The Feast of the Sacred Heart is upon us. After the weekly Holy Hour and the monthly First Friday, this is the third and annual element of a Sacred Triad, called for by Our Lord in Paray-le-Monial, France.
Here is how in the late seventeenth century, Saint Claude de la Columbiere related the origins of the Public Feast of the Sacred Heart, in connexion with one of numerous visions recounted to him by Saint Margaret Mary: “As I was before the Blessed Sacrament” says this holy soul, on a day within the Octave of Corpus Christi, “I received from my God excessive graces of His love.
Feeling myself touched with a desire of making Him some return, and of rendering Him love for love, [I heard] “You cannot make Me any greater return of love,” He said, “than by doing what I have so often asked of you.”
And discovering to me His Divine Heart, “See this Heart,” He said, “which has loved men so much that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify to them Its love; and in return I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by reason of the contempt, irreverence, sacrilege, and coldness, which they show Me in this Sacrament of Love.
But what I feel still more is that they are hearts consecrated to Me who use Me thus.
On this account, I ask of you that the first Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special Feast to honour My Heart, by communicating on that day and making reparation to It by a solemn act to repair the indignities which It has received during the time It has been exposed on My altars.
I also promise you that My Heart shall expand Itself to shed in abundance the influence of Its divine love upon those who shall pay It this honour and procure it to be paid” (From the nineteenth century Life of Blessed Margaret Mary by George Tickell, S.J.).
Some three hundred years later – what is it to ponder these words now? How have we heeded these words of Our Lord given in Paray-le-Monial in 1675, words which led to the institution of this Feast across the Catholic world?
Yes, the Feast was instituted and survives – though barely known – to this day. But how much real effort do we make? For though we may still celebrate this Feast, I cannot help but feel, as I ponder these words in 2010, how very feeble our effort appears and how much worse the situation is now than it was then!
Everywhere the Mystery of His Cross and Resurrection has become buried and invisible. Ingratitude, contempt, coldness meet Christ Jesus everywhere.
But in establishing the Devotion to the Sacred Heart in latter seventeenth century France, Our Lord did not merely lament the ingratitude of the world, but lamented the coldness of feeling in the Church – the lack of real feeling that the immense Mystery at the Heart the Church merits – or ought to.
We are all guilty. This I must never forget – lest I become intolerant and bitter. For it is all too easy to blame in others, what we cannot see in ourselves. And if we ourselves manage to remember a little the Mystery of Christ in His Church, better to say that it is by the God of Grace that we do. Better to say, as we look out on a World and Church forgetting Christ: “There but for the Grace of God go I” …
We cannot blame and yet this lack of feeling in the world and in the Church is serious, very serious.
A little personal eruption now: Last night at Confession, the joy, the joy of feeling cleansed. “Confession is good for the soul,” the world will no doubt mutter! A reductionistic attempt to explain away the Mystery of this Sacrament! Always we must turn to humanistic, psychologising efforts to explain away the Mysteries of Jesus Christ …
We cannot bear to remember and so we must forget. Yet there was a time when the entire Western World, nay not only Western Christendom but Eastern Europe as well – there was a time when souls everywhere from Dublin to Moscow and beyond, bowed down before the Sevenfold Mystery of the Sacraments, which spread out across the face of Europe …
Yet the Protestant world denied or forgot the Sevenfold Sacramental Mystery. And now the Catholic world forgets as well.
Fewer and fewer are confirmed or even baptised. Fewer marry in the Church, supposing as they do, that Marriage is but a human contract and thus denying themselves of Supernatural Grace. And there are fewer and fewer ordinations for Priests to render these Sacraments of Supernatural Grace.
Supernatural Grace! Recently I have been rejoicing in the precious, unambiguous pre-Vatica II words of Ven. Pius XII. Such as these from Mystici Corporis Christi:
“Through Holy Orders men are set aside and consecrated to God, to offer the Sacrifice of the Eucharistic Victim to nourish the flock of the faithful with the Bread of Angels … and to strengthen them with all other supernatural helps … At the beginning of the Christian era, He supplied the Church with the means necessary to overcome the countless dangers … [Emphasis mine]“
Last night I received absolution in Latin from a dedicated priest working to preserve the Tradition here in Madrid. Last night, how grateful I felt that there are still Priests in this world ready and willing to transmit to me this Supernatural Assistance …
I feel the “countless dangers” of which Ven. Pius XII warned ever more acutely. The impregnability of youth is fading now – and I hope arrogance as well (at least a little). By turn, the vulnerability and acuity of age becomes heightened.
