Falling in Love with the Sacred Heart

I love the Heart of Jesus.

It properly began when my grandmother gave me an old, falling-apart book that had belonged to her grandfather, the Treasury of the Sacred Heart. It was full of prayers, devotions, litanies, novenas and meditations on the love of God in Christ, focusing on the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

More than anything else, this small book was my introduction to Catholic spirituality and at its core was the Heart of Jesus. (As an aside, our word core comes from the Latin meaning heart. Isn’t that fun!)

The Sacred Heart, a devotion to the Heart of Jesus, is a way of representing, invoking and adoring the Love with which Christ loves His Father and loves us all. Although its origins go back to the Middle Ages and even before, it really began in the Seventeenth Century when Jesus appeared to the French sister Marguerite Marie Alacoque in a series of apparitions. He said to her, “Behold the Heart that has so loved men,” and showed her His Heart, pierced on the side, enthroned by flames, surrounded by the crown of thorns and surmounted by the cross.

The devotion was approved by the Papacy in 1765 and in 1899, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the whole world to the Sacred Heart.

“Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of its very nature, is a worship of the love with which God, through Jesus, loved us…”

– Pope Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, 107

At first it seemed strange and almost blasphemous to focus on the Heart of Jesus, like it was loped off from the rest of His Body. It seemed too emotional, too sentimental and too showily pious. All those hearts and all that fainting and agony and blood and sighing and mystical. Besides, it was just so bloody Catholic.

But I kept the book by my beside and kept flicking through it.

I was surprised, and then delighted, by the ardency of the prayers. These prayers seemed to express all the longings of my own heart but pushed them further, speaking more urgently, more fervently and more truly than I ever did. The Sacred Heart spoke to me, even then, of both strength and gentleness of the love of Jesus. It was the fierceness of that Divine Love which burns and burns and burns and the vulnerability of that Human Flesh which, being pierced, bleeds and bleeds and bleeds.

And slowly, little by little, I fell in love with the Sacred Heart.

Painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I realised that in adoring Jesus’ Heart, I was adoring the love of God which flows in and through the Trinity. I was adoring its incarnation as the Word of God became man and His tiny Heart began to beat in Mary’s womb. In His life and His ministry, Jesus’ heart was always loving us, desiring us, yearning for us, grieving over us and rejoicing in us.

Was there any measure of love that Jesus’ Heart lacked? Was there any heartbreak He didn’t know? Even after He had died, his dead Heart, filled with blood and water, was pierced by a spear.

But we all know that’s not how the story ended. Jesus was raised to life, the triumph of love over death:

But after His glorified body had been re-united to the soul of the divine Redeemer, conqueror of death, His most Sacred Heart never ceased, and never will cease, to beat with calm and imperturbable pulsations.

– Pope Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, 61

Jesus had a Heart. Jesus has a Heart.

Both metaphorically and literally, both spiritually and physically; that is the miracle of the Incarnation. So was it wrong to adore and meditate on this Heart?

Icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I didn’t think so. I couldn’t think so.

His Heart, more than all the other members of His body, is the natural sign and symbol of His boundless love for the human race. “There is in the Sacred Heart,” as Our predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII, pointed out, “the symbol and express image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love in return.”

– Pope Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, 22

As an Evangelical, I knew how important it was to have “a personal relationship with Jesus” (however abused that particular phrase was) but I have never known such loving intimacy with Jesus til I began to love and meditate on and adore His Most Sacred Heart.

Maybe it’s because I’m so emotional, maybe it’s because I so often fancy myself “heart broken”, but His Heart has become my solace. It reminds me that however scared or alone or weary I feel, things can never be that bad because I am loved.

Because the Heart of Jesus loves my heart.

O holy Heart of Jesus, dwell hidden in my heart, so that I may live only in you and only for you, so that, in the end, I may live with you eternally in heaven. Amen.

– St Claude la Colombiere

And so I pray,

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee.

Corrado Qiaquinto, St Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 1765 (Private Collection)

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14 responses to “Falling in Love with the Sacred Heart

  1. I’ve always loved the sentiment of the sacred heart- the centre ot his affections and desires and pain, and I really like that litany I shared, but thank you so much for actually showing me more about his. Have you heard the phrase “kyrie, bons fontitas?”

