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The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Solemnity - Friday in the week following Corpus Christi
(followed the day after by the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary)

Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical in 1899 on Consecration to the Sacred Heart: Annum Sacrum. Pope Pius XI wrote two encyclicals on the Sacred Heart: Miserentissimus Redemptor (on reparation to the Sacred Heart in 1928) & Caritate Christi Compulsi (in 1932). Pope Pius XII also wrote an encyclical, Haurietis Aquas, on devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (in 1956). St John Paul II wrote a letter on the 100th anniversary of the Consecration of the Human Race to the Divine Heart of Jesus (in Warsaw on Feast of Sacred Heart 1999).

Totus2us has 2 Novenas to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Both include the Litany of the Sacred Heart, the 1st includes JPII quotes & is with music by Fr Stan Fortuna CFR, the 2nd is with music by Fr Rob Galea. You can subscribe to this Totus2us podcast here from the RSS feed or here on iTunes. To download the free mp3 Totus2us audio recordings individually, right/double click on the play buttons.

3 2us by Father Stan Fortuna CFR      

"Pope Benedict said the first thing we need to learn from
St John Mary Vianney is the complete identification of the man with his ministry, and this ministry is nothing less than love. So on this great Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus it's really all about love. That's why St Margaret Mary Alacoque said "Set up your heart in this loving heart of Jesus. Place in this heart all your suffering and difficulties. He changes everything into love." That's the key - He changes everything into love." (recorded in 2010 - the Year of the Priest)

Catechesis on the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pope St John Paul II
General Audience, Wednesday 20 June 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. On the day after tomorrow, Friday next, the liturgy of the Church is concentrated with particular adoration and love around the mystery of the Heart of Christ. Today, therefore, anticipating this day and this feast, already, together with you, I wish to turn the eyes of our hearts to the Mystery of that Heart. It has spoken to me ever since my youth. Every year I return to this mystery in the liturgical rhythm of the time of the Church.

It is well-known that the month of June is dedicated particularly to the Divine Heart, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We express to it our love and our adoration by means of the litany which in the single invocations speaks with particular depth of its theological contents.

I desire therefore, at least briefly, to stop together with you before this Heart, which the Church, as a community of human hearts, addresses. I wish, at least briefly, to speak of this mystery, such a human one, in which God revealed himself with such simplicity and, at the same time, depth and strength.

2. Today let the texts of the Friday liturgy speak for us, beginning with the reading of the Gospel according to John. The Evangelist reports a fact with the precision of an eye witness.

"Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water." (Jn 19:31-34).

Not a word about his heart.

The Evangelist speaks only of the piercing of his side with a spear, and the coming out of blood and water. The language of the description is almost medical, anatomical. The soldier's spear certainly penetrated the heart, to make sure that the Condemned Man was already dead. This heart—this human heart—has stopped working. Jesus has ceased to live. At the same time, however, this anatomical opening of Christ's heart after his death—in spite of all the historical "severity" of the text—drives us to think also at the metaphorical level. The heart is not just an organ that conditions the biological vitality of man. The heart is a symbol. It speaks of the whole inner man. It speaks of the spiritual interior of man. And tradition at once re-read this meaning of John's description. In a certain sense, moreover, the Evangelist himself gave an inducement to do so when, referring to the attestation of the eye witness that was he himself, he referred, at the same time, to this sentence of Holy Scripture: "They shall look on him whom they have pierced." (Jn 19:37; Zc 12:10).

So, actually, does the Church look; so does humanity look. And lo, in the One pierced by the soldier's spear all the generations of Christians have learned and learn to read the mystery of the Heart of the Crucified Man who was and is the Son of God.

3. Different is the measure of the knowledge that many disciples, men and women, of the Heart of Christ have acquired of this mystery in the course of the centuries.

One of the leading figures in this field was certainly Paul of Tarsus, who, from being a persecutor, was converted and became an Apostle. He, too, speaks to us in the Friday liturgy with the words of the Letter to the Ephesians. He speaks as a man who has received a great grace, since it was granted to him "to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things" (Eph 3:8-9).

