Friday, January 4, 2013

First Fridays and the Sacred Heart

I confess there was a time when devotion to the Sacred Heart was mainly a source of embarrassment to me.  I associated devotion to the Sacred Heart with florid holy picture cards, examples of which (like the one above), could be found in every Catholic home and even most Catholic automobiles when I was a wee laddie.  These cards reflected the seemingly unsophisticated, mechanical and somewhat musty piety which, in those heady Vatican II days, the more advanced type of Catholic was abandoning in favor of fuller engagement with the wondrous Modern World.  For fifty years the Church has pursued post-Vatican II style engagement with the Modern World, while largely disengaging itself from traditional devotions such as the Sacred Heart.   Florid holy picture cards, rarely seen now in Catholic homes, are instead ironic kitsch items.  Having observed that the fruits of this program are meager, to put it mildly, it occurs to me that perhaps the time has come to reconsider the value of those discarded devotions   Even a cursory examination of devotion to the Sacred Heart will reveal the power and value of this devotion to be very great indeed.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart was propagated chiefly under the influence of a movement begun by the celebrated visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 17th century France.   However, devotion to the Sacred Heart is much more ancient than this, and moreover does not depend upon the authenticity of St. Margaret Mary's visions.   We have posted about devotion to the Sacred Heart many times , noting its great richness (see also here) and beauty, and examining how the Jesuits, though once the great apostles of this devotion, (see also here), have since 1975 largely abandoned devotion to the Sacred Heart.  The consequent collapse in Jesuit vocations is perhaps not a coincidence.
In the course of his apparitions to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Our Lord revealed the form and features of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.  In the twelfth apparition, Our Lord made the following promise:

"[M]y all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour."

As today is the first Friday of January, this is an excellent occasion to begin performing the conditions required to take advantage of Our Lord's promise.  It certainly can't hurt, and maybe it will lead to the image of the Sacred Heart again being a common item in Catholic homes.  Perhaps, in the interest of engagement with the modern world, this time the images will be more tasteful and less florid.    

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