The devotion to the Sacred Heart is set before us by St. Margaret Mary conjointly with a number of definite practices. But with the Saint the practice of the devotion goes far beyond these practices. In her writings, as in her life, the devotion so dear to her is the soul of everything; it is a spirit of love that penetrates and dominates all. Devotion to the Sacred Heart, as understood by her, is an admirable formula of the perfect Christian life. “All for Jesus, all in Jesus, all of Jesus;” it is the love of Jesus taking possession of the soul with all its thoughts, all its affections, all its actions, in such a manner that it is no longer we who live, but Jesus Christ who lives in us (St. Paul to the Galatians, 2.20).
1. The Representation
In the desires and the promises of the Sacred Heart as revealed by Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary in her visions, the image of the Sacred Heart holds a very prominent place. Devotion to the image of the Sacred Heart is both a means of propagating the devotion so dear to the Saint and a special practice of that devotion – a practice that Our Lord desired to see observed, and to which He has promised to attach great graces.
2. Act of Consecration
By this two things must be understood: an act of consecration which is made and renewed as the opportunity offers, and a complete gift of oneself to the Sacred Heart, so that one no longer lives but for it, for its interests, and for its love.
St. Margaret Mary asks all the friends of the Sacred Heart to make the act of consecration she herself had composed in honor of this divine Heart and invites us, each one, to write our consecration, promising to add to it a word in her own hand, according to our dispositions.
“I, N.N., give and consecrate myself, my person, my life, my actions, sorrows and sufferings to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that there may be no longer any part of my being that is not employed in loving, serving, and glorifying Him. This is here my unalterable wish to belong wholly to Him, and to do everything for love of Him by renouncing with my whole heart all that might displease Him. I take Thee, therefore, 0 Sacred Heart, as the sole object of my love, the protector of my life, the assurance of my salvation, the remedy for my inconstancy, the atonement for all my faults, and my assured refuge at the hour of my death. Be Thou then, 0 Heart filled with goodness, my justification before God the Father, and turn aside from me the shafts of His just anger. 0 loving Heart! in Thee I place all my confidence, for I fear everything from my weakness, but I hope all things from Thy goodness. Destroy therefore within me all that [which] might displease or resist Thee. Let Thy pure love so imprint itself above all on my heart that I may never forget Thee nor be separated from Thee, that so, I beseech Thee, by all Thy mercies, my name may be written in Thee, for I would have all my happiness consist in living and dying in no other quality than that of Thy slave.”
In her letter of August 24, 1685, she returns to this subject, indicating the first Friday of the month as being a very propitious day for the act.’ In a letter to Mother de Soudeilles, dated November 3, 1684, she is still more urgent and more explicit:
“If you desire to live for him alone and to attain to the perfection that he desires from you, you must offer to his Sacred Heart the entire reserve, so that you may no longer will or wish anything but the will of this lovable Heart; may no longer like anything but what he likes; may act only according to his inspirations, undertaking nothing without first asking his counsel and his aid, giving unto him the glory of all-glorifying him for everything, and returning him the same thanks for the ill-success of our undertakings as for their success, remaining always satisfied without ever giving way to anxiety, provided that this Sacred Heart be pleased, loved and glorified, this should suffice for us; if you desire, therefore, to be amongst the number of his friends, you will offer him this sacrifice of yourself on the first Friday of the month, after Holy Communion, which you will receive for this intention, consecrating yourself wholly to him, in order to render to him and to procure for him all the love, the honour and glory that it is in your power to procure, and all this according to the way that he will show you. Having done this, you will henceforth regard yourself as belonging to and dependent upon the adorable Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ; you will have recourse to it in all your necessities, and make your dwelling-place in it as far as you can. And it will make amends for all that is imperfect in your actions, and will sanctify those that are good, if you unite yourself in all things to its designs, which are great for you, in order that if you allow it to do so, it may procure for itself through you great glory. . . . Wholly yours in the love of his Sacred Heart, which unites and transforms our hearts into his for time and eternity.”
On reading this letter, we can understand what the Saint wrote to her brother:
“It seems to me that there is no shorter way of attaining perfection, and no surer means of salvation, than to be consecrated to this divine Heart.”
