Sacred Heart of Jesus: Catholic Christians reflect on the love, heart of Christ

Stained glass image of Jesus Christ with Sacred Heart

A stained glass image of Jesus and the Sacred Heart, Bushwood, Maryland. Photo by Lawrence OP, courtesy of Flickr

FRIDAY, JUNE 28: In prayerful reflection, Catholics focus today on the depth of divine love for today’s feast, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Note: Many Catholics began preparation for today’s feast by starting a Novena to the Sacred Heart on Corpus Christi (this year, on June 20).

Though general devotion to the Sacred Heart has been popular since the 11th century, specific devotions came into being after the revelation of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun of the 17th century whose visions of Christ revealed the depths of his love and the promises made to those who consecrate themselves and make reparations to his Sacred Heart. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque appealed to the faithful to focus their devotions on the overwhelming love of Christ.

Interested in a prayer of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, written by St. Margaret Mary? Read it here.

SACRED HEART: FROM ST. MARGARET MARY TO POPE PIUS IX

Since St. Margaret Mary’s revelation, devotion to the Sacred Heart has expanded around the world. Pope Pius IX instituted an obligatory feast for the Sacred Heart for the entire Catholic Church in 1856. The Catechism, quoting Pope Pius XII’s encyclical on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1956), states, “[Jesus] has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, ‘is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that … love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings’ without exception” (#478).

Since 2002, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus has also been the Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests.

Sacred Heart of Jesus: Catholics pay devotion to divine love

Stained glass window of Jesus opening cloak to reveal Sacred Heart

The Sacred Heart depiction includes a crown of thorns—representing the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death—and fire, representing the transformative power of divine love. Photo courtesy of Fotopedia

FRIDAY, JUNE 7: From the renowned basilica in Paris to several religious orders bearing its name, Catholics today honor divine love on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A relatively recent development in Christian history, devotion to the Sacred Heart—as it is known today—began in the late 17th century; the official feast didn’t appear on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar until 1856. Christians believe that the human Jesus embodied God’s infinite love, and therefore, it is with passion that devotionals are held, 19 days after Pentecost. (Global Catholic Network suggests a Meditation, Novena Prayer and Offering.)

The first indications of modern devotion to the Sacred Heart began in the Middle Ages, although it was French Nun Marguerite Marie Alacoque who pressed for a greater commemoration. In the late 17th century, Margaret Mary began witnessing several apparitions of Jesus that allegedly told her how the faithful should practice devotion to the Sacred Heart. With the help of a nearby priest, news of Margaret Mary’s apparitions began to spread. (Wikipedia has details.) In 1873, Ecuador became the first country to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart.

Today, Roman Catholics enthrone the Sacred Heart with an elaborate ceremony. (A Catholic perspective is at Fish Eaters and Catholic Culture.org.) According to Mary Margaret, devotion to the Sacred Heart promised a series of blessings, but specific instructions had to be obeyed: for example, the first Friday of each month had to be set aside for consecration. If performed with sincerity, devotees are promised peace in the home, a blessing in undertakings and a refuge in life and in death.

SACRED HEART MEETS
60TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE KOREAN WAR

Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung will lead 600 priests on a pilgrimage through Seoul today, in hopes that prayers recited at cathedrals and shrines along the way will bring peace to the Korean peninsula. (Catholic Culture has the story.) The purpose of the pilgrimage is threefold: to allow priests to reflect on their duties (the Sacred Heart promises devoted priests the ability to touch “the most hardened of hearts”); to spread awareness of Korean martyrs; and to pray for peace on this, the 60th anniversary year, of the Korean War.

Note: The Sacred Heart of Jesus is primarily a Catholic devotion, although it is observed in some high-church Anglican and Lutheran congregations.