Protestantism in the sixteenth century and Jansenism in the seventeenth had attempted to spoil one of the essential dogmas of Christianity, namely the love of God for all men.
It became necessary that the Spirit of love, which directs the Church, should by some new means counteract the spreading heresy, in order that the Spouse of Christ, far from seeing her love for Jesus diminish, should feel it always increasing.
This was made manifest in Catholic worship, which is the sure rule of our faith, by the institution of the Feast of the Sacred Heart.
Yet in early Middle-Ages, the Doctors and Saints used to see in the wound of Jesus’ side the source of all graces. St. Bonaventure invites us “to enter this wound and to dwell in the quiet of this Heart”.
The two Benedictine virgins, St. Gertrude and St. Mechtilde, in the thirteenth century, had a clear vision of the grandeur of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. St. John the evangelist, appearing to the former, announced to her that “the meaning of the blessed beating of the heart of Jesus which he had heard while his head rested on His breast, was reserved for the latter times when the world grown old and cold in divine love, would require to have its fervour renewed by means of this mystery of burning love”.
This Heart, say these two Saints, is an altar on which Christ offers Himself to the Father as a perfect and most acceptable victim. It is a golden censer from which rise towards the Father as many clouds of incense as there are kinds of men for whom Christ suffered. In this Heart the praise and thanks we give to God and all our good works are ennobled and become acceptable to the Father.
But in order to make this worship public and recognized, Providence first raised up St. John Eudes, who in 1670 composed an Office and a Mass of the Sacred Heart for the so-called Congregation of the Eudists. Providence then chose one of the spiritual daughters of St. Francis of Sales, St. Margaret-Mary Alacoque, to whom Jesus showed His Heart at Paray-le-Monial, on June 16th, 1675, Sunday after Corpus Christi, and asked her to institute a feast of the Sacred Heart on the Friday following the Octave of Corpus Christi.
Lastly, God employed for the propagation of this devotion, Blessed Claude de la Colombiere. He belonged to the Company of Jesus ” the whole of which inherited his zeal in the propagation of the devotion to the Sacred Heart “.
In 1765, Clement XIII gave his approbation to the feast and the Office of the Sacred Heart, and in 1856 Pius IX, extended it to the universal Church. In 1929 Pius XI composed a new Mass and Office for this feast and gave it a privileged Octave of the third Order.
The solemnity of the Sacred Heart sums up all the phases of the life of Jesus recalled in the liturgy from Advent to the Feast of Corpus Christi.
It constitutes an admirable triptych giving us in abridgment all the mysteries, joyous, sorrowful and glorious, of the Saviour’s life devoted to the love of God and men. This feast is indeed placed on a height fr m which may be contemplated the redeeming labours of the Saviour on earth and the glorious victories He will, by the working of the Holy Ghost, achieve in souls until the end of the world.
Coming after the feasts of Christ, this feast completes them, concentrating them in one object which is materially Jesus’ Heart of flesh, and formally the unbounded charity symbolised by this Heart. This solemnity therefore does not relate to a particular mystery of the Saviour’s life, but embraces them all; indeed the devotion to the Sacred Heart celebrates all the favours we have received from divine charity during the year, and all the marvellous things that Jesus has done for us It is the feast of the love of God for men, a love which has made Jesus come down on earth for all by His Incarnation (Epistle), which has raised Him on the Cross for the Redemption of all and which brings Him down every day on our altars by transubstantiation, in order to make us benefit by the merits of His death on Calvary.
These three mysteries, which manifest to us the divine charity in a more special way, sum up the spirit of the feast of the Sacred Heart. It is ” His love which forced Him to put on a mortal body”.
It is His love which willed that the Sacred Heart should be pierced on the cross in order that from the wound should flow a spring we might draw from joyfully, whose water cleanses us from our sins in baptism and whose blood nourishes bur souls in the Eucharist. And as the Eucharist is the continuation of the Incarnation and the sacrifice of Calvary, Jesus asked that the feast should be placed immediately after the Octave of Corpus Christi.
As these manifestations of Christ’s love only show the more the ingratitude of men who only answer by coldness and indifference this solemnity has a character of reparation (Collect) demanded of us by the wounded Heart of Jesus and by His immolation in the Crib, on the Cross and on the Altar.
Let us learn from the Heart of Jesus, whose gentle and humble love turns no one away, and in it we shall find rest for our souls.
(from ‘Saint Andrew Daily Missal’j
Consecration of the Family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Sacred Heart of Jesus, You made clear to Saint Margaret Mary Your desire of being King in Christian families. We today wish to proclaim Your most complete kingly dominion over our own family. We want to live in the future with Your life. We want to cause to flourish in our midst those virtues to which You have promised peace here below. We want to banish far from us the spirit of the world which You have cursed. You shall be King over our minds in the simplicity of our faith, and over our hearts by the wholehearted love with which they shall burn for You, the flame of which we will keep alive by the frequent reception of Your divine Eucharist. Be so kind, O divine Heart, as to preside over our assemblings, to bless our enterprises, both spiritual and temporal, to dispel our cares, to sanctify our joys, and to alleviate our sufferings. If ever one or other of us should have the misfortune to afflict You, remind him, O Heart of Jesus, that You are good and merciful to the penitent sinner. And when the hour of separation strikes, when death shall come to cast mourning into our midst, we will all, both those who go and those who stay, be submissive to Your eternal decrees. We shall console ourselves with the thought that a day will come when the entire family, reunited in heaven, can sing forever Your glories and Your mercies. May the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the glorious patriarch Saint Joseph present this consecration to You, and keep it in our minds all the days of our life. All glory to the Heart of Jesus, our King and our Father!
(Indulgenced May 19, 1908.)