3. Act of Reparation
In the devotion to the Sacred Heart, this act holds a very important place; it could not be otherwise, seeing that the devotion is a devotion of reparation to love, outraged and insulted. It is thus that our Lord, in the Great Apparition, represents it. He asks that on the day of the future feast we should honour his Heart “by receiving Communion on that day, and by making him a reparation of honour by an act of reparation for the insults offered to him during the time that he has been exposed on the altars.” By these very words we see what the reparation of honour means, and what is its end. Like the act of consecration, it is an act clearly and specifically stated, its performance laid down on definite lines, and it is, at the same time, a general tendency of the devout soul, jealous for the honour of him whom she loves.
“You will make your [sacramental communions] a reparation of honour to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, and to beg forgiveness for all the bad Communions that are being made, and that are made by ourselves and by bad Christians.”
4. Holy Communion and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament
One of the requests made by our Lord to St. Margaret Mary was that she should “receive Holy Communion as often as she will be able.” And in her life and in her writings, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is closely united to the devotion of the Sacred Heart. It is before the Blessed Sacrament that the principal revelations are made to her. Above all, it is at the altar [especially at the “tables” in the ‘Novus Ordo’ (the ‘New “Catholic” Order’ inaugurated since the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II) sanctuaries – the Discalced Friars of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel] that she sees Jesus insulted, outraged; at the altar that she makes him the reparation of honour and offers him her homage and atonement. It is after Holy Communion that the Saint wishes others to make their act of consecration to the Sacred Heart.
5. The Holy Hour in union with Jesus suffering
What has been said of the Blessed Sacrament applies, with very little difference, to the Passion. Devotion to the Passion is inseparable from devotion to the Sacred Heart.
The image of the Sacred Heart that was shown to her in one of the Apparitions (crown of thorns, wound, cross) breathes of nothing but the Passion.
“This is what has given me such a love for the cross, that I cannot live a moment without suffering — but suffering borne in silence, without consolation, relief or pity; and to die with this sovereign King of my soul, bowed down beneath the cross with all sorts of shame, humiliations, with neglect and contempt.” – St. Margaret Mary in her “Memoire”
Her writings, in reality, give us the impression of a soul wholly united to Jesus suffering, without any other joy than the joy itself of “suffering in loving.” We know the great vision in which our Lord showed her two pictures, one of a life filled with peace and consolation, and the other of a wholly crucified life, and how our Lord himself chose for her the latter.’ On September 5, 1689, she wrote to Fr. Croiset: “I cannot live a moment without suffering, and the cross is my sweetest sustenance. Oh, what happiness to be able to share here on earth in the anguish, the bitter torments, the dereliction of the Sacred Heart!”
6. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary [through the Brown Scapular of Carmel]
Very much could be said on this subject. But the part of the Blessed Virgin in the devotion to the Sacred Heart, as offered to us by St Margaret Mary, is, after all, only the same part that she has in every Christian life. If the relations between the Blessed Virgin and the Saint are admirable, it is not so much because she is the disciple and the evangelist of the Sacred Heart, as because she is a great Saint of modern times, and because God made her understand by her own personal experience all that Mary effects in secret in every soul that strives to become holy. However, some features of her devotion to the Mother of God merit remark.
We know how our Lord, in order to keep her wholly for himself, confided St. Margaret Mary, from her childhood, to his Blessed Mother’s care. “I give you in trust,” he said to her, “to the care of my Blessed Mother, that She may mould you according to my designs” (in the Saint’s “Memoire”).
In return, St. Margaret Mary did not separate Mary from Jesus. Many of her letters end with an assurance of tenderest affection “in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary” (Letter IX). Not alone does she honour the Blessed Virgin and cause her to be honoured, because “we could not do any act more pleasing to God than to honour his Blessed Mother,” but she tells a novice that if she is “in everything a true [child] of holy Mary,” Mary will make her “a perfect disciple of the Sacred Heart”.