Those "riches of Christ" and at the same time that "eternal plan of salvation" of God are addressed by the Holy Spirit to the "inner man", "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph 3: 16-17). And when Christ, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, dwells through faith in our human hearts, then we will be able "to comprehend." with our human spirit (that is, precisely with this "heart") "what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge..." (Eph 3:18-19).

For such knowledge acquired with the heart, with every human heart, the Divine Heart of the One who was condemned and crucified on Calvary was opened at the end of his earthly life.

Different is the measure of this knowledge on the part of human hearts. Before the power of Paul's words, let each of us question himself on the measure of his own heart. "...(we shall) reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows every thing." (1 Jn 3:19-20). The Heart of the God-Man does not judge human hearts. The Heart calls. The Heart "invites". That was the purpose for which it was opened with the soldier's spear.

4. The mystery of the heart opens up through the wounds of the body; the great mystery of piety opens up, the deep feelings of mercy of our God open up (St Bernard, Sermo LXI„ 4: PL 183, 1072).

Christ speaks in the Friday liturgy: "Learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart" (Mt 11:29).

Only once, perhaps, did the Lord Jesus refer to his own heart, in his own words. And he stressed this sole feature: "gentleness and lowliness": as if he meant that it is only in this way that he wishes to conquer man; that by means of "gentleness and lowliness" he wishes to be the King of hearts. The whole mystery of his reign was expressed. in these words. Gentleness and lowliness cover, in a certain sense, all the "riches" of the Redeemer's heart, of which St Paul wrote to the Ephesians. But also that "gentleness and lowliness" reveal him fully; and enable us to get to know him and accept him; they make him the object of supreme admiration.

The beautiful litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is composed of many similar words — more, exclamations of admiration for the riches of the Heart of Christ. Let us meditate on them carefully on that day.

5. Thus, at the end of this fundamental liturgical cycle of the Church — which began with the first Sunday of Advent and passed through the time of Christmas, then of Lent and of the Resurrection up to Pentecost, the Sunday of Holy Trinity, and Corpus Christi — the feast of the Divine Heart, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, presents itself discreetly. All this cycle is enclosed definitively in it; in the Heart of the Man-God. From it, too, the whole life of the Church irradiates every year. This Heart is "A source of life and holiness".

Pope Benedict XVI's Letter on 50th anniversary of Haurietis Aquas
- also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

To the Most Reverend Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.
Superior General of the Society of Jesus

The words of the Prophet Isaiah - "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Is 12, 3) - that open the encyclical with which Pius XII commemorated the first centenary of the extension of the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to the entire Church - today, 50 years later, have lost none of their meaning. By encouraging devotion to the Heart of Jesus, the encyclical Haurietis Aquas exhorted believers to open themselves to the mystery of God and of his love and to allow themselves to be transformed by it. After 50 years, it is still a fitting task for Christians to continue to deepen their relationship with the Heart of Jesus, in such a way as to revive their faith in the saving love of God and to welcome him ever better into their lives.

The Redeemer's pierced side is the source to which the Encyclical Haurietis Aquas refers us: we must draw from this source to attain true knowledge of Jesus Christ and a deeper experience of his love. Thus, we will be able to understand better what it means to know God's love in Jesus Christ, to experience him, keeping our gaze fixed on him to the point that we live entirely on the experience of his love, so that we can subsequently witness to it to others. Indeed, to take up a saying of my venerable Predecessor John Paul II, "In the Heart of Christ, man's heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love for God and the love of neighbour". Thus: "The true reparation asked by the Heart of the Saviour will come when the civilization of the Heart of Christ can be built upon the ruins heaped up by hatred and violence" (Letter to Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Society of Jesus for the Beatification of Bl. Claude de la Colombière, 5 October 1986).