My heart it seems, is more acute to perils than once it was. Once I was a “tolerant, free-thinking liberal” relatively unconcerned about the dangers of sexual liberation, pornography, films of horror and gore, games of bloody video violence. Nor was I bothered particularly by popular music advocating excess or “soft” drugs so-called. But by Grace, I think I see a little now of that which Great Saints and Popes have warned …
And on this Feast of the Sacred Heart. it seems to me that His Heart has begun to stir my heart, at least a little.
His Heart pieced by the unimaginable suffering and darkness of this world, begins to commune with mine. If only a very little – but in that, I have faith.
If only to a small degree, I begin to glimpse more fully the darkness of this world. As much perhaps, as I can bear, I glimpse what I trust that countless Saints and Popes, before have seen far, far more lucidly and had to bear.
Perhaps as a New Ager, I could not have borne this vision of darkness. But I see that with Holy Communion, we enter a spirituality that beholds the darkness of this world and yet is not dismayed. For by Holy Communion, we are strengthened at the same time.
This, this vision and this strengthening have been given us through His Love in the Sacraments …
And all of this is forgotten, even it seems by Priests. If He lamented this in 1675, what I wonder are the Wounds to His Heart in 2010? For although I trust that the Padre who gave me absolution last night in Latin, had deep faith in Supernatural Mystery, I tend to doubt that of several Priests that I have had Confession with.
I recall one who seemed reluctant to give me the Sacrament. He seemed to regard my sin as insignificant and I imagine he held the Sacrament of little significance as well.
The Sacraments become fewer and fewer. I am writing now from Spain, but how shaped I am by experiences the last vestiges of Catholic France. In France, we would meet les Pretres who were each responsible for forty parishes at a time. Needless to say that in most of them, the Sacrament of Holy Communion was hardly celebrated at all – let alone the other Sacraments!
This is the fate of Catholic France, after two hundred years of aggressive secularisation and it needs be said, bishops enamoured by the so-called Spirit of Vatican II.
A pained memory surfaces: a French bishop tapping his crozier to a rock beat in a Mass, following a day-long celebration of the so-called Vatican II spirit. Yet at least, my endurance of this wearsome day and the bishop’s closing “centre-stage performance” has profited my soul in a strange way. For it served to etch this in my heart forever: something is terribly, terribly wrong …
And here in Madrid as Kim has said, the Sanctus is sung to the tune of the Beatles’ Help. The Sanctus – a prayer by which we are meant to recall and adore: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts. This is sung in Spanish to the tune of: “Help me if you can, I’m feeling do-o-o-own …”
What are His Wounds today, with a celebration of the liturgy so very, very INCOMMENSURATE – to say the very least! – with the Mystery of His Sacrifice?
In 1675 Saint Margaret Mary spoke of “irreverence and sacrilege” towards His Sacrament of Love. And what now – today? And is it any wonder that the Sacraments begin to disappear from the Earth, when even the Church frequently does not know how to celebrate them with reverence and with awe?
Yet here in Madrid this day of the Feast of His Heart, the priest who last night cleansed my soul by His Supernatural Love, has celebrated the Feast to His Heart in a way which is NOT incommensurate. He has of course, celebrated it reverently according to the Tridentine Rite, from before the Vatican Council.
He has celebrated it with countless prayers and readings in the old Latin reverent to the Mystery. At the Collect for this Feast, we have prayed:
Deus, qui nobis, in Corde Fílii tui, nostris vulneráto peccátis, infinítos dilectiónis thesáuros misericórditer largiri dignéris: concéde,quæsumus; ut illi devótum pietátis nostræ præstántes obséquium, dignas quoque satisfactiónis exhibeámus officium. Per eúmdem Dóminum.
O God, Who in the Heart of Thy Son, wounded by our sins, dost mercifully vouchsafe to bestow upon us the boundless treasures of Thy love: grant, we beseech Thee, that revering it with meet devotion, we may make a worthy reparation for our sins. Through the same Thy Son Our Lord.
And the Epistle, we have been reminded of the Vastness of the Mystery of His Love …
“To me, the least of all the Saints, is given grace, to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ: and to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things: that the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the Church …
For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom all paternity in Heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened by His spirit with might unto the inward man, that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts: that being rooted and grounded in charity, you may be able to comprehend with all the Saints, what is the breadth and length, and height and depth: to know also the charity of Christ which surpasseth all knowledge …”
What more to say on this Feast of the Sacred Heart? Much more might be uttered about Reparation and Tragedy, but it must wait for now.
From Amazon USA:
Here are some important inspirations for this website. Each title also has a review at our site – the links are below. These books can also be found in our Amazon UK Store here.
Links to each Review here: Heart of the Redeemer, Meditations on the Tarot, Puritan’s Empire, Life of St M.M., This is the Faith, Marian Apparitions, The Secret of the Rosary, France and the Cult of the Sacred Heart