Five ways to foster devotion to the Sacred Heart

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Sacred Heart
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The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus grew from the revelations of the Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century (see first article in the series). During the second revelation, the Lord instructed Margaret Mary to receive holy Communion on every first Friday for nine consecutive months, as well as to prostrate herself on the ground before the Blessed Sacrament for one hour during the night between Thursday and Friday each week.

Upon the third revelation, the Lord proclaimed his desire for the institution of a feast to his Most Sacred Heart, which would bring the devotion into the Church’s common and universal practice. Nearly two centuries later, Pope Pius IX instituted the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the universal Church in 1865, to be observed on the second Friday after Trinity Sunday (which is also the Friday immediately following the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus in the United States). In 1995, Pope St. John Paul II added the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests to the same day so that the priesthood might be protected in the heart of Jesus.

The immense love of the Son of God is the particular object of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. It is with this immense love that the Father gave his Son into our hands, that the Son delivered himself up to death for us, and that the Father gives his Son and the Son gives himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is nothing less and nothing other than devotion to the love of God poured out for us in Jesus the Son.

The Lord calls his disciples to adore and devote themselves to his Sacred Heart, in a manner like unto his call to St. Margaret Mary. The motive and fruit of the devotion is, first, for those who observe it to grow in gratitude and thanksgiving for the tender love Jesus Christ has for us, especially as communicated in the Blessed Sacrament. The second motive and fruit is to participate in making reparations for the severe ingratitude and callousness the multitudes have for the love of Jesus poured out for us. The devotion thus brings about pious love and solemn grief, all in response to the love of God in Christ.

Ways to foster the devotion to the Sacred Heart

The following five practices are among the most common ways of initiating and perpetuating the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

1. Make a Morning Offering, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary

The first to devote herself to the love of God in Christ was the Blessed Mother. Her heart is always fixed on and nourished by his. Her heart leads to his, and his heart is offered to us through hers. A morning offering like the following one moves us toward Christ’s love through Mary, by little and by little, day-by-day:

“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and all Apostles of Prayer and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month. Amen.”

2. Make frequent visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

The devotion to the Blessed Eucharist and the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus are, in the end, one and the same devotion in two moments. The love contained in Christ’s heart are offered to us in the Blessed Sacrament, and the Blessed Sacrament always points to the love of God poured out for the world.

A monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament is displayed on the altar during a Holy Hour at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City July 13, 2023. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

The Lord instructed St. Margaret Mary to devote herself to his Sacred Heart in part by keeping a Holy Hour each week, lying prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament. Keeping this Holy Hour in the night between Thursday and Friday places the devotee even more intentionally into the Garden of Christ’s agony when his passion began but his disciples abandoned him.

3. Make a First Friday devotion

Jesus revealed to St. Margaret Mary both the warmth of his human heart and the coldness of ingratitude he suffered from many. The regular reception of holy Communion both grants us the warmth of Christ’s love and, at the same time, allows us to express gratitude for the Lord’s gift. The First Friday devotion is a way for this exchange of love to become habitual and ever more intentional. Attending Mass and receiving holy Communion on the First Friday of each month (or at least for nine consecutive months) is offered for the reparation of sins committed against Jesus’ Sacred Heart and the holy Eucharist.

4. Make an Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart

Acts of consecration to the Sacred Heart take various forms. The consecration should be renewed at least once each year on the feast of the Sacred Heart, though it may also be renewed on each First Friday.

A simple consecration is like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, today I offer/renew my dedication to Your Sacred Heart. I remember Your love for me. I pledge my love in return, placing You in the center of my heart and my family. I wish to live my life in union with You and to share in Your mission of love to all. Lord, accept this dedication and keep me always in Your Sacred Heart. Amen.”

A longer and well-known form of this consecration is the one that St. Margaret Mary herself offered to Jesus’ Sacred Heart:

“I consecrate and surrender to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, my person, my life, my difficulties and my sufferings, that I may henceforth live only for his love and glory. It is my firm and unwavering purpose to be his entirely, to do everything for his love and renounce wholeheartedly everything that could displease his divine Heart.

“O Sacred Heart, I choose You as the sole object of my love, the protector of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the support of my weakness and the atoner for all the sins of my whole life. O mild and bountiful Heart, be likewise my refuge at the hour of death, my justification before God, and ward off from me the penalty of his just wrath. O loving Heart, I place my trust entirely in You. While I fear everything from my own malice, I hope everything from Your goodness. Destroy in me whatever may displease You or be opposed to You, and let Your pure love imprint You so deeply upon my heart that it will be impossible for me ever to forget You or be separated from You.

“O Sacred Heart, by Your goodness, I implore You, let my name be deeply engraved in You for in Your service and in Your love I will live and die. Amen.”

5. Observe the feast of the Sacred Heart with great preparation and reverence

The feast of the Sacred Heart occurs annually on the second Friday after Trinity Sunday. As a solemn occasion for the universal Church, observing this feast with both preparation and reverence allows each member of Christ’s Body to participate in the warming of the Church by the love of Christ and make reparations for the ingratitude of disciples and others for Christ’s great love.

In his book, “The Devotion to the Sacred Heart” (First Rate Publishers, $7.99), published at the end of the 17th century, Jesuit Father John Croiset offers direct guidance for how to practically and spiritually observe this feast with all due reverence:

“We should, if possible, consecrate the whole of the feast day to the honoring of the

Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We should put off to some other time all unnecessary business, and deny ourselves all useless amusement, for the smallest moments of the day are infinitely precious.

“On rising in the morning, we should prostrate ourselves and adore Jesus Christ [in the Blessed Sacrament]. Then we should prepare for a very fervent Holy Communion, because this Communion is a Communion of reparation, in the first place, for the faults of our own Communions, and then for the sins of others.

“Immediately after Holy Communion, compare the excessive love of Jesus Christ with your own extreme ingratitude; prostrate yourself humbly at His feet, humble in mind and with a heart pierced with sorrow at the sight of so many outrages which Jesus receives.

“Then make the Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and offer yourself without reserve to Him.

“The whole day should [then] be spent in good works and especially in making frequent acts of love to Jesus Christ according as each one’s devotion suggests.”

By these five ways, and others besides, the devotion to the Sacred Heart directs our hearts to the love of Jesus’ own heart. We slowly become emissaries of his love and sharers in the work of reconciliation for the Body of Christ. In return, Christ offers 12 promises to those who devote themselves to his Heart. These promises will be the focus of a future article.

Leonard J. DeLorenzo

Leonard J. DeLorenzo, Ph.D., is Professor of the Practice in the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, where he directs the Sullivan Family Saints Initiative and the Inklings Project, and hosts the podcast Church Life Today.