In the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I cited the affirmation in the First Letter of St John: "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us", in order to emphasize that being Christian begins with the encounter with a Person (cf. n. 1). Since God revealed himself most profoundly in the Incarnation of his Son in whom he made himself "visible", it is in our relationship with Christ that we can recognize who God really is (cf. Haurietis Aquas, nn. 29-41; Deus Caritas Est, nn. 12-15). And again: since the deepest expression of God's love is found in the gift Christ made of his life for us on the Cross, the deepest expression of God's love, it is above all by looking at his suffering and his death that we can see God's infinite love for us more and more clearly: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3: 16).

Moreover, not only does this mystery of God's love for us constitute the content of the worship of and devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but in the same way it is likewise the content of all true spirituality and Christian devotion. It is consequently important to stress that the basis of the devotion is as old as Christianity itself. Indeed, it is only possible to be Christian by fixing our gaze on the Cross of our Redeemer, "on him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19: 37; cf. Zc 12: 10). The Encyclical Haurietis Aquas rightly recalls that for countless souls the wound in Christ's side and the marks left by the nails have been "the chief sign and symbol of that love" that ever more incisively shaped their life from within (cf. n. 52). Recognizing God's love in the Crucified One became an inner experience that prompted them to confess, together with Thomas: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20: 28), and enabled them to acquire a deeper faith by welcoming God's love unreservedly (cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 49).

The deepest meaning of this devotion to God's love is revealed solely through a more attentive consideration of its contribution not only to the knowledge, but also and especially to the personal experience of this love in trusting dedication to its service (cf. ibid., n. 62). It is obvious that experience and knowledge cannot be separated: the one refers to the other. Moreover, it is essential to emphasize that true knowledge of God's love is only possible in the context of an attitude of humble prayer and generous availability. Starting with this interior attitude, one sees that the gaze fixed upon his side, pierced by the spear, is transformed into silent adoration. Gazing at the Lord's pierced side, from which "blood and water" flowed (cf. Jn 19: 34), helps us to recognize the manifold gifts of grace that derive from it (cf. Haurietis Aquas, nn. 34-41) and opens us to all other forms of Christian worship embraced by the devotion to the Heart of Jesus.

Faith, understood as a fruit of the experience of God's love, is a grace, a gift of God. Yet human beings will only be able to experience faith as a grace to the extent that they accept it within themselves as a gift on which they seek to live. Devotion to the love of God, to which the Encyclical Haurietis Aquas invited the faithful (cf. n. 72), must help us never to forget that he willingly took this suffering upon himself "for us", "for me". When we practise this devotion, not only do we recognize God's love with gratitude but we continue to open ourselves to this love so that our lives are ever more closely patterned upon it. God, who poured out his love "into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (cf. Rom 5: 5), invites us tirelessly to accept his love. The main aim of the invitation to give ourselves entirely to the saving love of Christ and to consecrate ourselves to it (cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 4) is, consequently, to bring about our relationship with God. This explains why the devotion, which is totally oriented to the love of God who sacrificed himself for us, has an irreplaceable importance for our faith and for our life in love.

Whoever interiorly accepts the love of God is moulded by it. The experience of God's love should be lived by man as a "calling" to which they must respond. Fixing our gaze on the Lord, who "took our infirmities and bore our diseases" (Mt 8: 17), helps us to become more attentive to the suffering and need of others. Adoring contemplation of the side pierced by the spear makes us sensitive to God's salvific will. It enables us to entrust ourselves to his saving and merciful love, and at the same time strengthens us in the desire to take part in his work of salvation, becoming his instruments. The gifts received from the open side, from which "blood and water" flowed (cf. Jn 19: 34), ensure that our lives will also become for others a source from which "rivers of living water" flow (Jn 7: 38; cf. Deus Caritas Est, n. 7). The experience of love, brought by the devotion to the pierced side of the Redeemer, protects us from the risk of withdrawing into ourselves and makes us readier to live for others. "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (I Jn 3: 16; cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 38).

