19/6: Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart! 

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus…

n 1673, a French Visitandine (Visitation) nun named Margaret Mary Alacoque had a private revelation of Jesus, in which he asked the Church to honour his Most Sacred Heart.

In particular, Jesus gave to St. Margaret Mary 12 specific promises made to all who venerated and promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary, “Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love … I promise you that My Heart shall expand Itself to shed in abundance the influence of Its Divine Love upon those who shall thus honour It, and cause It to be honoured.”

The entire purpose of this devotion is to draw a person closer to the heart of Christ. If a person spreads devotion to the Sacred Heart, it is natural for him or her to be closer to God. The moment that this devotion is observed in a superstitious manner, neglecting the need to live a virtuous life, all bets are off and Jesus’ promises are null and void.

Jesus wants us to rest on his heart, like St. John, and the Sacred Heart devotion is an opportunity for us to encounter him more than just on Sundays and to deepen our love of him.

The 12 Promises of the Sacred Heart Devotion

I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
I will establish peace in their homes.
I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
Sinners will find in my heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
I will bless every place in which an image of my heart is exposed and honoured.
I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart.
I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.  Source

Comment: 

In the past, we’ve discussed the 12 Promises of Our Lord to all who venerate and promote devotion to His Sacred Heart.  We’ve compared “favourites”, so to speak.  I’ve probably quoted a very close friend of mine who told me that it was only when she read the above promises and undertook to spread this devotion in her own home, and wherever possible outside, that she experienced a change in herself which she attributes to Christ’s promise that lukewarm souls shall become fervent.  She certainly became fervent:  she changed from being a lukewarm Sunday Catholic to being devoted to the Faith and fervent in many areas of Catholic life – not least in her active support for Catholic Truth. 

So, share your thoughts about the 12 Promises, as well as posting your favourite prayers and hymns – all to honour the Sacred Heart of Jesus on this lovely Feast.   A very happy Feast day to one and all !  

17/10: Feast of the “First Fridays’ Saint”!

SAINT MARGARET MARY ALACOQUE, VIRGIN—1690  Feast: October 17

In seventeenth-century France the faith of the people had been badly shaken; there was rebellion against the Church and neglect of its teachings; the rise of Protestantism and the spread of the heresy of Jansenism[1] both had a part in the weakening of the structure built up through the ages. But as every threat brings its response, so now there rose up fresh, strong forces to counter these trends. Three famous religious, who are today venerated as saints, were particularly effective: John Eudes and Claude de la Columbiere were French Jesuit priests and writers; Margaret Mary Alacoque was a simple nun of the order of the Visitation. Their special work was to popularize the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. To represent this trio and this movement, we have chosen Margaret Mary Alacoque.  

Click on image to read the 12 Promises of the Sacred Heart

Click on image to read the 12 Promises of the Sacred Heart

She was born in 1647 at Janots, a small town of Burgundy, the fifth of seven children, of Claude and Philiberte Alacoque. Her father was a prosperous notary; the family owned a country house and farmland, and had some aristocratic connections. Margaret’s godmother was a neighbor, the Countess of Corcheval. As a small child Margaret spent a great deal of time with her, but these visits were brought to a sudden end by the death of the countess. The father died of pneumonia when Margaret was about eight, and this was another severe shock to the little girl. Claude had loved his family dearly but had been short-sighted and extravagant. His death put them in hard straits. However, Margaret was sent to school with the Urbanist Sisters at Charolles. She loved the peace and order of the convent life, and the nuns were so impressed by her devotion that she was allowed to make her First Communion at the age of nine. A rheumatic affliction kept her bedridden for four years. During this time she was brought home, where some of her father’s relatives had moved in and taken over the direction of the farm and household. She and her mother were disregarded, and treated almost as servants. This painful situation grew more acute after Margaret’s recovery, for the relatives tried to regulate all her comings and goings. Not allowed to attend church as often as she pleased, the young girl was sometimes seen weeping and praying in a corner of the garden. It grieved her deeply that she could not ease things for her mother. Her eldest brother’s coming of age saved the day, for the property now reverted to him, and the family again had undisputed possession of their home.

