of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with the Church celebrating
the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Friday following the second
Sunday after Pentecost. In addition to the liturgical celebration, many
devotional exercises are connected with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Of all
devotions, devotion to the Sacred Heart was, and remains, one of the most
widespread and popular in the Church.
in the light of the Scriptures, the term ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus’ denotes the
entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being, and his person considered
in its most intimate essentials: Son of God, uncreated wisdom; infinite
charity, principal of the salvation and sanctification of mankind. The ‘Sacred
Heart’ is Christ, the Word Incarnate, Saviour, intrinsically containing in the
Spirit, an infinite divine-human love for the Father and for his brothers.
Popes on Devotion to the Sacred Heart
of the Sacred Heart was approved for specified dioceses by Clement XIII in
1765, and extended to the whole Church by Pius IX in 1856. In 1889 Pope Leo
XIII elevated it to the rank of first class, and through an encyclical letter
in 1899 dedicated the whole Catholic world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
the Sacred Heart was also an essential component of Pope St John Paul II’s
hopes for the ‘new evangelization’ called for by the Church.
evangelization today,’ he said, ‘the Heart of Christ must be recognized as the
heart of the Church: it is He who calls us to conversion, to reconciliation. It
is He who leads pure hearts and those hungering for justice along the way of
the Beatitudes. It is He who achieves the warm communion of the members of the
one Body. It is He who enables us to adhere to the Good News and to accept the
promise of eternal life. It is He who sends us out on mission. The
heart-to-heart with Jesus broadens the human heart on a global scale.’
Scriptural Basis for the Devotion
is one with the Father (cf. John 10, 30), invites his disciples to live in
close communion with him, to model their lives on him and on his teaching. He,
in turn, reveals himself as ‘meek and humble of heart’ (Mt 11, 29). It can be
said that, in a certain sense, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a
cultic form of the prophetic and evangelic gaze of all Christians on him who
was pierced (cf. John 19, 37; Zac 12, 10), the gaze of all Christians on the
side of Christ, transfixed by a lance, and from which flowed blood and water
(cf. John 19, 34), symbols of the ‘wondrous sacrament of the Church’ (St
of St John recounts the showing of the Lord’s hands and his side to the
disciples (cf. John 20,20), and of his invitation to Thomas to put his hand
into his side (cf. John 20, 27). This event has also had a notable influence on
the origin and development of the Church’s devotion to the Sacred Heart.
other texts present Christ as the paschal Lamb, victorious and slain (cf. Apoc
5,6). They were objects of much reflection by the Fathers who unveiled their
doctrinal richness. They invited the faithful to penetrate the mysteries of
Christ by contemplating the wound opened in his side. Augustine writes: ‘Access
is possible: Christ is the door. It was opened for you when his side was opened
by the lance. Remember what flowed out from his side: thus, choose where you want
to enter Christ. From the side of Christ as he hung dying upon the Cross there
flowed out blood and water, when it was pierced by a lance. Your purification
is in that water, your redemption is in that blood’.
The Sacred Heart and Our Spiritual Life
the Sacred Heart is a wonderful historical expression of the Church’s piety for
Christ, her Spouse and Lord: it calls for a fundamental attitude of conversion
and reparation, of love and gratitude, apostolic commitment and dedication to
Christ and his saving work.
to the Sacred Heart of Jesus are numerous. Some have been explicitly approved
and frequently recommended by the Apostolic See. Among these, mention should be
made of the following:
1. Personal Consecration Personal consecration, described by
Pius XI as ‘undoubtedly the principal devotional practice used in relation to
the Sacred Heart’ (Miserentissimus redemptor).
2. Family Consecration Family consecration to the Sacred
Heart, in which the family, by virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony
already participating in the mystery of the unity and love of Christ for the
Church, is dedicated to Christ so that he might reign in the hearts of all its
members (Aliae concessiones).
3. Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus The Litany of the Sacred Heart of
Jesus, approved for the whole Church in 1891, which is evidently biblical in
character and to which many indulgences have been attached (Aliae
4. Act of Reparation to the Sacred
Heart The act of
reparation, a prayer with which the faithful, mindful of the infinite goodness
of Christ, implore mercy for the offences committed in so many ways against his
Sacred Heart (Aliae concessiones).
5. The Practice of the First Fridays The pious practice of the first
Fridays of the month which derives from the ‘great promises’ made by Jesus to
St. Margaret Mary. At a time when sacramental communion was very rare among the
faithful, the first Friday devotion contributed significantly to a renewed use
of the Sacraments of Penance and of the Holy Eucharist. In our own times, the
devotion to the first Fridays, even if practised correctly, may not always lead
to the desired spiritual fruits. Hence, the faithful require constant
instruction so that any reduction of the practice to mere credulity is avoided
and an active faith encouraged so that the faithful may undertake their
commitment to the Gospel correctly in their lives. They should also be reminded
of the absolute preeminence of Sunday, the ‘primordial feast’ (Sacrosanctum
Concilium), which should be marked by the full participation of the faithful at
the celebration of the Holy Mass.