Sacred Heart of Jesus: April 2007 Archives

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Yesterday morning, together with Leonard and Mark, my friends from the U.S., I visited the Carceri or hermitages hidden on the wooded slopes of Mount Subasio above Assisi. In a chapel that is part of the small monastic complex built there by Saint Bernardino of Siena in 1400, I discovered this beautiful fresco of the Precious Blood flowing from the pierced side of Jesus Crucified into a chalice held by an angel. I am always spellbound by depictions of the Holy Face of Jesus and of His Open Side. Here in Italy I find them everywhere.

Note that in this image Jesus is living. His eyes are open; He offers His Blood consciously, willingly, and with infinite love. The fresco is situated just above and behind a stone altar where Holy Mass would have been celebrated; it represents the very mystery that is actualized so often as the Eucharistic commandment of the Lord is carried out: "Do ye this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11:24).

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Here at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, I have the privilege of living just a few steps away from the Chapel of the Sacred Relics where one can venerate the finger of Saint Thomas the Apostle, that very finger that probed the pierced side of Our Lord. Today's Gospel takes on a special meaning when one lives under the same roof as so sacred a relic.

The finger of Saint Thomas came to be enshrined here through a revelation to Saint Birgitta of Sweden; it was by means of an intervention of Saint Birgitta that the relic was found and brought to Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. The relic has been venerated by numerous other saints, blesseds, and servants of God; among them, Saint Philip Neri, Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, Saint Vincent Pallotti, Saint Gaspar del Bufalo, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and Cardinal Newman.

O Blessed Wound!

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On the occasion of the Holy Father's 80th birthday and in response to his invitation to contemplate the wounded Side of Christ, I offer again my own translation of a prayer "Alla Piaga Del Costato di Gesù," To the Wound in Jesus' Side, composed by the Servant of God Father Eustachio Montemurro (1857–1923). The Venerable Eustachio of Jesus and Mary, a physician and a civic leader, a man of noble ideals and courageous initiatives, became a priest at forty–five years of age, desiring to bringing healing to souls as well as to bodies. Shortly thereafter he founded two religious congregations: The Little Brothers of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Sisters Missionaries of the Sacred Side.

The holy founder was accused of "an excess of zeal" and, for the good of the institutes he had established, chose to exile himself from his spiritual sons and daughters. With the permission of the Pope, he moved to the sanctuary of the Madonna of the Rosary of Pompei, founded by Blessed Bartolo Longo, to devote himself selflessly to the service of souls. Father Montemurro died at Pompei on January 2, 1923, loved by all, and leaving a reputation for holiness.

O painless thrust of the spear
forever awaited with passionate love by my Saviour
that thou shouldst repair in the Father's sight
the terrible wound opened by the sin of Adam
in the heart of humanity!

O glorious wound,
gushing forth life, love, and peace!
I adore thee inexhaustible wellspring of salvation,
the womb of new children
born of the water and of the blood of the Bridegroom.
Thou art for me an ever open refuge,
the door giving access to the nuptial chamber,
the vestibule of the banquet of the Lamb.

The living water that, at every moment, springs from thee,
invites me with the language of love
to enter, through thee, into the heart of my Saviour
that therein I might take the regenerating rest of new life
and spread it all about me
just as the bride coming forth from the nuptial chamber
radiates among her friends the signs and the sweetnesses of love.

Be thou for me, then, O blessed wound,
my blissful abode.
May I be drawn always to thee,
that in thee I may live and die.
In thee may I find the splendid riches
which eye has never seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart experienced.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus,
glory of my mind, joy of my eyes,
melody of my ears, gladness of my heart,
and peace of my soul.

I am Thine for time and for eternity;
nothing shall ever separate me from Thee,
for Thou hast espoused me,
drawing me with bands of goodness to Thy open side
and pouring out of Thy heart into mine
the joys of the Spirit
and the mercy of the Father who always hears Thee.

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Ah, awful Face of Love, bruised by my hand,
Turn to me, pierce me with Thine eyes of flame,
And give, me deeper knowledge of my sin.
So let me grieve and, when I understand
How great my guilt, my ruin, and my shame,
Open Thy Sacred Heart and let me in!

R.H. Benson

The Embrace of Saint Francis and the Crucified, Murillo, 1668
This is a very significant image for me. When I first saw this painting as a little boy of eleven or twelve years, maybe younger, I was smitten by it. My Dad went out and bought me a beautiful framed reproduction that I treasured. The soul of a child is formed (or deformed) by the images to which he is exposed.

Later in my life I discovered that the theme of the amplexus (embrace) of the Crucified originated in depictions of Saint Bernard. Saint Francis' remarkable affinity to Saint Bernard is demonstrated in that the motif of the amplexus was widely transferred from the Abbot of Clairvaux to the Little Poor Man of Assisi. The recurring motif of the Face of Christ and of His Pierced Heart is linked to the spread of the Cistercian and Franciscan Orders, each with its own iconography of the amplexus.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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