In this series, we have been regarding the birth of the public cult of the Sacred Heart at the very beginning of the modern era.
We have seen how Valentin Tomberg regarded this as an intervention from Heaven to combat the emergence of rationalism – and the materialism that followed in the wake of rationalism.
We have cited the first great visionary experience of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque at Paray-le-Monial, who beheld His Most Sacred Heart – symbolically surrounded by a crown of thorns, yet radiant and fiery.
To all of this, I should now like to add a passage from a forgotten Nineteenth century biographer of Saint Margaret Mary, George Tickell S.J. who writes as follows:
“Margaret Mary mentions also the pleasure, which our Divine Lord said He took in seeing His Sacred Heart visibly represented, in order that the hearts of men might be touched and powerfully drawn to Him by the cords of His Sacred Humanity.
“He assured me besides,” she says, “that He took a singular pleasure in being honoured under the representation of this Heart of flesh, in order, He added, to touch the insensible hearts of men.
And He promised me that He would shed in abundance on all who should honour it, all the treasures of grace with which It is filled.
Wherever this image shall be exposed for special veneration, it shall draw down upon the spot every kind of blessing [Emphasis mine].”
Let us now turn our attention to a letter by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to her superior Mother Saumaise, from March 2, 1686, where she speaks of the desire of Our Lord:
“He wants you to have shields made with the image of His Sacred Heart, so that all those who wish pay homage to Him can place it in their homes; and also to make smaller ones for people to carry with them.”
Now dear Reader, is it not striking that all this happened, just at that very moment, when the world began to be awash in imagery as never before?
For during the Middle Ages, one beheld the images in great stained glass, but one did not yet have the printing press and all the images that would inundate us in its wake.
Nor did one yet have the cinema, the television, the internet. That is to say: a situation with the number of images increasing exponentially, exhorting everything from tins of baked beans to Chevrolets to parts of the human body (particularly the feminine) …
Can there be any doubt that Our Lord foresaw the inundation of modernity by such powerful imagery aimed at enticing desire?
Can it not be readily seen that this context is relevant in His call for spreading the image of His Sacred Heart?
In any event, some hundred and fifty years later, Our Lady would also appear to St. Catherine Labouré in the Rue du Bac of Paris (more about this here).
And Our Lady would call for the striking of the Miraculous Medal, which would then begin to be worn around the necks of untold numbers of Catholics across the globe.
And what was pictured on this Medal? There are a number of elements to the medal: stars, cross, the Blessed Virgin herself.
But clearly the dual images of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts form key elements, as well.In Paray-le-Monial in France, St. Margaret Mary hears Our Lord promise graces for the venerated display of His Heart. In Paris, Our Lady promise graces for those who will wear a medal, which bears the same symbolic representation of His Heart.
And of course other examples of the Call for Images of Our Lord and Our Lady could be also cited, including those involving the scapular, the painting of Divine Mercy and so forth.
Still, before their decline with the advent of the Second Vatican Council, it can be said that imagery around the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts formed a defining aspect to Tridentine Catholicism.
To be Continued …