On a Mission from God

Monsignor John Esseff is on a mission from God. He hopes to have the Sacred Heart of Jesus enthroned as King of the entire world, family by family, church by church, dioceses by diocese…country by country. Accompanied by other priests, he is now embarking on a tour to meet with cardinals worldwide to solicit their support to develop an official plan within the Catholic Church to enthrone Jesus as the King of our world and present this plan to the Pope. This may sound idealistic, but with so many friends in high places, my money is on Monsignor. Oh, and by the way, this ambitious plan includes everyone, even Osama bin Laden.

Who is this priest and what is he thinking? Msgr. John Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest of Lebanese decent based in the Diocese of Scranton, PA. He lived in Lebanon from 1984 to 1986 serving as head of the Pontifical Mission. This is a Catholic organization which directly assists the Pope in bringing the good news to the world, especially to the poor. While there, Msgr. Esseff experienced the terror and threat of radical fundamentalist Islam, even seeing innocent children blown apart in a car bomb. He was a friend to Mother Teresa who asked him to give retreats to the Sisters of Charity, which he continues to do. He met Padre Pio who became a spiritual father to him. Msgr. Esseff also provides spiritual formation to seminarians across the country.

The Plan

Monsignor Esseff’s mission is two-fold. Spreading the devotion to the Sacred Heart Enthronement is the core—the spiritual ammunition for a world battling moral decay and terrorism. But within this mission, Msgr. Esseff plans to reach Osama bin Laden whom he believes is much like a St. Paul before his conversion. He says Osama is a true believer, but of the wrong message. Monsignor hopes to meet with him one day. For anyone else, this would not just be overly ambitious, it would be considered a grandiose scheme of hallucinogenic proportions. But as I said, my money is on Monsignor. His own background, his understanding of the Arabic language and the Koran, and his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus make him uniquely suited to this mission. He has recently recorded an eight-minute message with the help of Ignatius Productions and expects it will eventually reach Osama bin Laden. To view it go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1slVVOSzoM. This recorded message has been sent on disc to Lebanon. Msgr. Esseff has received word that it is scheduled to be aired on both Christian and Muslim television stations.

When referring to terrorism Msgr. Esseff says: “They are not the problem; we are. We have the truth but we do not have the fire.” He aims to put the fire of the love that surges from the Sacred Heart of Jesus into our civilization, one heart at a time.

Msgr. Esseff has assembled a global team, which is developing an aggressive ten-year plan to establish the kingship of Jesus throughout the world. The team will meet in France during a pilgrimage to the Cure’ of Ars and Paray le Monial, April 7-14, 2010 and begin making arrangements for the first Congress of the Sacred Heart Enthronement in 2011, also to be to be held in France. The goal is eventually to hold Sacred Heart Enthronement Congresses on five continents to evangelize and train people to spread the devotion. From each epicenter—the Congresses—the hope is there will be a domino effect.

In addition, Msgr. Esseff has just completed a book that lays out this mission. The book’s title and publisher are currently pending, but it defines the spiritual challenges we face with the spiritual solutions.

Why now?

Today, one out of every six people is Muslim—followers of Islam. At the current growth rate, it could become the largest religious group in twenty years. The council on American-Islamic relations estimates there are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today.

In 2008, the Vatican announced that Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world’s largest religion. “For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us,” Monsignor Vittorio Formenti said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. He said that Catholics accounted for 17.4% of the world population — a stable percentage — while Muslims were at 19.2%.

As Islam grows and has become more radicalized, both terrorism and persecution of Christians have increased. Yet, Monsignor is strongly opposed to any prejudice or any sort of reaction that stirs up hate. Instead, he insists that everything — and he means everything — must be based on love, the love of Jesus Christ. “Once, Christians were willing to die for their faith. Now,” he states, “it’s as if we were a bunch of boy scouts out on a jamboree.” According to Msgr. Esseff, the West has become morally weak which is leaving us vulnerable spiritually. He says Christians must actually become true followers of the teachings of Jesus Christ. According to him, radical Muslims look at the West, see the decadence and believe we are enemies of Allah. But in reality, decadence is the enemy.

Why Him?

