Popular Piety: The Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is an image etched deeply in the minds of many Catholics. The devotion emphasises the perfect, redeeming love of Jesus, and the living water which flows from His heart (cf Jn 7:37-39).
The origins of this longstanding piety lie in the Medieval period. It was promoted by, amongst others, the Flemish Mystic St. Lutgarde of Aywieres (1182-1246) and St. Gertrude the Great (1256-1302). It was not until the seventeenth century, however, that the devotion became more widespread in its popularity through its promotion by the two notable individuals, and the Society of Jesus more generally. St. John Eudes (1601-1680) a Frenchman who was educated by the Jesuits, wrote The Life and Royalty of Jesus in the Christian Soul in 1637 and composed the Office of the Sacred Heart in 1668. Both works served to dramatically increase the numbers of people honouring the Sacred Heart. Another French saint, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), had visions of the Sacred Heart and her writings led to the twelve promises of Our Lord made to those devoted to His Sacred Heart. The Jesuits saw in the Sacred Heart a powerful antidote to Jansenism, which emphasised the futility of life; their followers enkindled a sense of God’s remoteness and the soul’s predestination to heaven or hell.
Since 1856, the Church has kept the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Friday which follows the Second Sunday after Pentecost. The entrance antiphon we say at Mass reads: “The thoughts of His Heart last through every generation, that He will rescue them from death and feed them in time of famine” (Ps. 31:11,19).
Our Lord is compassion and love. Devotion to the Sacred Heart stirs us to call upon Him who provides all things, and to dedicate ourselves to Him in loving humility. We have in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, therefore, a timeless devotion which we would do well to make our own.
Prayer to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. Grant, Lord Jesus, that I may live in you and for you. Protect me in the midst of danger. Comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.