The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be commemorated on Friday, June 11 this year. As always, it is 19 days after Pentecost or the Friday after the octave, or eighth day, after the Feast of Corpus Christi. If you are a convert to Catholicism like I am, devotion to the Sacred Heart may at first seem strange and mysterious. The image of the heart of Jesus, wounded and in flames, is obviously powerful, but what does it mean? Devotion to the Sacred Heart is nothing more – and nothing less — than devotion to the Love of God.
Considering the image of the Sacred Heart helps me to greater understanding of the hypostatic union of the two natures, human and divine, in the one person of Christ. He was fully human, and had human emotions and a physical heart, both of which were wounded. Yet He was God, and the blood he shed accomplished our redemption from the wages of sin. Though our own sins caused his heart to bleed, He gives it to us, flaming with the awesome power and limitless, all-consuming nature of His love. Yet Jesus love for mankind is often unrequited. Men are ungrateful for His sacrifice, thus this devotion contains an element of reparation.
The modern form of the devotion has its roots in the verified visions of Visitandine Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque of France, who, in the late 17th century had a series of visions of Jesus. What had previously been a private devotion was established as a Feast for the universal Church by Pope Pius IX in 1856. In 1899 Pope Leo XIII consecrated the whole world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in 1956, on the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Feast, Pope Pius XII elaborated on the meaning of the Sacred Heart in his landmark encyclical Haurietus Aquas (available in English at http://www.vatican.va)
I hope you are encouraged to look for more about the Sacred Heart of Jesus. “We therefore urge all Our children in Christ, both those who are already accustomed to drink the saving waters flowing from the Heart of the Redeemer and, more especially those who look on from a distance like hesitant spectators, to eagerly embrace this devotion.” Pius XII, Haurietus Aquas, On Devotion to the Sacred Heart, May 15,1956, sec.113.