“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” — Matthew 11:28-30
As May was the month of Our Mother Mary, June is the month of the Sacred Heart of her beloved her son Jesus. It is often said that the mother is the heart of the home. Which is not an expression I would dispute. But on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we honor what should be the heart of hearts in every home. And why the heart? Jesus surely had a brain with which he thought. And muscles which mobilized him as he grew, traveled, and felt the suffering of the Cross. He had feet which carried him and hands which served him as he performed miracles. So why the heart? Well, without the heart to pump vitality to the body the other parts are useless. Rather than the brain, the heart has long been considered the center of our being – literally and emotionally. As much as we think and pine, we do not send St. Valentine’s greetings adorned with pink, glittery brains. We do not extend brain-felt congratulations or condolences to our friends. In our moments of grief we do not express our loss as having left us broken-brained. The heart is at the heart of our being and the corporal being of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus – a heart wounded and surrounded with a crown of thorns, with flames showing his suffering love for humanity – has been honored since the twelfth century. Devotion to the Sacred Heart was popularized by the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in France in the late 1600s. Our Lord asked for a Feast in reparation for the offenses against his love, saying, “Behold the Heart that has so loved men … instead of gratitude I receive from the greater part (of mankind) only ingratitude ….” For those who practice devotion to his Sacred Heart, Our Lord made twelve promises:
1) I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2) I will establish peace in their families.
3) I will console them in all their troubles.
4) They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of their death.
5) I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
6) Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
7) Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8) Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
9) I will bless the homes where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.
10) I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.
11) Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
12) The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under my displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.
Those of us who wear the Miraculous Medal are also familiar with the Sacred Heart. It appears on the back of the medal, the way it had been seen by St. Catherine Labouré in a vision, along with Mary’s Immaculate Heart, pierced by a sword as foretold by the prophecy of Simeon in the Temple.
As a graduate of a Sacred Heart college, the phrase, “I am a child of the Sacred Heart” has great meaning for me. And not only in a nostalgic alumni sort of way. One of my favorite pictures from my graduation was an ‘accidental’ double-exposure of the Sacred Heart statue in front of the school and me walking across the stage to receive my diploma. Accidental if I were to believe it was only a malfunction of the shutter in my father’s Nikon. I look at that picture and see a reassuring symbol of my spiritual journey; my walk in the presence of the Sacred Heart of Our Lord. Pope Leo XIII said, “There is in the Sacred Heart the symbol and express image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love in return.” This infinite love carried me through a lifelong circuitous journey into the Church, making my profession of faith after receiving the instruction of a kind priest who early on taught me this simple and profound prayer: Jesus, meek and humble of heart make my heart like unto thine.
As this June comes to an end, may it find us all developing a deeper devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and likewise finding comfort through the Immaculate Heart of his Mother. Whether we have a home enthronement for the Sacred Heart, learn more about other Sacred Heart devotions, or simply take a more thoughtful look at the back of that Miraculous Medal, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is our opportunity to recognize the suffering love that Our Lord has for us. And in this we also find the opportunity to see the true heart in the hearts of our homes. For it is so true that, “the worship, although paid to the Heart of Jesus, extends further than the Heart of flesh, being directed to the love of which this Heart is the living and expressive symbol.” [Catholic Encyclopedia]