It is First Friday and most Catholics know what that means especially if they have a devotion to the Sacred Heart. Most heard of the Sacred Heart and perhaps fewer have heard about a devotion to it. What is it?
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia was “a humble Visitandine of the monastery at Paray-le-Monial, that Christ chose to reveal the desires of His Heart and to confide the task of imparting new life to the devotion” (Bainvel, 1910).
The devotion itself had been around for hundreds of years, dating as far back as the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
Saint Margaret Mary passed away on October 17, 1690, and her death did not “dampen the ardour of those interested in the devotion” (Bainvel, 1910), in fact, a shortened account of her life was published by Father Croiset in 1691 and added as an appendix to his book “De la Dévotion au Sacré Cœur” thus the book served only to increase the devotion.
Father Croiset in his book Devotion to the Sacred Heart writes on Visits to the Blessed Sacrament:
Before the coming of our Saviour, in that period of rigour when Almighty God would be called the avenging God, the strong God, the God of armies ; when He only spoke, as it were, in a voice of thunder ; when princes and sovereigns alone were permitted to enter the holy place specially consecrated to Him ; when He exacted so respectful a worship, and punished so severely the slightest faults committed against the respect due to Him ; when kings and priests, overcome by holy fear, hardly dared to enter the Temple on beholding a simple cloud, which was only a somewhat more sensible sign of God’s presence in that place ; when this prodigy obliged the people to prostrate themselves and cry out, full of admiration, and with the deepest feelings of gratitude : “How good is the God, Whom we adore! we will sing His mercies for ever, because He has deigned to choose Himself a dwelling amongst us : “if at that time what we have since witnessed could have been more clearly foreseen, if they had been told that this God, so terrible, would humble Himself so far as to become man for the love of men, and that, after dying for these very men, He would continually work one of the greatest miracles, in order to be with them even to the end of ages, would they have believed it? ” (Croiset, 1863)
Father Croiset asks the question:
Does not Jesus Christ hold a sufficiently distinguished place in the world to merit that court should be paid Him? Has Jesus Christ loved us much? Have we received any benefit from Him ? Have we reason to expect that He will do us any service? Since He will be our Judge, and since our eternal felicity or misery depends upon Him, have we any interest in gaining His favour? It is extraordinary that on this subject all agree on what ought to be done, and yet no one takes the trouble to do what he ought.
If it had been left to our choice to ask our divine Saviour for some manifest proof of His love for us, would it ever have occurred to us to entreat Him, when He was about to ascend into Heaven, to remain on earth with us to the end of ages? If He Himself had made this offer, with what sentiments of admiration, respect, and gratitude should we not have accepted it? Jesus Christ has granted us this signal favour. The excess of His love has led Him to give us this manifest proof of His tenderness. But His excessive love has only served, we may say, to make us carry our ingratitude to the highest pitch. What would be said of any one who rarely visited, and merely saluted in passing, a person of the highest rank and worth, who had come solely for the purpose of rendering him some service, and was residing for a long time in some foreign country, merely out of regard for him? (Croiset, 1863)
Of course, Father Croiset beautifully paints the picture of the Blessed Sacrament as the way in which Our Lord does indeed “manifest proof of His love for us”. In the words of a very well know and poular priest, Jesus gave the greatest gift to mankind before Our Lord ascended into the Heaven, he gave the gift of himself.
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Bainvel, J. (1910). Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved May 2, 2019 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07163a.htm
Croiset, J. (1863). Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. London: Burns and Lambert, pp.119-121.