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.
-Pope Leo XIII
Dating back all the way to the first century AD, the concept of the family as a domestic church (“ecclesiola” in Greek) — the smallest, most familiar building block of the faith — was known to be extremely vital in the building up of the Universal Church. Indeed, it is in the home, among the family, that the first seeds of faith and discipleship are sown. If the ground is fertile, Divine Love takes root in our soul. If the ground is barren, our hearts follow suit.
How then, do we create a domestic church that nurtures and cultivates the Faith? How do we ensure that our smallest building block of civilization has the tools to evangelize and spread the Gospel? Obviously, the simplest answer is “Put Christ as the center of the home,” and that is done in a number of ways. From faithful Mass attendance to grace before meals, Holy Mother Church has given us innumerable ways to deepen our relationship with Christ.
But there is one particular, beautiful way to make Christ the center of your domestic church: enthrone Him there.
What is that? Simply put, enthronement, or more accurately Enthronement of the Sacred Heart, is a devotion that began in the early 1900s by a South American priest, Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey. Wanting to win souls for Christ and spread the devotion to His Sacred Heart, Fr. Mateo realized that the best place to do so was within the family. To this end, he envisioned a tangible, physical way for the domestic church to provide a throne for their King and offer hospitality to His Sacred Heart. “I will bless every place where the image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored” promised Christ to St. Margaret Mary, and Fr. Mateo took this promise seriously. A family wishing to enthrone the Sacred Heart in their homes follow several steps, laid out by Fr. Mateo in 1907 and approved by Pope Pius X just a year later.
To enthrone Christ as king of your domestic church, begin with these steps:
- Meet with your parish priest about the enthronement. It’s not essential to have a priest present, but it certainly drives home the holiness of the action you’re undertaking. Pick a day for enthronement that is meaningful to your family. An anniversary, a particular saint’s feast day, even the Feast of the Sacred Heart (which falls on June 19 next year- book your priests now!)
- Ideally, have Mass said in your home on the day of the enthronement. If that’s not possible, the entire family should try and attend Mass together at a different location.
- Get a picture or statue of the Sacred Heart. Much consideration should be given to the selection of this image. It should be beautiful, something that all members of the family find visually appealing. The image should contain the traditional symbols of the Sacred Heart, that is, Christ’s wounded heart, wreathed with thorns, aflame with love for us. If a priest can’t be present on the day of enthronement, be sure to have the image blessed beforehand.
- Create a suitable space to display the picture or statue. A table laid with a cloth, a mantle in the living room, some place that will be set aside for the glory of God and allow the family to pause and pray frequently.
- Invite family and friends. By this outward sign, you are putting Christ as the center of your heart and home. Share the love of the Sacred Heart with the people you love.
- Feast! After the priest concludes Mass and the enthronement ceremony, share a meal with your guests. This is a day for celebrating.
In many ways, enthronement of the Sacred Heart is the perfect remedy for many illnesses in our present culture. By publicly and mindfully declaring Christ as King of your household, you reject the little gods secular society wants you to hold high. By offering sanctuary and hospitality to the Sacred Heart in your domestic church, you provide a little haven in a world of selfishness and profanity. By making the wounded heart of Christ a centerpiece in your home, you find healing and strength for yourself and can offer it to others.
In His appearance to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus made twelve promises to those who honor His Sacred Heart. One of the first promises was that the faithful would receive peace in their families, something the most cursory glance at the news confirms we are in dire need of today. For as the domestic church goes, so goes civilization. Enthrone the Sacred Heart in your domestic church, and let His love flow outward into your community.