It was only the experience that God first gave us his love that has enabled us to respond to his commandment of love (cf. Deus Caritas Est, n. 17). So it is that the cult of love, which becomes visible in the mystery of the Cross presented anew in every celebration of the Eucharist, lays the foundations of our capacity to love and to make a gift of ourselves (cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 69), becoming instruments in Christ's hands: only in this way can we be credible proclaimers of his love. However, this opening of ourselves to God's will must be renewed in every moment: "Love is never "finished' and complete" (cf. Deus Caritas Est, n. 17). Thus, looking at the "side pierced by the spear" from which shines forth God's boundless desire for our salvation cannot be considered a transitory form of worship or devotion: the adoration of God's love, whose historical and devotional expression is found in the symbol of the "pierced heart", remains indispensable for a living relationship with God (cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 62).

As I express the wish that the 50th anniversary will give rise to an ever more fervent response to love of the Heart of Christ in numerous hearts, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Most Reverend Father, and to all the Religious of the Society of Jesus, who are still very active in promoting this fundamental devotion.

From the Vatican, 15 May 2006


St Margaret Mary Alacoque received revelations of the Sacred Heart: reception of Holy Communion on the First Friday Devotions of each month, Eucharistic adoration during the Holy Hour on Thursdays, and the celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Her spiritual director was St Claude de la Colombière

3 2us on St Margaret Mary Alacoque by Fr John Edwards SJ       
"It's 1673 in France. A nun aged 26 has been 2 years in the convent, she's pale, she's thin, she's ill, big eyes, nervous, it's dark, she's praying. What's she doing? She's talking to Jesus who will reveal to her in 4 visions over the next 2 years the mystery of His Sacred Heart. This woman, St Margaret Mary Alacoque, is terribly important, massively important. What she sees and hears will alter nearly every Catholic church to be built and the devotional life of every good Catholic. It will restore the Church after the blight of Jansenism, it will give rise to religious orders and devotional practices. Until the devotion to the Divine Mercy in the late 20th century, it will do more than anything else to assure us that God loves us - loves us humanly as well as divinely, that God thinks we're worth dying for."

3 2us on Saint Claude de la Colombière by Fr John Edwards SJ       
"Two major external events in his life, one was St Margaret Mary Alacoque. Now she was the mystic, suffering, most loving and devoted apostle of the Sacred Heart, to whom Our Lord gave the major revelations of the Sacred Heart. Claude it was who was for some time her director. A second major event was that for some years he was sent to England as the chaplain to the virtuous and delightful Mary of Modena, who was the wife of the Duke of York, who subsequently became James II, and he was there in the time of the Titus Oats plot against the Catholics, and was imprisoned for a while before being banished."

St Bonaventure:

You who have been redeemed, consider who it is who hangs on the cross for you, whose death gives life to the dead, whose passing is mourned by heaven and earth, while even the hard stones are split. Consider how great he is; consider what he is.

In order that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept on the cross, in order that the word of scripture might be fulfilled – ‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced’ – God’s providence decreed that one of the soldiers should open his sacred side with a spear, so that blood with water might flow out to pay the price of our salvation. This blood, which flowed from its source in the secret recesses of his heart, gave the sacraments of the Church power to confer the life of grace, and for those who already live in Christ was a draught of living water welling up to eternal life.

Arise, then, bride of Christ, be like the dove that nests in the rock-face at the mouth of a cavern, and there, like a sparrow which finds its home, do not cease to keep vigil; there, like a turtle-dove, hide the fledglings of your chaste love; place your lips there to draw water from the wells of your Saviour. For this is the spring flowing from the middle of paradise; it divides and becomes four rivers, then spreads through all devout hearts, and waters the whole world and makes it fruitful.

O soul devoted to God, whoever you may be, run to this source of life and light with eager longing. And with the power of your inmost heart cry out to him: ‘O indescribable beauty of God most high! O pure radiance of everlasting light! O life that gives life to all life! O light that illuminates every light, and preserves in its undying splendour the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your godhead from the dawn of time!

‘O water eternal and inaccessible, clear and sweet, flowing from the spring that is hidden from the eyes of all mortal men; the spring whose depths cannot be plumbed, whose height cannot be measured, whose shores cannot be charted, whose purity cannot be muddied.’

From this source flows the river which makes glad the city of God, so that with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving we sing to you our hymns of praise, and by experience prove that with you is the fountain of life; and in your light we shall see light.