena to the Sacred Heart on the Feast of Corpus Christi, which is the Thursday of the week before. On the Feast of the Sacred Heart itself, we can gain a plenary indulgence by making an Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart.
Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart
Most sweet Jesus, whose overflowing charity for men is requited by so much forgetfulness, negligence and contempt, behold us prostrate before Thee, eager to repair by a special act of homage the cruel indifference and injuries to which Thy loving Heart is everywhere subject.
Mindful, alas! that we ourselves have had a share in such great indignities, which we now deplore from the depths of our hearts, we humbly ask Thy pardon and declare our readiness to atone by voluntary expiation, not only for our own personal offenses, but also for the sins of those, who, straying far from the path of salvation, refuse in their obstinate infidelity to follow Thee, their Shepherd and Leader, or, renouncing the promises of their baptism, have cast off the sweet yoke of Thy law.
We are now resolved to expiate each and every deplorable outrage committed against Thee; we are now determined to make amends for the manifold offenses against Christian modesty in unbecoming dress and behavior, for all the foul seductions laid to ensnare the feet of the innocent, for the frequent violations of Sundays and holydays, and the shocking blasphemies uttered against Thee and Thy Saints. We wish also to make amends for the insults to which Thy Vicar on earth and Thy priests are subjected, for the profanation, by conscious neglect or terrible acts of sacrilege, of the very Sacrament of Thy Divine Love; and lastly for the public crimes of nations who resist the rights and teaching authority of the Church which Thou hast founded.
Would that we were able to wash away such abominations with our blood. We now offer, in reparation for these violations of Thy divine honor, the satisfaction Thou once made to Thy Eternal Father on the Cross and which Thou continuest to renew daily on our Altars; we offer it in union with the acts of atonement of Thy Virgin Mother and all the Saints and of the pious faithful on earth; and we sincerely promise to make recompense, as far as we can with the help of Thy grace, for all neglect of Thy great love and for the sins we and others have committed in the past. Henceforth, we will live a life of unswerving faith, of purity of conduct, of perfect observance of the precepts of the Gospel and especially that of charity. We promise to the best of our power to prevent others from offending Thee and to bring as many as possible to follow Thee.
O loving Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother, our model in reparation, deign to receive the voluntary offering we make of this act of expiation; and by the crowning gift of perseverance keep us faithful unto death in our duty and the allegiance we owe to Thee, so that we may all one day come to that happy home, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit Thou livest and reignest, God, forever and ever. Amen.
Enthronement of the Sacred Heart
Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, a South American priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, was inspired by God, after his instantaneous cure at Paray-le-Monial, to preach everywhere the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart to verify this promise of the Savior given to St. Margaret Mary: “I will bless every dwelling where an image of My Heart is both exposed and honored.”
According to Father Mateo: The Enthronement is the Official and Social Recognition of the loving Kingship of the Heart of Jesus in a Christian family. This recognition is made manifest by giving the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus a place of honor in the home which is thus solemnly offered Him by an act of consecration. The God of infinite mercy said in Paray-le-Monial: “Being Myself the fount of all blessings, I will distribute these abundantly wherever the image of My Heart has found a place, to the end that it may be loved and honored.” And further: “I shall reign in spite of My enemies and all those who attempt to oppose Me.”
The Enthronement then is simply the realization, not of this or that one of the requests made by Our Savior to St. Margaret Mary, but the complete and integral realization of all of them, calling forth the fulfilment of the splendid promises with which the King of Love has enriched them. Note that we say “integral realization of all the requests made in Paray, for the supreme end of the Enthronement is not, and ought not to be, to further a new pious practice, but to sanctify the home, and convert it into a living and social throne for the divine King.”
During the Enthronement ceremony, a blessed image of the Sacred Heart is hung in the most prominent place in the home, and Sacred Scripture is placed before it. Formal prayers are prayed and then each member signs a certificate of the Consecration.