Apostles Spreading Devotion to the Heroic Heart of Christ
The Love of God dominates the spirit and action of the Society of Ignatians.
“The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope, or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love, and have no other objective than to arrive at love.” (Catechism of the Council of Trent, Preface)
We will promote devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus just as St. Ignatius Loyola’s Society did from its earliest days and during long centuries.
In that heart, as Benedict XVI stated:
“We can recognize in an ever clearer way the limitless love God has for us.
“The pierced side of the Redeemer, is the source from which … we must draw in order to achieve a true knowledge of Jesus, … understand what it means to know the love of God in Jesus Christ, experience it fixing our gaze on Him, live completely on that experience of His love, and bear witness of it to others.”
“This mystery of God’s love for us, not only constitutes the content of veneration and devotion for the Heart of Jesus, it is, in the same way, the content of all true Christian spirituality and devotion. … In fact, being Christian is only possible with our gaze fixed on the cross of our Redeemer.”
“Faith, understood as the fruit of the experience of God’s love, is a grace, a gift of God…
“Whoever accepts God’s love within himself, is formed by it. The experience of God’s love is lived by man as a ‘call’ to which he must respond…
“The gifts received from [Jesus’] open side, from which ‘blood and water’ flowed, ensure that our lives become for others a source from which ‘shall flow rivers of living water.’
“The experience of love we gain through veneration for the pierced side of the Redeemer, safeguards us from the risk of closing in on ourselves, and makes us open to a life lived for others.” (Benedict XVI, May 15, 2006)
In one form or another, devotion to Christ’s Heart has been present among Ignatians starting with some of the first companions and disciples of St. Ignatius: St. Peter Faber, St. Peter Canisius, St. Francis Borgia.
But the corporate adoption of devotion to the Sacred Heart began due to the mission of Saint Claude de la Colombiere, confessor to St. Margaret Marie Alacoque, (1647–1690), a nun to whom Christ in appeared during the years 1673 to 1675.
Christ revealed that he wanted her to communicate to mankind the depths of his love and to foster a devotion of expiatory love: “Behold the Heart that has so loved men … instead of gratitude I receive from the greater part (of mankind) only ingratitude …”
Among the blessings that Christ promised to those who practised devotion to his heart were that he would give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts; that those who spread this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart; that his 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.
In these apparitions the Lord revealed the form of the devotion, the main characteristics being the institution of a Feast of the Sacred Heart, reception of Holy Communion on the first Friday of each month, and Eucharistic adoration during a “holy hour” each Thursday in commemoration of Jesus’ Agony in Gethsemane.
But the Savior also told Margaret Mary that he had chosen her confessor, the Jesuit Father Claude de la Colombière, as her associate for the mission of spreading the devotion which was especially entrusted to the Visitation nuns and the Society of Jesus.
De la Colombière intuited the will of God in all this, consecrated himself to the Sacred Heart, and circulated the nun’s account of the apparitions.
The Society founded by St. Ignatius adopted the devotion as part of its own patrimony, finding in it a great source of renewal during so many trials, and spread the devotion far and wide. In 1883 it officially and solemnly accepted the mission to spread the devotion, as transmitted to the order by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
The Society of Ignatians will be faithful to this glorious tradition which has benefited millions of souls.
However,it will highlight a dimension of the devotion that is particularly relevant to our age: devotion to the heroic heart of Christ.
For we live in an era in which Catholics are being called to heroism as in the early centuries of Christianity.
Already, the past century has known more martyrs for Christ than any other century in history, surpassing even the persecutions of the Roman Empire. Our own eyes have seen the incredibly cruel assassinations of our brothers and sisters in Iraq, Syria, Kenya, and Nigeria; the imprisonments and disappearances of Catholics in so many other countries of Asia and Africa.
Alongside the bloody martyrdoms there is the equally intense but more subtle persecution in the apostate West of Europe and the Americas where Catholics who are pro-life and pro-marriage and seek to influence society with the truths of the Catholic Faith and the Natural Law are denied work and career promotion and have to take their children from state-controlled schools in order to protect them.
The devotion to the heroic heart of Christ will inspire and steady Catholics in their ordeals, will bring peace to troubled minds and fortitude to waivering wills.
Through closeness to the Savior’s heart, Catholics will show the world yet again that “love is a fire no waters avail to quench, no floods to drown; for love, a man will give up all that he has in the world, and think nothing of his loss.” Song of Songs 8: 7.