On June 1, 2008, at his weekly Angelus address, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Catholics to “renew devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ in the month of June.” The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a symbol of both His divinity and humanity. The Pope reflected that “from the infinite horizon of his love, in fact, God desired to enter into the limits of history and the human condition, he took on a body and a heart; thus we can contemplate and meet the infinite in the finite, the mystery of the invisible and ineffable human heart of Jesus, the Nazarene.”
According to “The Catholic Encyclopedia,” devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus began in earnest in the 11th and 12th centuries. The idea of worship of the wounded heart came out of the “fervent atmosphere of the Benedictine or Cistercian monasteries, in the world of Anselmian or Bernardine thought”, although no direct evidence exists to point to where it originated. An important development in the history of the devotion occurred when St. Gertrude (d. 1302) experienced a vision on the feast of St. John the Evangelist. “Allowed to rest her head near the wound in the Saviour’s she heard the beating of the Divine Heart and asked John if, on the night of the Last Supper, he too had felt these delightful pulsations, why he had never spoken of the fact. John replied that this revelation had been reserved for subsequent ages when the world, having grown cold, would have need of it to rekindle its love.” For the next three hundred years the devotion was practiced, but not in any formal way. It was primarily a private devotion.
The devotion took on a new life in the 1600s due to the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690). Jesus appeared to her several times, and granted her the same privilege he had granted to St. Gertrude: she was allowed to rest her head upon his heart. “He requested to be honored under the figure of His Heart of flesh, as well as frequent Communion, Communion on the First Friday of the month, and the observance of the Holy Hour. Jesus said to St. Margaret, ‘Behold the Heart that has so loved men . . . instead of gratitude I receive from the greater part (of mankind) only ingratitude . . .’, and asked her for a feast of reparation on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi.” Margaret Mary revealed her visions to Fr. de la Colombiere, who in turn instructed her to write an account of the apparitions. This account was published in 1684 and was widely read. Many practiced the devotion to the Sacred Heart. However, it wasn’t until 1856 that Pope Pius IX would extend the feast to the whole church. “Finally, on 11 June, 1899, by order of Leo XIII, and with the formula prescribed by him, all mankind was solemnly consecrated to the Sacred Heart.” St. Margaret Mary was canonized by Benedict XV in 1920.
The Lord Jesus revealed to Saint Margaret Mary the following promises to those souls who would honor the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus:
1. I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
2. I will establish peace in their homes.
3. I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
4. I will be their secure refuge during life and above all in death.
5. I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall grow fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
9. I will bless every place where a picture of My Heart shall be set up and honored.
10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.
12. I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the first Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
by St. Margaret Mary
I give myself and consecrate to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, my person and my life, my actions, pains and sufferings, so that I may be unwilling to make use of any part of my being other than to honor, love and glorify the Sacred Heart. This is my unchanging purpose, namely, to be all His, and to do all things for the love of Him, at the same time renouncing with all my heart whatever is displeasing to Him. I therefore take You, O Sacred heart, to be the only object of my love, the guardian of my life, my assurance of salvation, the remedy of my weakness and inconstancy, the atonement for all the faults of my life and my sure refuge at the hour of death.
Be then, O Heart of goodness, my justification before God the Father, and turn away from me the strokes of his righteous anger. O Heart of love, I put all my confidence in You, for I fear everything from my own wickedness and frailty, but I hope for all things from Your goodness and bounty.
Remove from me all that can displease You or resist Your holy will; let your pure love imprint Your image so deeply upon my heart, that I shall never be able to forget You or to be separated from You.
May I obtain from all Your loving kindness the grace of having my name written in Your Heart, for in You I desire to place all my happiness and glory, living and dying in bondage to You.