by Donal Anthony Foley –
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an opportunity for a renewal of our devotion to Christ under the image and reality of His divine-human Heart. Devotion to the Sacred Heart calls us to go to the deepest part of our own humanity – our hearts – and invite the fire of Jesus’ love that we may live in Him and for Him.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart has developed in the Church over the centuries and was given its greatest impetus through the revelations made to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century.
The image accompanying this article is from the altarpiece of the Sacred Heart chapel in the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome, Italy. This beautiful image was completed by the artist Corrado Mezzana in 1922. Although it is now over 100 years old, it has quite a modern feel about it and the image of Christ as the Sacred Heart is particularly striking. The two other figures are to the left, Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart (1863-1899), and to the right, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1667-1690).
Born Maria Droste zu Vischering to an aristocratic but deeply Catholic German family, Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart belonged to the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. She promoted the idea of consecrating the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was taken up by Pope Leo XIII who performed this act in 1899. She was beatified in 1975, and her incorrupt body is in the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Ermesinde, Portugal.
Pope Leo thought that this consecration was the greatest act of his pontificate, which gives us an idea of how important it actually was. In the accompanying encyclical Annum Sacrum, he justified his action on the basis that Jesus, as Son of God and Redeemer of humanity, had both natural and acquired rights over mankind. Therefore, the consecration made sense as a further dedication of the human race to Christ, with His Sacred Heart as a tangible sign of His infinite love.
This consecration gave momentum to the idea of consecrating the world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart in the early years of the 20th century, with many petitions to this effect being sent to Rome.
Pope St. Pius X said that he was in favor of the idea, but was awaiting the right moment, and likewise, his successor Benedict XV showed himself supportive in principle. It was to be left, though, to Pope Pius XII to carry out this decisive act in 1942, and, according to Sr. Lucia, this consecration was responsible for shortening World War II. She revealed in a letter to her spiritual director, Fr. Gonzalves, in May 1943, that the true penance God now demanded of everyone was to fulfill their religious and civil duties, adding: “He promises that the war will soon end, on account of the action that His Holiness deigned to perform. But since it was incomplete the conversion of Russia has been put off to later.”
Nonetheless, the fact that this act brought about a shortening of World War II gives us some idea of the power of such Marian consecrations.
The Great Promise of the Sacred Heart
Regarding the revelations made to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the “great promise” made by Christ to her, associated with the Sacred Heart devotion, applies to those who go 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.”
This promise parallels the one made to Sr. Lucia by Our Lady about the Five First Saturdays devotion, a “great promise” of salvation, through her assistance of grace in our final hour.
Fatima Places the Two Hearts Together
There is an important link between the Sacred Heart devotion and the message given at Fatima, in particular, the words of the Angel of Peace to the children when he appeared to them in the spring of 1916. He told them not to be afraid and invited them to kneel and pray the Fatima Pardon Prayer with him. Then, rising, he said: “Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.”
Later that summer, the Angel returned and found the little shepherds playing on the stone slabs of the well in the garden belonging to Lucia’s parents. He said to them, “What are you doing? Pray, pray very much! The most holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High.”
The prayer of reparation that the Angel of Peace revealed to the children in the fall of 1916 is essentially an offering of the merits of Christ in the Eucharist in reparation to the Most Holy Trinity, and a means by which, “through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” sinners might be converted.
Our Lady emphasized this in her apparitions in 1917, stressing the importance of devotion to her Immaculate Heart and the call to cease offending God, who is already so much offended, and Jesus’ later revelations to Lucia that He wanted the Two Hearts honored side-by-side.
The Angel Prayer mentions the “outrages, sacrileges and indifference,” by which Christ is offended—offenses, unfortunately, that come from inside and outside the Church. We can think of those Catholics who offend the Two Hearts in their indifferent or sacrilegious approach to Holy Communion, or by their general apathy toward all the abuses being directed against Catholicism. Outside the Church, we have numerous ways in which atheists, ideologues and Satanists, are, by their actions, outraging the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
The remedy for all this involves both prayer and action – prayer to God and Our Lady for the conversion of ourselves and those opposed to the Truth, and prayer and action to do whatever we can to turn back the tide of indifference and toleration of evil which is currently effectively paralyzing the Church.
In truth, we need to adopt the attitude of Jacinta, who, a short while before going into the hospital said to Lucia, “If I could only put into the hearts of all, the fire that is burning within my own heart, and that makes me love the Hearts of Jesus and Mary so very much!”
We must pray for that fire which consumed the heart of little Jacinta, sparked from the Two Hearts, may also consume our own hearts and make us true and ardent followers of Jesus and Mary.
Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written a series of three time-travel/adventure books for young people, The Glaston Chronicles, available at www.shopfatima.com/blue-army-press