At the age of 81, many might wonder why Msgr. Esseff is suited for this mission. Aside from his knowledge of Islam, Arabic, the Koran and his ethnic background, it is his devotion to the Sacred Heart that sets him on this course. The Catholic Church has always had a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a symbol of this great flow of divine love. Early in his priesthood there were a number of experiences that led Msgr. Essedd to this devotion. Here is one of those experiences related below:

It was 1959 when a priest friend and I went on an all-expense paid trip to Rome and Lourdes thanks to the generosity of parishioners.

Long before I got to Rome, it had been a long-standing dream of mine to visit the sites of the two great martyrs, St. Peter and St. Paul. I set aside time to do that. Only while on that pilgrimage did I decide to visit the other two major basilicas in Rome, St. Mary Major and the most ancient of the four, St. John Lateran. When I entered the Blessed Sacrament chapel at St. John Lateran, I had the most overwhelming experience of prayer in my entire life. I was overwhelmed by the presence, the majesty, the awe, and the power of God. It was so overwhelming that I was unable to stand. I felt myself forced to my knees and in an instant was prostrate on the floor in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The awesome presence of God seized me and I was trembling and crying. All I could say to God was,“What do you want, Lord?”

I heard the Lord answer: “Charity.” I was unable to move, even to stir. The state of ecstatic prayer lasted for a long time. When I got my bearings, I got up and walked closer to the Blessed Sacrament altar. I had the same experience of the presence of God and I knew that it was the Lord Jesus. I wept and cried out: “What do you want, Lord?”

“Love,” was the answer. I waited for the longest time to hear what more might come. I had a sense of being outside of myself. The ecstasy lasted a long time. I walked before the Blessed Sacrament altar. A third similar experience began. I lay on the floor in prayer and the Lord said, “Teach the love of my Sacred Heart.” Some time after that I heard: “Learn more about the pope buried in this chapel.”

When I got up from this experience, I knew I would do whatever God wanted me to do. I felt quite dazed. It had been early morning when I had entered St. John Lateran, but by the time I got ready to leave it was late afternoon. A tour passed by me and I heard the guide telling people that Pope Leo XIII was buried in this chapel. I looked around and saw a tomb elevated on the wall in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. I stayed and prayed before the tomb. I knew that Pope Leo had addressed many social issues concerning the poor and the laboring classes. After my return home, I researched more and was struck by a curious bit of information. The last act of Pope Leo’s papacy was to enthrone the whole world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It became both my personal devotion and one that I have promoted to others. Over the years, I have come to see that Jesus desires to be king of the entire world and I must promote this devotion to everyone.

How Does This Concern Us?

This is not just Msgr. Esseff’s mission. It should be ours as well: to enthrone Jesus King of our world, starting with our own homes. The love of God is power without measure. This love can overcome all.

There is a devotion which suggests an actual ceremony in which we put an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in a prominent place in our home. We tell Jesus, “I trust in you.” And if we have trouble with trust, then we sincerely ask God to help us to trust and tell Him that we want to trust completely in Him.

According to Msgr. Esseff: “We have to desire to be governed by God and believe that He is the one in control of our lives. The more we begin to taste the love of God, the more we will see that the things of this world that lead to sin stand in the way of receiving God’s love. We begin to desire whatever God desires for us by giving Him permission to change our hearts and do His will. At that point, we stop fighting Him. Our prayer life will change. We begin to pray in Christ, to want God to fill us. God comes to us through the human heart that desires Him. The entire Christian life is an exercise of holy desire. The more we desire Him, the more we receive and the more our heart expands until we are filled with God. Once we are filled with God, we are like Jesus. Our desire becomes to love others the way God loves us. This is being Christ — to love others as God loves us.”

It is this love that will overcome decadence and terrorism. It is this love that the mission is about.

Everyone can participate and support this mission. For information about enthroning the Sacred Heart of Jesus in your home, go to www.sacredheartapostolate.com. Then, you can keep Msgr. Esseff and his mission in your prayers. For more insights and information about Msgr. Esseff, his website is: http://home.catholicweb.com/msgrjohnesseff/index.cfm.

Listen to Msgr. Esseff talk about the plan by tuning in to Relevant Radio on the Feast of the Sacred Heart this Friday, June 19 from 4-4:30 p.m. Eastern Time. If you don’t have a station near you, listen live on the Internet at http://www.relevantradio.com. Or you can listen at a later time by downloading the interview with Msgr. Esseff from the 6/19/2009 afternoon show archives from the Relevant Radio website.