To those who wish to be the real friends of the Sacred Heart she promises, in return, that the Blessed Virgin will be their “special protectress to help them to attain to that perfect life.” She wished also that souls should unite themselves “in heart and mind to the most Blessed Virgin, to render homage to the Incarnate Word, adoring Him and loving Him with Her in silence.” She sees the Sacred Heart offering his sacrifices to his Father “on the altar of the Heart of his Mother”; she implores, and would have us implore, “the divine Heart of Jesus living in the Heart of Mary to live and reign in all hearts.” She desires that the client of the Sacred Heart should ask “the Blessed Virgin to use all her influence, that it [the Sacred Heart] may cause the effects of its power to be felt by all those who shall invoke it.” The Saint herself learned from our Lord to keep close to the Cross, “in the same dispositions as those of the Blessed Virgin”; to hear Mass in union with these dispositions; when receiving Holy Communion to offer to the Sacred Heart “the dispositions that she had at the moment of the Incarnation, trying to enter into them as far as possible, asking for them through her intercession, and saying with her: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord’ “; when making her meditation, to offer “the dispositions of the Blessed Virgin when she was presented in the Temple.” Devotion to Mary and to the Heart of Mary is inseparable from devotion to Jesus and to the Heart of Jesus.
7. Prayer and Suffering for the Souls in Purgatory
The love of the Sacred Heart accompanies souls when they go forth from this life, when they have to be purified in the next. Hence we see St Margaret Mary filled with the compassion of the divine Heart for “its suffering friends,” offering herself as a victim for them, and drawing from the treasures of the Sacred Heart for their relief. A good part of the first Feast of the Sacred Heart, celebrated at Paray, July 20, 1685, was devoted to intercession on their behalf. For, say the Contemporaines, “she wished that the rest of the day should be spent in praying for the souls in Purgatory, in leading [the novices] to our burial-place, where she made them say a lot of prayers for their relief.” She writes as follows to Mother de Saumaise: “The Sacred Heart of Jesus often gives his poor weak victim to the souls in purgatory to help them in satisfying his divine justice. It is during this time that I suffer pain a little like theirs, finding no rest day or night.” She speaks often of this purgatory of her soul and of what she suffered in these circumstances.
In return our Lord could refuse nothing to his beloved Spouse, and her exercises in honour of the Sacred Heart were of special efficacy for these suffering souls. It was because of this that she wrote to Mother de Saumaise: “If you knew with what ardour these poor souls beg for this new remedy, so supremely efficacious for their sufferings, for this is the name they give to the devotion to the Sacred Heart, and especially the Masses in its honour.”
In addition to the Masses, the Saint asks for Communions, acts of virtue offered in honour of the Sacred Heart, to satisfy the justice of God the Father through the merits of this Sacred Heart. She writes to Mother de Saumaise: “The help that I ask of you is this: nine exercises every day from now until the Ascension; four of charity to honour the ardent charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and five practices of humility in reparation for the principal humiliations inflicted on it in his Passion…. And you will beg of them [the poor souls] at the same time to use their power in obtaining for us the grace of living and dying in love and loyalty to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ by corresponding to all that he desires of us, without [making] any resistance.”
8. Other practices such as the Litany of the Sacred Heart and the Little Office of the Bleseed Virgin Mary.
In a letter to Fr. Croiset she asks for “an association of this devotion [to the Sacred Heart] in which these associates would share mutually in one another’s spiritual good works.” Here we have the original conception of the Apostleship of Prayer and of the Guard of Honour. The Saint would have “a particular union with and devotion to the holy angels who are destined particularly to love it [the Sacred Heart], to honour and praise [it] in this divine sacrament of love; so that, being united and associated with them, they may supply for us in his divine presence, as much to render him our homage as to love him for us and for all those who do not love him, and to make reparation for all our irreverence in his holy presence.”
The Spirit of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (See also our post, “The Sacred Heart of Jesus“)
Let us not think that for St Margaret Mary devotion to the Sacred Heart consisted in nothing more than these practices. It does indeed consist in something more and something still better. It consists of a life wholly united to that loving Heart of Jesus, so as to feel what he feels, to will what he wills, to love what he loves, to please him by doing what he desires, and to please God by making his sentiments and his merits our own, and by offering the Sacred Heart of Jesus himself to his Father; a life wholly of love and of loving reparation. No matter what the practices, the Saint considers them above all as exercises of love. To love the divine Heart that has loved us so much and that thirsts to be loved; to render It love for love is the foundation of the devotion.
She regards this reciprocity of love as its essence. Jesus, in his love for us, ardently longs to be loved in return. ‘The soul who understands this, lives but to love him and to make him loved by others. This love will take every form, and employ every means; it will pray, it will act; above all, it will suffer. But in everything it will be always charity. And consequently, through charity, the soul devoted to the Sacred Heart will live the life of Jesus in itself; its life will be the life of Jesus.
