Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus falls on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi, or 19 days after Pentecost; in 2011, on 1 July.

Devotion to Our Lord’s physical heart, as a symbol of His perfect love for us, goes back to at least the 11th Century, but it was in the 1670s that Jesus appeared to a French nun, Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque, and gave her the devotion as we celebrate it today:

The first apparition took place on 27 December, the feast of Saint John the Evangelist, probably in 1673, while Margaret Mary was a nun in the Visitation convent at Paray-le-Monial. There is some uncertainty as to the precise dates of the apparitions, but not their content). She related what happened to Fr. Claude de la Colombiere, who was in charge of the Jesuit house in the town, describing how she had a vision of Jesus during which she was given some idea of the greatness of his love for mankind.

Jesus told her that he wanted her to tell the people of this love, and a similar theme was expressed during the second apparition, early in 1674, when Margaret Mary saw Jesus’ Sacred Heart on a throne of flames, transparent as crystal, surrounded by a crown of thorns signifying the sins of mankind, with a cross above it.

Again Jesus told her of his infinite love for mankind and his desire that he should be honoured through the display of this image of his heart, with the promise that all who did so would be specially blessed.

The third apparition probably took place on 2 July 1674, while Margaret Mary was praying before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, that is the host consecrated during Mass which had become the Body of Christ. She saw a vision of Jesus in glory, with his five wounds shining like suns, and he then showed her his heart on fire with love for mankind, a love that unfortunately was often ignored or treated with contempt.

He asked her to make up for this coldness and ingratitude by receiving Holy Communion as often as she was allowed, and particularly on the first Friday of each month. This idea of making reparation for the sins of others is also prominent in the messages given by Mary to the children at Fatima in 1917.

The fourth apparition, which probably took place on 16 June 1675, was the most important. Again it happened as Margaret Mary was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, when he again showed her a representation of his heart, further complaining of the ingratitude and coldness of mankind towards him, and particularly when this was the case with those specially consecrated to him.

To make up for this he asked that the first Friday after the feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for the “Body of Christ”), should be dedicated as a feast in honour of his Sacred Heart, when people should receive Holy Communion in reparation.

The “Great promise” associated with this devotion applied to those who went to Communion on nine consecutive First Fridays: “I promise you, in the excess of the mercy of My Heart, that Its all-powerful love will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the first Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under My displeasure nor without receiving the Sacraments, My Divine Heart becoming their assured refuge at that last hour.” [From Theotokos Books]

The Nine First Fridays’ promise is just a start. There are further promises for those who consecrate themselves, their families, their religious congregations, or their countries to the Sacred Heart; and for those who act as apostles for the devotion. Details here. If you want to enthrone the Sacred Heart in your home, Fisheaters has the text for an appropriate ceremony.

Pope Pius XII, in his 1956 encyclical, Haurietis Aquas (On Devotion To The Sacred Heart), writes:

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.


About joyfulpapist

JoyfulPapist is an adult convert to Catholicism, with a passion for her God, her faith, and her church.
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11 Responses to Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

  1. becsempészett says:

    A remarkable blog. The devotion to the Sacred Hear began in Cistercian Spirituality, nuns, and I remember a conference by Dom Marie-Gerard Dubois OSO., detailing the genesis and development of the devotion. Sadly I am unable to find my notes, and the photocopy of his notes, under my piles of papers. becsempészett.


  2. toadspittle says:

    Are Catholics bound to believe in the Sacred Heart”? Or is it optional, like Limbo? If they are, it raises interesting questions. Thinks Toad.


  3. Gertrude says:

    A reminder:
    Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: public recitation of Iesu dulcissime (Act of Reparation) – Ench. Indulg., al. conc., 3.


  4. toadspittle says:

    Why does Jesus, (who looks, as usual, like a Surbiton hippy in all three pics here,) wear his heart smack in the middle of his chest?
    Is that where God has his, as opposed to the rest of us?
    Arstistic lisence, Toad supposes. Dr. Burro will put us straight.


  5. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Your typo says it all.


  6. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Mr Toad I urge to you exercise ‘Custody of the Eyes’ – that’s a T-shirt not the heart.


  7. toadspittle says:

    Toad belays his last comment. On examining evidence, he finds the heart is near enough to the middle of the body as to not be worth getting his ‘knickers’ in a twist about. Ignorant Toad!


  8. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    My sincere apologies, in the sense of the catechismic urging to be pure in thought, word and deed.
    When I read the first post in this thread, I wrongly thought that an exotic swear word was used when it was said,
    “Sadly I am unable to find my notes, and the photocopy of his notes, under my pile of papers.” Becsempézett.

    Forgive me, for I know not what I do.


  9. toadspittle says:

    Toad belays his last comment. On examining evidence, he finds the heart is near enough to the middle of the body as to not be worth getting his ‘knickers’ in a twist about. Ignorant Toad!

    Toad also must admit his “arstistic” typo was a joke. No, not very good. He remembers an ad for ‘Graphic Arstits’. Too true to be good.)


  10. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Becsempészett above refers to Dom Marie-Gerard Dubois OSO. This of course sounds like a wine I’d like to drink. It has a certain je ne sais quoi about it.

    But I think of having letters after one’s name, and apart from academic titles (don’t let Toad spell this word) which are ten a penny, I have no such titles. Nothing.

    Yet I muse on the reggae poet Benjamin Zephaniah who refused the OBE, saying he preferred to remain with his NO-BE. Was he right, given that no Catholic can be the monarch who pins the medal to your chest?


  11. kathleen says:

    “After honouring the Sacred Heart of Jesus yesterday, today 2nd July, we honour the heart through which Jesus took flesh, the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
    St. Augustine once wrote that Mary first received into her heart what she then conceived in her womb, the Word of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity……”

    Please watch this lovely short video from Gloria TV about this feast day:


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