The heart is seen as the essence of a person, universally recognised as the wellspring of human emotions and love.
In artistic expression or everyday life, we hear words such as ‘heart-rending’, ‘heart’s desire’ and ‘heart-throb’. We speak of someone as being warm or kind-hearted, cold or hard-hearted. Depictions of hearts seem to abound at all times, and most especially in the run-up to St Valentine’s Day, popularly dedicated to ‘sweethearts’.
The heart, then, is a symbol of our imperfect human love. How much more readily, therefore, should we recognise, honour and love the heart of Jesus, not just as His heart of flesh but as the symbol of perfect love.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is devotion to Jesus Christ Himself. Pope Pius XII in his encyclical, Haurietis Aquas (On Devotion To The Sacred Heart) states:
“It (the Sacred Heart) 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.’
“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.
“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.”
The following text taken from the Catholic Encyclopaedia provides further insight as well as a beautiful context for devotion to the Sacred Heart:
“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 symbolised the wound of love.”
It is by this wound of love that Our Saviour obtained our redemption. His every word, action, command and miracle, His institution of the Eucharist, His passion and death, His gift to us of His Mother, His founding of the Church and sending of the Holy Spirit, all flowed from the fount of love – His Sacred Heart.
Yet through the ages this heart that beats with love for us has been scorned, rejected, pierced by our sins.
For this let us make reparation. Let us console Our Lord and Saviour. Let us acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Creator, Redeemer and King, by repenting, and by resolving to serve Him. Let us consecrate ourselves and entrust our loved ones and indeed the whole of humanity to His Sacred Heart.
Sacred Heart devotions and the Nine First Fridays
The Lord Himself spoke of devotion to His Sacred Heart to a French Visitation nun, St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690). St Margaret Mary received a series of visions of Christ, as she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament in her convent at Paray-le-Monial. He spoke to her of His love and the hurt caused by man’s indifference to this love. He asked her to spread devotion to His Most Sacred Heart and this she did most humbly, with the permission and approval of her superiors and confessor.
Here, taken from her writings, are the promises that Jesus made through His Servant
St Margaret Mary to those who practise devotion to the Sacred Heart:
1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will give peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. I will he their refuge in life and especially in death.
5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection
9. I will bless those places wherein the image of my Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart
12. 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.
With regard to the nine First Fridays devotion:
1. Our Lord required Communion to be received on a particular day chosen by Him.
2. The nine Fridays must be consecutive.
3. They must be made in honour of His Sacred Heart, which means that those who make them must practise the devotion in a spirit of love for our Lord.
4. Those who make the nine Fridays are not dispensed from any of their obligations or from striving to overcome temptation and to live a life of virtue. Rather, abundant graces are promised to those who make the nine Fridays in order to help them carry out these obligations and to persevere to the end.
5. Perseverance in receiving Holy Communion for nine consecutive First Fridays helps the faithful to acquire the habit of frequent Communion.
6. The practice of the nine First Fridays is most pleasing to our Lord since He promises such great reward. (Therefore Catholics should be encouraged to endeavour to make this devotion.)
7. Sacramental confession within the octave of the first Friday and a prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff are required in order to obtain the indulgence attached to this devotion.
8. All attachment to sin, even venial sin, must be absent.
Prayer by St Margaret Mary:
O Heart of love,
I place my trust entirely in You.
Though I fear all things from my weakness,
I hope all things from Your goodness.