Patti Maguire Armstrong


Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series. She has appeared on TV and radio stations across the country.  Her latest books, Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and children’s book, Dear God, I Don’t Get It are both available now. To read more, visit Patti’s Catholic News and Inspiration site. Follow her on Facebook at Big Hearted Families and Dear God Books.

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  • noelfitz

    Reading this I wonder is Monsignor Esseff introducing anything that is new.

    I see:
    Many of the Fathers present in Rome for the Vatican Council in 1869-70 asked that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be raised to a higher rank. In 1874 the Pope was requested to proclaim the feast one of the primary feasts of America. In 1875 Pius IX approved an Act of Consecration and invited all the faithful to consecrate themselves to the Sacred Heart. Leo XIII in 1899 con­secrated the whole world to the Sacred Heart, and St. Pius X decreed the annual renewal of this consecration. (http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=11187)

    Benedict XV fostered the consecration of families to the Sacred Heart. Pius XI in 1925 instituted the feast of Christ the King as a day of consecration to the Sacred Heart. Through two great encyclicals—Miserentissimus Redemptor (1928) and Calitate Christi Compulsi (1932)—he made the Feast of the Sacred Heart a day of reparation. Pius XII, besides his frequent encouragement of the devotion and his call for a crusade of world-wide reparation in 1942, consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

  • patti

    Yes, you are right. As the article said, “The Catholic Church has always had a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a symbol of this great flow of divine love.” Thanks for pointing out some historical instances of this devotion. It really is at the core of our faith.

    What is different is the fact that a global team has been assembled to spread this devotion and that support of Cardinals all the way up to the Pope is the goal to make a specific plan to aggressively spread this devotion world-wide. What is also different is the world we live in. The moral decay and terrorism which we face have many fearful. Msgr. Esseff is leading the way as a Catholic priest. He is teaching us to love each other and love God completely. He is also reaching out to Osama bin Laden in a powerful way.

    You are right this is an old devotion, but Msgr. Esseff is making waves with it in today’s world.

  • I had the very great honor of having Msgr. Esseff as my spiritual director for two years while he was a regular visitor to a seminary in the next town. I believe that he is a saint. I remember him with gentle affection because he was also a very odd duck. Our appointments were in his room; instead of clericals, he regularly wore a sweatsuit. He used to brush his teeth during our meetings and one time he fell asleep on me (I snuck out quietly).

    He had a gift of discernment that peered right into me, stripping away layers of personality to get right at my very essence. He quite evidently had a powerful prayer life, and I actually thought he seemed much younger than he is. He also had an idiosyncratic way of giving absolution, but he did always use the words “I absolve you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” His idiosyncracy was not even remotely a sign of disobedience; he just did some things his own way.

    My money is on Monsignor too.

  • noelfitz


    many thanks for your reply to me. I hope I was not nit-picking in a negative way.

    You wrote abour Monsignor Esseff:
    “He is teaching us to love each other and love God completely.”

    Aren’t they wonderful and Christian things to do?



    PS: PrairieHawk, thanks for your comments also. You make the holy Monsignor seem a very warm and human person.

  • patti

    No, you were not nit-picking, NF. You brought out some good information that further promotes this mission. It’s a powerful devotion that has been with us from the start. We need to continually rediscover it. Now, it’s being promoted anew for the times we are in.

    God bless,

  • tommymore

    Wow, how great to see Msgr. Esseff’s name and to hear he is still alive. I was a college seminarian 20 years ago and he lived in our seminary that year. There were only 20 of us, so I got to know him fairly well. Prairie Hawk is 100% correct about his eccentric personality. I remember arriving at the seminary on the first day and joining the welcoming line. Everyone simply shook hands and exchanged pleasantries but Msgr. came right up to me, looked me in the eye, and said “Be a lover, not a fighter, just like the apostle John.” Not exactly the suave social etiquette of a statesman, but his remarks are the only ones I remember from that day 20 years ago. I can see him doing the same thing to Osama if given the chance, although it will never happen.

    By the way, he has a great love for the Blessed Mother.