One of the most popular devotions celebrated in the Church that is now part of our Catholic tradition is the FEAST of the Sacred Heart.
In the Old Testament (Jer 31:33; Ezek 11:19; 18:31) we read how God in his love and Mercy promised to make the hearts of His people now hearts of stone whose love of God had gone cold into hearts of flesh.
They needed a new Heart that would beat in resonance with the Heart of God.
This new Heart is now given to us through Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God. It is to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus after whom the hearts of people should now be fashioned.
The devotion began when Jesus, hurt by the ingratitude of mankind for His loving kindness sought to arouse the Church into a realization of the love of God symbolized by his heart.
Apostle of the Sacred Heart
Chosen by Christ Himself for this task was ironically a young nondescript nun of the Order of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial, France. Though humble, devout, simple obedient and good she was rather clumsy, sickly and not too bright.
On June 27, 1673 three years after becoming a nun, while Margaret was praying in the chapel, she heard Jesus inviting her to be His instrument in arousing the Church to a realization of the love of God, Symbolized by the Heart of Jesus. He told her, “Look at this Heart which has loved human beings so much and yet men do not want to love Me in return. Though you my divine Heart wishes to spread its love everywhere on earth.”
One that day and for thirteen months thereafter, Jesus made numerous appearances and revelations to Margaret but four were especially remarkable.
1. During the first apparition on December 27, 1673
Jesus permitted Margaret to rest her head on His Heart and then disclosed to her the wonders of His Love.
He explained why He had chosen her – “an abyss of unworthiness and ignorance so that the accomplishment of this great work may rightfully be attributed to Him.”
Then taking the heart of Margaret from her breast (which she readily gave) He dipped it into His own Heart. When the Lord took it out it looked like a flame. He then placed it back in Margaret’s breast and gave her the title of “the blessed disciple of My Heart.”
2. In the second apparition (first half of 1674) the Lord revealed His Divine Heart as a dazzling throne of flames surrounded by a crown of thorns as a sign of His burning love for the souls He had ransomed with His sacrifice on the Cross.
He wished its image to be exposed for veneration. He then disclosed to Margaret His great desire to be loved by all men and women.
3. The third took place on July 2, 1674 while Margaret was praying before the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of the Visitation.
The Lord opened His breast and disclosed His Heart from which came out fire. His human heart was to be the symbol of His Divine human love.
“I come into the Heart I have given you in order that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor Me in the Blessed Sacrament.
DEVOTION to the SACRED HEART
Jesus then asked for a devotion of expiatory love through frequent loving communion on the First Friday of the month. To those who received Holy Communion on the first Friday for nine consecutive months, Jesus promised, “My Heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.”
Jesus also asked for the observance of the Holy Hour that is a prayerful one hour vigil before the Blessed Sacrament on Thursday night in memory of His agony and desertion in Gethsemane.
FEAST of REPARATION
He asked her a feast of reparation on the Friday after the octave of the Corpus Christi (now the Feast of the Sacred Heart). This Feast was in reparation for human ingratitude towards His goodness and mercy by worship of the Heart of flesh of His Son.
SAINTS of the SACRED HEART
Besides St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, she had now a powerful ally in her confessor, Jesuit Priest St. Claude de la Colmbiere. Not only did he believe in her mission but was also in part responsible for making her crusade known throughout in the world.
Another Saint – John Eudes helped to popularize the devotion through his writings. So these three are known as the saints of the Sacred Heart.
IN THE PHILIPPINES
The devotion was brought to the Philippines by the Jesuits. Young Rizal carved a little statue of the Sacred Heart which is kept at the Ateneo de Manila University.
Let us, like St. Margaret Mary Alacoque on her deathbed say, “I need nothing but God and to lose myself in the Heart of Jesus.”