Drawing close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

OSV News
(Jul 10, 2024) Faith-Inspiration

mosaic of Sacred Heart of Jesus

Stephany Strombeck/Cathopic.com

In my journey of reading one spiritual classic a month, it seemed fitting in the month of June dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to read the autobiography of the 17th-century nun and mystic St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who spread devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Her life story, written under obedience as she did not like to speak of herself, began with a childhood marked by illness and abusive family members. She was drawn amid her suffering to the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote that as a child Jesus communicated to her that "He desired to be Master of my heart and render me conformable in all things to His suffering life."

Under the Lord's guidance, she joined the Sisters of the Visitation at the age of 22 despite her family's initial opposition.

After entering the convent, she experienced a powerful vision in which Jesus asked her for her heart and "placed it in His own Adorable Heart where He showed it to me as a little atom which was being consumed in this great furnace, and withdrawing it thence as a burning flame in the form of a heart, He restored it to the place whence He had taken it saying to me: 'See, My well-beloved, I give thee a precious token of My love, having enclosed within they side a little spark of its glowing flames, that it may serve thee for a heart and consume thee to the last moment of thy life; its ardor will never be exhausted.'"

St. Margaret Mary was united to Jesus not only in ardor, but in suffering, as the pain from this wound in her side always remained with her. He called her "the beloved disciple of My Sacred Heart."

She was an imperfect disciple at times and her writing includes instances of her love of extreme and disturbing self-imposed penances, which earned her rebukes from Jesus and St. Frances de Sales in visions, as well as from her superiors due to her excess and lack of obedience.

And yet, she was the means the Lord chose to draw the faithful to his Sacred Heart, to experience his merciful love and be joined to him in suffering in reparation for the sins of the world.

In one vision, Jesus showed her "to what an excess He had loved men, from whom He received only ingratitude and contempt:

"I feel this more than all that I suffered during My Passion. If only they would make Me some return for My Love, I should think but little of all I have done for them and would wish, were it possible, to suffer still more," he told her, "but the sole return they make for all My eagerness to do them good is to reject Me and treat Me with coldness."

Jesus enjoined St. Margaret Mary to receive Communion on the first Friday of each month. He promised that "every night between the Thursday and the (first) Friday I will make you share in My mortal sadness which I was pleased to feel in the Garden of Olives, and this sadness, without you being able to understand it, shall reduce you to a kind of agony harder to endure than death itself. And in order to bear Me company in the humble prayer that I then offered to My Father, in the midst of My anguish, you shall rise between 11 P.M. and midnight, and remain prostrate with Me for an hour."

He also asked that the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi be a feast day to honor His Sacred Heart "in order to make amends for the indignities which It has received during the time It has been exposed on the altars." He promised that "My Heart shall expand Itself to shed in abundance the influence of Its Divine Love upon those who shall thus honor It and cause It to be honored.”

In his 1928 encyclical "On Reparation to the Sacred Heart," Pope Pius XI explained how acts of reparation encouraged by the devotion to the Sacred Heart bring solace to Christ now as "if, because of our sins also which were as yet in the future, but were foreseen, the soul of Christ became sorrowful unto death, it cannot be doubted that then, too, already He derived somewhat of solace from our reparation, which was likewise foreseen, when 'there appeared to Him an angel from heaven' (Luke xxii, 43), in order that His Heart, oppressed with weariness and anguish, might find consolation."

Thus, he wrote, "even now, in a wondrous yet true manner, we can and ought to console that Most Sacred Heart which is continually wounded by the sins of thankless men."

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque's love for the Blessed Sacrament and frequent longing to receive Jesus as often as she could was another striking element of her autobiography. The Lord demonstrated His particular love for her in a vision she had as she longed to receive Holy Communion.

"The desires of thy heart are so pleasing to Me," he said, "that if I had not instituted My Divine Sacrament of Love, I would do so now for thy sake in order to have the pleasure of dwelling in thy soul, and of taking My repose of love in thy heart.'"

In his 1956 encyclical "On Devotion to the Sacred Heart," Pope Pius XII wrote that St. Margaret Mary was "on fire with an unusual zeal to see to it that the real meaning of the devotion" to the Sacred Heart be "established and be distinguished from other forms of Christian piety by the special qualities of love and reparation."

The importance, he wrote, of the revelations made to St. Margaret Mary lay in "that Christ Our Lord, exposing His Sacred Heart, wished in a quite extraordinary way to invite the minds of men to a contemplation of, and a devotion to, the mystery of God's merciful love for the human race. In this special manifestation Christ pointed to His Heart, with definite and repeated words, as the symbol by which men should be attracted to a knowledge and recognition of His love; and at the same time He established it as a sign or pledge of mercy and grace for the needs of the Church of our times."

By Lauretta Brown, culture editor for OSV News.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Catholic, devotion, trending-english