“Finally, this time, dear friend, we must all be consumed, without exception and without remission, in this glowing furnace of the Sacred Heart of our adorable Master, whence we must never depart. And after we have lost our heart of corruption in these divine flames of pure love, we must take from out of them a wholly new heart that will make us henceforth live a wholly renewed life with a new heart, with thoughts and affections altogether new, and that will produce in all our actions operations altogether new in purity and fervour that is to say, there must remain no longer anything of ourselves, but this divine Heart of Jesus must take the place of our own so completely that he alone will live and act within us and for us; that our will be so completely suppressed by his that it may be able to act absolutely without resistance on our part; and lastly, that his affections, his thoughts, and his desires may take the place of ours, above all his love that will love himself in us and for us. And thus this lovable Heart, being all things to us in everything, we shall be able to say with St Paul that we no longer live, but that it is He who lives within us [Epistle to the Galatians, 2.20] . . . . It seems to me that we should no longer breathe forth aught but flames of pure love, a crucifying love, a love that is completely sacrificed on the altar by the continual immolation of ourselves to the divine will, in order that it may be perfectly accomplished in us, that we may be perfectly content to love him and to let him do what he wills, whether he casts us down or lifts us up, whether he consoles us or whether he afflicts us; all must be indifferent to us. Provided that he is pleased, that should suffice for us.
Let us therefore love him, this sole love of our souls, since he has first loved us, and since he loves us still so ardently that he burns with this love continually in the most holy Sacrament. All that we need to become holy is to love this Holy of Holies. Who shall hinder us, then, from becoming saints, since we have hearts to love and bodies to suffer?” (Letter to Sr. de la Barge, Oct. 1689).
She ends this hymn to love by a kind of rhythmical couplet which tells of the advantages of love for the attainment of perfection. “It is his pure love alone that makes us do all that pleases him; it is this perfect love alone that makes us do all in the manner that pleases him; and there is nothing but this perfect love alone that makes us do everything when it pleases him.”
[From the “Devotion to the Sacred Heart: the Doctrine and its History,” by Rev. Fr. J.V. Bainvel, S.J. (Professor of Theology at the Catholic Institute of Paris), published in London (Burns Oates and Washbourne Ltd., 1924]
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Sacred Heart
“Act of Oblation to Merciful Love”
Offering of myself as a Victim of Holocaust to God’s Merciful Love
O my God, Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to Love You and make You Loved, to work for the glory of Holy church by saving souls on earth and liberating those suffering in purgatory. I desire to accomplish Your will perfectly and to reach the degree of glory You have prepared for me in Your Kingdom. I desire, i a word, to be a saint, but I fell my helplessness and I beg You, O my God to be Yourself my Sanctity.
Since You loved me so much as to give me Your only Son as my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. I offer them to You with gladness, begging You to look upon me only in the Face of Jesus and in His Heart burning with Love.
I offer You, too, all the merits of the saints (in heaven and on earth), their acts of Love, and those of the holy angels. Finally, I offer You, O Blessed Trinity! the Love and merits of the Blessed Virgin, my dear Mother. It is to her I abandon my offering, begging her to present it to You. Her Divine Son, my Beloved Spouse, told us in the days of His mortal life: Whatsoever you ask the Father in My Name He will give it to you! I am certain, then, that You will grant my desires; I know, O my God that the more You want to give, the more You make us desire. I feel in my heart immense desires and it with confidence I ask You to come to take possession of my soul.
I want to console You for the ingratitude of the wicked, and I beg You to take away my freedom to displease You. If through weakness I sometimes fall, may Your Divine Glance cleanse my soul immediately, consuming all my imperfections like the fire that transforms everything into itself.
I thank You, O my God for all the graces You have granted me, especially the grace of making me pass through the crucible of suffering. It is with joy I shall contemplate You on the Last Day carrying the scepter of Your Cross. Since You deigned to give me a share in this very precious Cross, I hope in heaven to resemble You…
After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy You in the Fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for Your Love alone with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart, and saving souls who will love You eternally.
In the evening of my life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!….
In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!
May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.
I want, O my Beloved, at each beat of my heart to renew this offering to You an infinite number of times, until the shadows having disappeared I may be able to tell You of my Love in an Eternal Face to Face!
This 9th of June,
Feast of the Most Holy Trinity
In the year of grace, 1895
[From the “Story of a Soul” translated by John Clarke, O.C.D. (Washington: ICS Publications, 1996)]