Renewing our Appreciation for the Sacred Heart

This story was updated on June 15, 2020.

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

This beautiful, comforting feast includes wonderful Mass readings, and LOTS of interesting art—not all of which I appreciate, I must admit. I’ve never been much of a fan of this image of Jesus as art, but it still touches me deeply because it speaks to me of the love and care I experienced in my family home.

Artistic sensibilities aside, I have grown to appreciate the richness of this feast. Did you know:

  • St. Catherine of Siena, our Dominican Sister, was among the first mystics to experience God’s love and communicate it in the imagery of the heart.
  • The feast is always celebrated 19 days after Pentecost, the Friday after the Feast of Body and Blood of Jesus.
  • It was popularized by St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (1647-1690)
  • The Jesuit anthropologist and mystic, Father Teilhard de Chardin, had a deep personal devotion to the Sacred Heart. He wrote “It is in the Sacred Heart that the conjunction of the Divine and the cosmic has taken place . . . There lies the power that, from the beginning, has attracted me and conquered me . . . All the later development of my interior life has been nothing other than the evolution of that seed.”
  • Franciscan Sister Illia Delio, a scientist and theologian, recognizes the role Father de Chardin’s devotion to the Sacred Heart played in the development of his theology and his conviction “that Christ is the center of the universe, the form of the universe, and the goal to which this evolutionary universe is directed.” Christ in Evolution., p. 75.
  • There is a feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, too. It was under her patronage that our first convent was established in Springfield in 1893.

Recently I spoke with one of my Peruvian Dominican sisters about the Sacred Heart devotion. Hermana Elizabeth Castro Cruz is trained in communications and is a pastoral minister in a remote region of the Peruvian Andes where she and one other sister serve the needs of the people in 30 pueblos. I told her that for many Catholics in the U.S. this feast is meaningless. “That is what happens when we stop looking,” she said.

Is it time to look again?

This author makes the case that doing so is right in line with Pope Frances’ emphasis on the Mercy of God.

And this one provides a look at how Father de Chardin’s personal litany to the Sacred Heart, the writings of John the Evangelist, St. Paul, and Thomas Aquinas can give us a fresh appreciation of what, if we stop looking, might seem like just another tired devotion of our grandparent’s generation.

Maybe it’s time for us to re-imagine how this old feast might renew and inspire new generations of Catholics.

On a lighter note, here is a fun story about how a beloved old statue of the Sacred Heart landed in the  Sacred Heart Convent courtyard.

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