  2. Do you mean Kyrie, Fons Bonitatis? (Either way, no – that’s the magic of google, I can pretend I know what you’re talking about it.)

    But I certainly know the idea of Christ as a fountain of mercy. There’s a whole history of Christians meditating on the blood and water which flowed from Christ’s pierced heart. The two things represent forgiveness of sins and salvation of the soul as well as Baptism and the Eucharist; then together they represent the Church as the Bride which came out of Christ’s side (like Eve came out of Adam’s rib) and then there’s the devotion to Divine Mercy (assuming you know it and if not, go find it now!!).

    Also, you really have an affinity for some of the most beautiful music. I tend to be more of a wordy and visual person, rather than a musical one (which I for one regard as disappointing since prose is debased poetry which is debased music!) but I love listening to everyone you recommend. 🙂

    • Devotion to the Divine Mercy? I’m on it! Thanks so much. You’ve given me so much to look into, sometimes it’s intimidating this enormous, deep, wide school of Catholic teaching, the latin, all the symbolism. I long to dive in but it feels hard to find an accessible start. The catechism perhaps….

      Listen to the second CD: Choeur de moines bnedictins de Santo Domingo de Silos Le livre grgorien de Silos

      and especially this track, a new fave: Choeur de moines bnedictins de Santo Domingo de Silos O Virgo pulcherrima

      And, I know it’s excessive, almost comically Catholic but the last track, the Salve Regina on this, is actually great: Juan Pablo II Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae

      As is this version of the same song: Choeur de moines bnedictins de Santo Domingo de Silos Salve Mater Misericordiae, Cantique, Mode V ________________________________

  3. I enjoyed reading your testimony. The Sacred Heart devotion is so beautiful, and yet so few are aware of it! If you wish to read more about the Sacred Heart, here are some (legal) links to online books that will inflame you with an even greater love, I’m sure:

    + ‘The Love of the Sacred Heart’ (“Illustrated by St. Mechtilde) http://archive.org/stream/theloveofthesacr00mechuoft#page/n7/mode/2u

    + ‘The Tendernesses of the Love of Jesus for a Little Soul’ (The title was recommended by Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata)
    http://archive.org/stream/sisterbenignacon00como#page/n3/mode/2up

    + ‘Love, Peace and Joy: A month of the Sacred Heart according to St. Gertrude’
    http://archive.org/stream/lovepeaceandjoya00prevuoft#page/n3/mode/2up

    God bless you.

  4. Great post! Devotion to the Sacred Heart played a huge part in my own journey to the Catholic Church, and continues to be a central focus of my spirituality. Thanks for sharing all of this!

    • Thanks Ryan! 🙂 I’ve been reading some of your posts on the Sacred Heart and all I can is YES! I think we ex-Calvinists have a particular need for the love and rawness and vulnerability of the Heart of Jesus. I’m so thankful that His Heart that loves me and loves you and loves this world – without reservation or qualification.

      Also, I was going to ask your thoughts on the connection between the emergence of Calvinism and Jansenism and the devotion to the Sacred Heart but then I found you beat me to it! I couldn’t agree more: “What more can I do that they may believe in my love? I know: I shall give them my Heart;”

      Amen! 🙂

      (http://backoftheworld.com/2012/05/31/how-the-sacred-heart-healed-me-from-sovereign-grace-ministries/)

      • “I think we ex-Calvinists have a particular need for the love and rawness and vulnerability of the Heart of Jesus.”

        That is 110% true. Have you read “I Believe in Love” by Fr. d’Elbee? Also, have you read much about St. Alphonsus’ fight against Jansenism? I highly, highly recommend both if you haven’t!

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  7. Hi Laura – would you be able to pass along any information you have about the icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus seen in the “Falling in Love with the Sacred Heart” page? I love it and would like to reference it. – Amelia in Los Angeles:)

    • Hi Amelia, I’m so sorry I wish I could. I just found it thru google images without any attribution or details. I just loved it too much not to include it in the post. Sorry again, Laura. 🙂

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