Home | Join/Donate | Current Voices | Liturgical Calendar | What's New | Affirmation | James Hitchcock's Column | Church Documents | Search
Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy:
Principles and Guidelines and the Liturgy
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
The Sacred Heart of Jesus
166. The Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Friday following the second Sunday after Pentecost. In addition to the liturgical celebration, many devotional exercises are connected with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Of all devotions, devotion to the Sacred Heart was, and remains, one of the most widespread and popular in the Church.
Understood in the light of the Scriptures, the term "Sacred Heart of Jesus" denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of His being, and His person considered in its most intimate essential: Son of God, uncreated wisdom; infinite charity, principal of the salvation and sanctification of mankind. The "Sacred Heart" is Christ, the Word Incarnate, Savior, intrinsically containing, in the Spirit, an infinite divine-human love for the Father and for His brothers.
167. The Roman Pontiffs have frequently averted to the scriptural basis of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus(182).
Jesus, who is one with the Father (cf. John 10:30), invites His disciples to live in close communion with Him, to model their lives on Him and on His teaching. He, in turn, reveals Himself as "meek and humble of heart" (Mt 11:29). It can be said that, in a certain sense, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a cultic form of the prophetic and evangelic gaze of all Christians on Him who was pierced (cf. John 19:37; Zac 12:10), the gaze of all Christians on the side of Christ, transfixed by a lance, and from which flowed blood and water (cf. John 19:34), symbols of the "wondrous sacrament of the Church"(183).
The Gospel of Saint John recounts the showing of the Lord's hands and His side to the disciples (cf. John 20:20), and of His invitation to Thomas to put his hand into His side (cf. John 20:27). This event has also had a notable influence on the origin and development of the Church's devotion to the Sacred Heart.
168. These and other texts present Christ as the paschal Lamb, victorious and slain (cf. Rev 5:6). They were objects of much reflection by the Fathers who unveiled their doctrinal richness. They invited the faithful to penetrate the mysteries of Christ by contemplating the wound opened in His side. Augustine writes: "Access is possible: Christ is the door. It was opened for you when His side was opened by the lance. Remember what flowed out from His side: thus, choose where you want to enter Christ. From the side of Christ as He hung dying upon the Cross there flowed out blood and water, when it was pierced by a lance. Your purification is in that water, your redemption is in that blood"(184).
169. Devotion to the Sacred Heart was particularly strong during the middle ages. Many renowned for the learning and holiness developed and encouraged the devotion, among them Saint Bernard (+1153), Saint Bonaventure (+ 1274), the mystic Saint Lutgarda (+1246), Saint Mathilda of Marburg (+ 1282), the sainted sisters Mathilda (+ 1299) and Gertrude (+ 1302) of the monastery of Helfta, and Ludolf of Saxony (+ 1380). These perceived in the Sacred Heart a "refuge" in which to recover, the seat of mercy, the encounter with Him who is the source of the Lord's infinite love, the fount from which flows the Holy Spirit, the promised land, and true paradise.
170. In the modern period devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus underwent new developments. At a time when Jansenism proclaimed the rigors of divine justice, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus served as a useful antidote and aroused in the faithful a love for Our Lord and a trust in His infinite mercy symbolized by His Heart. Saint Francis de Sales (+ 1622) adopted humility, gentleness (cf. Mt 11:29) and tender loving mercy, all aspects of the Sacred Heart, as a model for His life and apostolate. The Lord frequently manifested the abundant mercy of His Heart to Saint Margaret Mary (+ 1690); Saint John Eudes (+ 1680) promoted the liturgical cult of the Sacred Heart, while Saint Claude de la Colombière (+ 1682) and Saint John Bosco (+ 1888) and other saints were avid promoters of devotion to the Sacred Heart.
171. Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus are numerous. Some have been explicitly approved and frequently recommended by the Apostolic See. Among these, mention should be made of the following:
172. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a wonderful historical expression of the Church's piety for Christ, her Spouse and Lord: it calls for a fundamental attitude of conversion and reparation, of love and gratitude, apostolic commitment and dedication to Christ and His saving work. For these reasons, the devotion is recommended and its renewal encouraged by the Holy See and by the Bishops. Such renewal touches on the devotion's linguistic and iconographic expressions; on consciousness of its biblical origins and its connection with the great mysteries of the faith; on affirming the primacy of the love of God and neighbor as the essential content of the devotion itself.
173. Popular piety tends to associate a devotion with its iconographic expression. This is a normal and positive phenomenon. Inconveniences can sometimes arise: iconographic expressions that no longer respond to the artistic taste of the people can sometimes lead to a diminished appreciation of the devotion's object, independently of its theological basis and its historico-salvific content.
This can sometimes arise with devotion to the Sacred Heart: perhaps certain over sentimental images which are incapable of giving expression to the devotion's robust theological content or which do not encourage the faithful to approach the mystery of the Sacred Heart of our Savior.
Recent times have seen the development of images representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the moment of crucifixion which is the highest expression of the love of Christ. The Sacred Heart is Christ crucified, His side pierced by the lance, with blood and water flowing from it (cf, John 19:34).
The Immaculate Heart of Mary
174. The Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary the day after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The contiguity of both celebrations is in itself a liturgical sign of their close connection: the mysterium of the Heart of Jesus is projected onto and reverberates in the Heart of His Mother, who is also one of his followers and a disciple. As the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart celebrates the salvific mysteries of Christ in a synthetic manner by reducing them to their fount -the Heart of Jesus, so too the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a celebration of the complex visceral relationship of Mary with her Son's work of salvation: from the Incarnation, to his death and resurrection, to the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Following the apparitions at Fatima in 1917, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary became very widespread. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the apparitions (1942) Pius XII consecrated the Church and the human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and extended the memorial to the entire Church.
In popular piety devotions to the Immaculate Heart of Mary resemble those of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, while bearing in mind the distance between Jesus and his Mother: consecration of individuals and families, of religious communities and nations(189); reparation for sins through prayer, mortification and alms deeds; the practice of the First Five Saturdays.
With regard to receiving Holy Communion of the Five First Saturdays, the same as has been said in relation to the Nine First Fridays can be repeated(190): overestimation of temporal factors should be overcome in favou of re-contextualization the reception of Holy Communion within the framework of the Eucharist. This pious practice should be seen as an opportunity to live intensely the paschal Mystery celebrated in the Holy Eucharist, as inspired by the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
BACK TO SACRED HEART PAGE
**Women for Faith & Family operates solely on your generous donations!
WFF is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax deductible.
Voices copyright © 1999-Present
Women for Faith & Family. All rights reserved. PERMISSION GUIDELINES All material on this web site is copyrighted and may not be copied or reproduced without prior written permission from Women for Faith & Family,except as specified below. Personal use Quotations Attribution Link to Women for Faith & Family web site. Back to top -- Home -- Back to Prayers & Devotions
Permission is granted to download and/or print out articles for personal use only.
Brief quotations (ca 500 words) may be made from the material on this site, in accordance with the “fair use” provisions of copyright law, without prior permission. For these quotations proper attribution must be made of author and WFF + URL (i.e., “Women for Faith & Family www.wf-f.org.)
Generally, all signed articles or graphics must also have the permission of the author. If a text does not have an author byline, Women for Faith & Family should be listed as the author. For example: Women for Faith & Family (St Louis: Women for Faith & Family, 2005 + URL)
Other web sites are welcome to establish links to www.wf-f.org or to individual pages within our site.
Women for Faith & Family
PO Box 300411
St. Louis, MO 63130
314-863-8385 Phone -- 314-863-5858 Fax -- Email
Voices copyright © 1999-Present Women for Faith & Family. All rights reserved.
All material on this web site is copyrighted and may not be copied or reproduced without prior written permission from Women for Faith & Family,except as specified below.
Link to Women for Faith & Family web site.
Back to top -- Home -- Back to Prayers & Devotions