The Principal Catholic Practices, Chapter 16 – A Remedy for a Sick World

The Principal Catholic Practices, by Father George Thomas SchmidtHistory of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart. Manner. Reward.

The world is sick. She suffers from a most serious malady, one that foreshadows death. And the nature of the disease? It is apostasy from Christ. He, the Saviour, who came to befriend the world, to bring to mankind the greatest gifts within the power of an omnipotent God, has been banished from our public life. The nations have decreed that the name of Jesus has no place in public records; that it should not be mentioned in covenants and treaties; and that, for all practical purposes, Christ might just as well be non-existent.

Not only has God been driven out of our public life, not only has He been banished from the schools, but He is refused entrance into the homes; yes, even the hearts of men are barred against Him. His religion has been dissected by the erring hands of human beings, and under the guise of Christianity rationalism, materialism and atheism have taken the place of the eternal truths.

Truly the world is sick. Her sickness is no longer a secret. Countless symptoms, such as the restlessness of peoples, the absence of any hope for lasting peace, the hatred, jealousy, rivalry and greed of nations and individuals are but manifestations of the dread nature of the terrible malady. Is there a cure? There is one – the remedy offered by the Great Physician, Christ Himself. Many years ago He saw the unmistakable trend of society, and He proposed to the world the wonderful devotion to His Sacred Heart.

We might truthfully say that the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is as old as the Church. For, beginning with the love of Saint John for this Great Heart, we might trace the devotion throughout the centuries. It must be admitted, however, that the great devotees of the Sacred Heart who lived before the time of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, such as Saint Gertrude and Saint Francis de Sales, never penetrated into the full meaning and wealth of this devotion.

As the Lord usually chooses the most humble of His children as the instruments of His works, so also we find that He sought out the simple nun in the convent of Paray le Monial in France. This was about the middle of the seventeenth century.

Now what is the object of our adoration in this devotion? Is it the heart itself, or is it the great love of Jesus? For answer, let me narrate to you the story of the first apparition of Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary. She had lived many years in the convent, when one day, as she was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lord appeared to her and allowed her to behold His Sacred Heart as it shone radiantly in His open breast. It was completely surrounded by flames, as brilliant as the sun and as transparent as crystal. Around it was wound a crown of thorns; while a cross surmounted the whole. Revealing the miracles and mysteries of His unbounded love. He addressed her as follows: “My heart is so full of love for mankind that it can no longer contain its flames of love. It must, through thy instrumentality, pour them forth and make them known to men, in order to enrich them with the treasures which it contains. I will make known to thee the wealth of these treasures; they are wholesome and sanctifying graces, which alone can rescue men from the abyss of ruin.”

It will be seen at once that the object of the devotion is not merely the great love of Jesus; nor only the heart of flesh; but that it is the love and the heart that we adore: the love as contained in His great heart, and the heart as the symbol of that love. One might ask: Is the human heart of Jesus a worthy object of adoration, or do we incur the guilt of idolatry? Indeed this heart is worthy of adoration, and we may confidently adore it. For in Christ the humanity and divinity are so intimately united in the one person, that the heart of Jesus is, in truth, a divine heart, and thus a most worthy object of adoration.

It would take us too far to recount here the many wondrous revelations made by Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary. Suffice it to say that He desired and demanded that this devotion be spread far and wide as the means of saving society from sin and apostasy. Throughout the many revelations there always recurs the bitter complaint of the ingratitude of mankind. And Our Saviour demands reparation for the many offenses against His Sacred Heart, for the coldness and indifference toward His Church, His sacraments, and, above all, the Holy Eucharist. Accordingly the devotion consists chiefly in acts of love and reparation to the Sacred Heart. The fact that from this devotion a great number of prayers and forms of adoration have arisen is proof sufficient that it has found a hearty welcome in the Catholic world. We have the holy hour, acts of love, a scapular, a rosary of the Sacred Heart, a society for the Communion of Reparation, the League of the Sacred Heart, litanies, novenas, and prayers without number.

It will be apparent that no one is expected to join every association that honors the Divine Heart; neither must we strive to take part in all the forms of prayer. What appeals to the one, may not be suited to the individuality of the other. We should practice those devotions whereby we can best fulfill the wishes of Our Lord.

Aside from the fact that the widespread devotion to the living Heart of Jesus cannot but have a most wholesome effect upon the whole world and elevate the standards of morality, as well as bring God back into the hearts of men, this devotion carries with it such a wealth of promises as never before accompanied an act of adoration. There are principally twelve promises made by Our Lord to Saint Margaret:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their station in life.

2. I will give peace to their families.

3. I will console them in all their sufferings.

4. I will be their sure refuge in life, and especially at their death.

5. I will pour abundant blessings over all their undertakings.

6. Sinners will find in My Heart the source and the infinite sea of mercy.

7. Careless souls will become zealous.

8. Zealous souls will rapidly attain great perfection.

9. I will bless the homes in which the picture of My Sacred Heart is erected and venerated.

10. To priests I will give the grace to move even the hardest hearts.

11. The names of those who try to spread the devotion shall be inscribed in My Heart, and never be erased therefrom.

12. (The so-called great promise.) In the overflowing mercy of My Heart I promise thee that My all-powerful love will grant the grace of penitence at the end of life to all those who, on the first Fridays of nine consecutive months, receive Holy Communion. They will not die without grace, nor without the sacraments, for in this last moment My Sacred Heart will be their sure refuge.

What a wealth of grace and blessing is here promised to all who promote the devotion to the Sacred Heart! Can there still be a doubt whether or not you, dear reader, will become a most zealous apostle of this thoroughly Catholic practice?

The things of earth are so small and trivial when compared to the things of God. Lack of time or lack of inclination must not keep us away from this splendid means of sanctifying ourselves and of promoting the well-being of the world about us.