When my mother was growing up there was a beautiful picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in their home, which is now hanging in her living room. I have a smaller image of the Sacred Heart in my bedroom and have been drawn to this devotion for years. However, it wasn’t until my father was dying of terminal cancer that I experienced Jesus’ promises to St. Margaret Mary on a deeper level.
Although St. Margaret Mary began receiving revelations on December 27, 1673, it was on June 16, 1675—as she prayed before the tabernacle during the octave of the feast of the Blessed Sacrament—that Jesus appeared to her on the altar and revealed His Sacred Heart. Our Lord spoke to her, saying:
“Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for Me in this sacrament of love. And what is most painful to Me is that they are hearts consecrated to Me.”
Jesus then instructed St. Margaret Mary to have the feast of His Sacred Heart established in the Church:
“It is for this reason I ask thee that the first Friday after the octave of the Blessed Sacrament be appropriated to a special feast, to honor My Heart by communicating on that day, and making reparation for the indignity that it has received. And I promise that My Heart shall dilate to pour out abundantly the influences of its love on all that will render it this honor or procure its being rendered.”
In His apparitions to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus gave her three reasons why He wanted the feast of His Sacred Heart established. St. Alphonsus Liguori explains that this is:
- In order that the faithful should return thanks to Him for the great gift which He has left them in the adorable Eucharist.
- In order that loving souls should make amends by their prayers and pious affections for the irreverences and insults which He has received and still receives from sinners in this Most Holy Sacrament.
- In order that they might make up also for the honor which he does not receive in so many churches where he is so little adored and reverenced.
Jesus promised that He would make the riches of His Sacred Heart abound towards those who should render Him this honor, both on the day of this feast, and on every other day when they should visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
As our country embarks on a Eucharistic revival, it is urgent to recall that “The Blessed Sacrament is . . . the living heart of each of our churches.” (St. Paul VI) As part of the message of His Sacred Heart, Jesus asked that the faithful make the First Friday devotion, attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion on nine consecutive First Fridays of the month. Regardless of our vocation, we are all invited to consecrate ourselves to the Sacred Heart, attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus daily, if possible, and commit to offering a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration in reparation at least weekly.
One of my favorite St. John Paul II quotes is from a speech that he gave at La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre, where the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament has been adored perpetually for over 100 years.
“We come here to meet the Heart of Jesus pierced for us, from which water and blood gush. It is the redeeming love, which is at the origin of salvation, of our salvation, which is at the origin of the Church. Now still, today, the living Christ loves us and presents his heart to us as the source of our redemption . . . We are called not only to meditate and contemplate on this mystery of Christ’s love; we are called to take part in it. It is the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, the center of our faith, the center of our worship of Christ’s merciful love manifested in his Sacred Heart, a mystery which is adored here night and day. In the Holy Eucharist–this is also the meaning of perpetual adoration–we enter the movement of love from which all interior progress and all apostolate efficacy springs.” (June 1, 1980)
There is a compelling story of how St. Thérèse of Lisieux donated her gold bracelet to be melted down and used as part of a monstrance for the adoration at La Basilique du Sacré Coeur.
St. Margaret Mary explains how devotion to the Sacred Heart is an immense gift of God’s great mercy for souls:
“And He showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin into which Satan hurls such crowds of them, that made Him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which It contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure for Him all the honour and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which this Heart is the source.”
When we love someone, we want to share with them all that is in our heart. In these days when many suffer from loneliness and isolation, St. Margaret Mary’s words are a powerful reminder that God came to be with us and will never leave us alone. There are many beautiful songs dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. One that I recall daily is “Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist, I place all my trust in you.” (Michael John Poirier) Jesus wants us to have boundless confidence in His Sacred Heart. This is why St. Margaret Mary said:
“He should be honored under the figure of this Heart of flesh, and Its image should be showing It special honour, He would pour forth His blessings and graces . . . . He promised me that wherever this image should be exposed with a view to effort of His love that He would grant to men in these latter ages, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan which He desired to destroy, and thus to introduce them into the sweet liberty of the rule of His love, which He wished to restore in the hearts of all those who should embrace this devotion.”
Returning to the opening of this article, my father spent his last days in the living room, where we had placed a hospital bed. In these moments of suffering, as he prepared to pass on to the next life, the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus looked down upon him and our family. My father died on October 16, the Feast of St. Margaret Mary. This was a comfort to my family, as in Jesus’ promises to those who are devoted to His Sacred Heart, He said: “They shall not die in My disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”