Reflecting again on the devotion to the Sacred Heart we pause and look again at a devotion, a prayer cycle, a belief which is seen as "traditional" or "antiquated" by many. Something associated with a culture seen as oppressive and burdensome in Ireland? How do we rediscover the essentials again of what is the point of this devotion to the Heart of Jesus? What does it teach and remind us of?
Mercy and Love!
The keys to finding a way into this little side chapel in the many devotions in the universal church are Mercy and Love! How appropriate that we reflect on the mercy and love of God expressed in the human heart of Jesus which was united to the Divine! But even using that language can be a block for people with so much of it wrapped up around the issue of the imagery used.
As mentioned previously here on the blog a couple of years back, a friend of mine commented on Facebook that he was going to post a funky, Facebook-friendly version of the Sacred Heart image in honour of the feast, but then he remembered that the old-fashioned painting was the image through which he came to know Jesus as a child. It hung in the kitchen, and communicated at once Jesus' solemnity and his mercy. On the back, his mother had written the childhood sicknesses of her six children, entrusting fears, tears, and little agonies to the loving heart of Our Lord, like countless mothers all over the world. How blessed we are to know that we are loved, no matter how we suffer or fall. 'Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His love has no end' (Psalm 135)
Many Irish homes had a triptych of the Sacred Heart, the Pope and John Fitzgerald Kennedy probably over hanging the statue of the Child of Prague or Our Lady of Lourdes. Probably as the feast generally falls in June and coincides with the national state examinations, there are few people who may not have had a candle lit for them in front of the image of the Sacred Heart. One memorable quote which I came across was "Good luck to all my fellow 6th years.. I'll be grand, Nana's lightin a candle for me".
The Sacred Heart represents Christ's love for all mankind, and our devotion to it is an expression of our faith in His mercy.The devotion especially emphasizes the unmitigated love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity.
The origin of this devotion in its modern form is derived from a French Roman Catholic nun, Marguerite Marie Alacoque, who said she learned the devotion from Jesus during a mystical experience. Predecessors to the modern devotion arose unmistakably in the Middle Ages in various facets of Catholic mysticism (read more here).
On June 1, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics everywhere to renew their devotion to the Sacred Heart during the month of June.
In June 2013 Pope Francis noted how closeness and tenderness are the pillars of God's relationship with us, because He knows us all by name. The Pope said God draws near out of love, He walks with His people, and this walk comes to an unimaginable turning point. We could never have imagined that the same Lord would become one of us and walk with us, be present with us, present in His Church, present in the Eucharist, present in His Word, present in the poor. This said Pope Francis is the closeness of a shepherd to his sheep, whom he knows, one by one. Pope Francis noted that it's harder to open our hearts and let God love us, than for us to love God. [Full report from Vatican Radio including audio HERE.]
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is very much his human heart. It is not so much that we worship the flesh and blood of his physical heart in itself, but rather what it symbolizes. In general use, we refer to the heart as the centre of our feeling and emotion, our inmost core, the place where we encounter God, and from which springs what love we can show to Him and to others........Thus, in a sense, the devotion to the Sacred Heart is a bold and audacious one. In adoring Jesus’ Sacred Heart we are adoring his humanity. Or to put it less disturbingly, we are adoring his IncarnationUnderstood in the light of the Scriptures, the term "Sacred Heart of Jesus" denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being, and his person considered in its most intimate essential: Son of God, uncreated wisdom; infinite charity, principal of the salvation and sanctification of mankind. The "Sacred Heart" is Christ, the Word Incarnate, Saviour, intrinsically containing, in the Spirit, an infinite divine-human love for the Father and for his brothers.
I. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you." Behold I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of...... (here name your request) Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father....Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.
II. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you." Behold, in your name, I ask the Father for the grace of.......(here name your request) Our Father...Hail Mary....Glory Be To the Father....Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.
III. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away." Encouraged by your infallible words I now ask for the grace of.....(here name your request) Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father...Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us miserable sinners and grant us the grace which we ask of you, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, your tender Mother and ours.
Some other links for the month of the Sacred Heart:
CatholicCulture.org provides a number of links and prayers associated with the devotion including a short scriptural support for the devotion to the Sacred Heart.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Theology of Benedict XVI
Pope Pius XII encyclical on Devotion to the Sacred Heart - Haurietis Aquas
Homily of Pope John Paul II on his apostolic journey to Canada at Mass dedicated to the Heart of Christ (18th September 1984)