Philiberte expressed a hope that Margaret would marry; the girl considered the step, inflicting severe austerities upon herself during a period of indecision. At the age of twenty, inspired by a vision, she put aside all such thoughts and resolved to enter a convent. While awaiting admission, she tried to help and teach certain neglected children of the village. At twenty-two she made her profession at the convent of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial. The nuns of the Order of the Visitation, founded in the early years of the seventeenth century by St. Francis de Sales, were famed for their humility and selflessness. As a novice Margaret excelled in these virtues. When she made her profession, the name of Mary was added and she was called Margaret Mary. She began a course of mortifications and penances which were to continue, with more or less intensity, as long as she lived. We are told that she was assigned to the infirmary and was not very skillful at her tasks.

Some years passed quietly in the convent, and then Margaret Mary began to have experiences which seemed to be of supernatural origin. The first of these occurred on December 27, 1673, when she was kneeling at the grille in the chapel. She felt suffused by the Divine Presence, and heard the Lord inviting her to take the place which St. John had occupied at the Last Supper. The Lord told her that the love of His heart must spread and manifest itself to men, and He would reveal its graces through her. This was the beginning of a series of revelations covering a period of eighteen months. When Margaret Mary went to the Superior, Mother de Saumaise, with an account of these mystical experiences, claiming that she, an humble nun, had been chosen as the transmitter of a new devotion to the Sacred Heart, she was reprimanded for her presumption. Seriously overwrought, Margaret Mary suffered a collapse, and became so ill that her life was despaired of. Now the Mother Superior reflected that she might have erred in scorning the nun’s story and vowed that if her life were spared, she would take it as a sign that the visions and messages were truly from God. When Margaret Mary recovered, the Superior invited some theologians who happened to be in the town -they included a Jesuit and a Benedictine-to hear the story. These priests listened and judged the young nun to be a victim of delusions. Their examination had been a sheer torture to Margaret Mary. Later a Jesuit, Father Claude de la Columbiere, talked to her and was completely convinced of the genuineness of the revelations. He was to write of the nun and to inaugurate this devotion in England.

For many years the nun suffered from despair, from self-inflicted punishments, and also from the slights and contempt of those around her. In 1681 Father Claude returned to the convent and died there the following year. Margaret Mary was appointed assistant and novice-mistress by a new Mother Superior who was more sympathetic towards her. Opposition ceased-or at least was restrained-after an account of Margaret Mary’s visions was read aloud in the refectory from the writings left by Father Claude, who had taken it upon himself to make known to the world the nun’s remarkable experiences. That she was finally vindicated was to her a matter of indifference. When she was forty-three, while serving a second term as assistant superior, Margaret Mary fell ill. Sinking rapidly, she received the Last Sacraments, saying, “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”

Although the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was practised before this time, it now gained a strong new impetus through the work of Father John Eudes and the writings of Father Claude. The Sacred Heart is regarded as “the symbol of that boundless love which moved the Word to take flesh, to institute the Holy Eucharist, to take our sins upon Himself, and, dying on the Cross, to offer Himself as a victim and sacrifice to the eternal Father.” The cult first became popular in France, then spread to Poland and other countries, including, at a later period, the United States. The first petition to the Holy See for the institution of the feast was from Queen Mary, consort of James II of England. The month of June is appointed for this devotion, and since 1929 the feast has been one of the highest rank.  Source

Comment

I sometimes wonder if there are  many modern Catholics who still value devotions such as the Nine First Fridays.  Does anyone know?  What about the Catholics in your circle of family and friends – do they ever mention “doing the First Fridays”?  Do the diocesan priests ever preach about this devotion? Have YOU made the Nine First Fridays? If not, why not?