Friday, June 20, 2014


June is dedicated to The Sacred Heart of Jesus. The following is a series of excerpts from Jesus, Mercy Incarnate, Marian Press, 2000 (currently out of print), by Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD, director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. The series explores the relationship between The Sacred Heart and The Divine Mercy.

According to the popes of the last 100 years, there is no devotion more important to the life of the Church than devotion to the Heart of Jesus. For example, in 1899 Pope Leo XIII, in what he called "the greatest act of my pontificate," consecrated the whole world to the Sacred Heart on the threshold of the new century, and he wrote of the Sacred Heart as "the symbol and sensible image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ." 

In 1928, in his encyclical "Miserentissimus Redemptor," Pope Pius XI taught that devotion to the Heart of Jesus is "the summary of our religion," which, if practiced, "will most surely lead us to know intimately Jesus Christ, and will cause our hearts to love Him more tenderly and to imitate Him more generously."

Then in 1956, in his famous encyclical on the Sacred Heart "Haurietis Aquas," Pope Pius XII was even more effusive than his predecessors in praise of this devotion: It is altogether impossible to enumerate the heavenly gifts which devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has poured out on the souls of the faithful, purifying them, offering them heavenly strength, rousing them to the attainment of all virtues ... 

Consequently, the honor paid to the Sacred Heart is such as to raise it to the rank — so far as external practice is concerned — of the highest expression of Christian piety. For this is the religion of Jesus, which is centered on the Mediator who is man and God, and in such a way that we cannot reach the Heart of God, save through the Heart of Christ ...

After the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI pleaded with the Church not to forget the devotion to the Sacred Heart. In his apostolic letter of 1965, "Investigabiles Divitias Christi," he wrote:

This, therefore, seems to us to be the most suitable ideal: that devotion to the Sacred Heart — which, we are grieved to say, has suffered somewhat in the estimation of some persons — now reflourish daily more and more. Let it be esteemed by all as an excellent and acceptable form of true piety ...

In a follow-up letter to the heads of the religious orders, Paul VI was even more emphatic:

Thus, it is absolutely necessary that the faithful venerate and honor this Heart, in the expression of their private piety as well as in the services of public cult, for of His fullness we have all received; and they must learn perfectly from Him how they are to live in order to answer the demands of our time.

Finally, in 1994, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, contains the following remarkable statement about the importance of the symbol of the Heart of Jesus (no. 478):

The Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, "is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that ... love with which the Divine Redeemer continually loves the Eternal Father and all human beings" without exception.

We need not belabor the point. Suffice it to say that for more than a century now, the successors of St. Peter have repeatedly exhorted the faithful to honor the Heart of Jesus, and to practice this devotion with love and zeal.

The popes have good reason for this recommendation, for the devotion to the Heart of Jesus has an impressive pedigree. It is rooted in the gospels, in our Lord's call: "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Mt 11: 28-29). Again, our Lord cried out on the feast of the tabernacles: "If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink ... as the scripture has said 'Out of His Heart shall flow rivers of living water' " (Jn 7:37-38). In the Heart of Jesus, therefore, we can find rest for our soul's weariness, and refreshment for our soul's thirst. All this was made manifest on the Cross, when His side was opened by the lance, and out of His Heart flowed streams of water and blood (Jn 19:34), symbolic of all the graces of Baptism and the Eucharist.

Many great saints have had a special devotion to the Heart of Jesus, including St Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Albert the Great, St. Bonaventure, St. Lutgard, St. Gertrude the Great, St. Peter Canisius, St. Francis De Sales, St. John Eudes, St. Claude De La Colombiere, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, and Bl. Dina Belanger. The greatest impetus toward the spread of this devotion, however, came from the apparitions of our Lord Jesus Himself to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 1670s. To her the glorified Jesus unveiled His tender, burning love for souls, and through her He asked for the establishment of the annual liturgical feast of the Sacred Heart, as well as devotional practices such as the Holy Hour, the First Friday Communions, and the veneration of the image of His loving Heart. By these means our Lord intended to rekindle the fire of love in the hearts of the faithful, in a modern world in which the hearts of many were growing cold.

Hence, rooted in scripture, the delight of many saints, and given the highest endorsement by the popes again and again, it is clear that the devotion to the Heart of Jesus — especially to the living Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist — is vital to the life and spiritual health of the Catholic Church. Simply put: A living body needs a living heart, and the Church, the Body of Christ, has its own living heart: we have been given the Heart of Jesus Christ, the Head of the Body, as our Heart, too, the living source of all our spiritual refreshment and peace.

Rev. Fr. Victor Y. Apacible
Rector / Parish Priest