Sacred Heart of Jesus: May 2007 Archives

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Cast into the furnace of love, the Heart of Jesus,
all your anxieties,
your trials, your fears,
so that He may burn them away.
— Mother Clelia Merloni


Mother Clelia Merloni founded the Congregation of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Viareggio, Italy on May 30, 1894, 113 years ago today. The photo is not of Mother Clelia but of one of the first Sisters sent from Italy to America. With one little orphan in her arms and another holding her hand, she is the perfect image of the Apostle called to be a spouse of Jesus Christ and a mother to those dearest to His Sacred Heart: the little, the vulnerable, the poor.

The daughters of Mother Clelia make reparation to the Sacred Heart by means of their life of adoration and apostolic service to the Church. For every "No" to the love and mercy of the pierced Heart of Christ, the Sister Apostle offers her own unconditional "Yes."

The Generalate of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is located within the parish confines of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, a mere five minutes from the basilica.

Damien, A Priest Adorer

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I find my consolation in the one and only companion who will never leave me, that is, our Divine Saviour in the Holy Eucharist. . . .

It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength necessary in this isolation of ours. Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine would be unbearable. But, having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content. . . . Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who seek to please Him. His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations, to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.

Blessed Damien de Veuster, SS.CC.

A Priest–Icon of the Suffering Christ

The saints, all of them, are living illustrations of the power of the Holy Spirit. The saints are the masterpieces of the Divine Iconographer who, in every age, writes in souls the whole mystery of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Finger of God’s Right Hand tracing on hearts of flesh the likeness of the Heart of Jesus. In Blessed Damian of Molokai the Church sets before us a priest fashioned by the Holy Spirit in a special way into the image of the suffering Christ, “despised and rejected by man, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3).

The Entire Plan of God

Father Damien could have said to his beloved people of Molokai what Saint Paul said to the presbyters of the Church at Ephesus : “You know how I lived among you the whole time from the day I first came . . . I served the Lord with all humility and with the tears and trials that came to me . . .. I did not shrink from telling you what was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public or in your homes. I earnestly bore witness . . . to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus . . .. Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace . . .. I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God” (cf. Ac 20:17-27).

Eucharistic Adoration

The words are Saint Paul’s but the sentiments — all of them — are those of Blessed Father Damien of Molokai. Where did Father Damien discover “the entire plan of God” (Ac 20:27) or, as another translation has it, “the whole counsel of God”? In the contemplation of the Heart of Jesus. And where did he contemplate the Heart of Jesus? In the adoration of the Eucharist.

Knowledge of the Pierced Side of Christ

The full title of Father Damien’s religious family is a very long one but it expresses completely the charism given them: “The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.” Father Damien’s compassionate devotion to those suffering from leprosy was the fruit of his intimate knowledge of the riches hidden in the pierced Side of Christ. That knowledge came to him in long hours of adoration before the tabernacle.

Lepers Adoring the Hidden Face of Christ

It is a little known fact that Father Damien laboured to established perpetual adoration of the Eucharist among his dear lepers. In this there is something astonishingly beautiful; the sight of lepers adoring day and night the Suffering Servant who, disfigured in his Passion, became, “as one from whom men screen their faces” (Is 53:3), the “Lord of Glory” (1 Cor 2:8) whose face is "all the beauty of holy souls” (Litany of the Holy Face).

The Prayer of the Sacred Heart to the Father

It was in Eucharistic adoration that Blessed Father Damien found himself drawn into the priestly prayer of Christ given us in the seventeenth chapter of Saint John. That prayer did not end with the Last Supper in the Cenacle. It is the prayer of the risen and ascended Christ who stands all-glorious in the sanctuary of heaven, showing the Father the wound in His side, the opening made by love, never to be closed. It is the prayer of the priestly Heart of Jesus in the sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist. It is the prayer that, from the tabernacle, rises ceaselessly like incense before the Father. Only those who linger there know this prayer; it becomes their prayer, inhabits them, changes them, and impels them to imitate the self-giving love of the Sacred Heart.

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Thirty–Seven Years of Mass

I am dedicating this special entry to my friend Monsignor Arthur Burton Calkins on the 37th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood or, as we say in Italian, “after 37 years of Mass.” Monsignor Calkins is more familiar than anyone else I know with the writings of the Servant of God Louise–Marguerite Claret de la Touche. I ask her to intercede for him today.

A Find at Santa Maria in Ara Coeli

I am becoming increasingly sensitive to the little manifestations of Divine Providence — God’s “gentle leadings with bands of love” — on a daily basis. Last Saturday a dear friend invited me to visit the Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli with her. After making our devotions and spending a moment before the church’s famous Santo Bambino, we stopped for a moment in the gift shop to look at its impressive display of icon reproductions. All of a sudden I was drawn to this particular image. It look vaguely familiar to me. I found the Face of Christ, the pierced Side, and the inscription, “It is mercy that I desire,” strangely compelling. I also felt that the little image was destined for my friend. She went home with it. Later that day, after some searching, I identified it as the image painted by Louise–Marguerite Claret de la Touche (1868–1915), one of the last century’s most notable mystics of the Sacred Heart and a spiritual advocate for priests.

The Painting

Mother Louise–Marguerite Claret de la Touche was fond of drawing and painting: a popular pastime in Visitation monasteries of the last century. She left a number of pictures of landscapes, animals, flowers, and still–lifes. It is, however, her inspired painting of the Merciful Jesus, that continues to touch hearts and move them to prayer.

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Father Charrier, S.J., Louise–Marguerite’s confessor, ordered her to execute the painting after she related to him a vision in which Our Lord manifested Himself revealing His wounded side. (The similarities with the experience of Saint Faustina Kowalska are striking.)

Meekness and Majesty

Louise–Marguerite painted the image at the end of 1902 and the beginning of 1903. It is unlike other pictures of the Sacred Heart dating from the same epoch. The Face of Christ resembles that of the Holy Shroud of Turin. The eyes of Christ seem to search the soul of the one meeting His gaze. Around the head of Christ the artist painted a double halo: the first represents a crown of thorns; the second, adorned with three stylized lilies, bears the inscription, Misericordiam volo, “It is mercy that I desire” (Mt 9:13).

Contemplating the image, one discovers at the same time the meekness of Jesus and His majesty. Meekness and majesty are inseparable in Him. Gesturing with His hand, Our Lord indicates His pierced Side. The opening in His tunic has, in effect, the shape of a heart.

The Sacred Side

The image represents the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy: “They shall look on Him whom they pierced” (Jn 19:37). The pierced Side of Christ reveals the infinite love of His Heart; it is the wellspring of His mercy.

Call Me Mercy

Mother Louise–Marguerite’s own writings tell of what inspired her in painting the image:
“One day, prostrate at the feet of Jesus, I was calling Him my soul’s one and only Good, the sovereign love of my heart, the infinite treasury of all riches. In the end I said to Him, ‘My Jesus, how do You want me to address you?’ And He answered, ‘Call me Mercy!’ O my sweet Mercy, O Jesus who died of love upon this Cross, grant that, brought back to you by the appeal of Your Mercy, we may live from Your love and for your love’! (Diary, Good Friday, 13 April 1900)

Priest, Temple, and Door

Notice that the image represents the majesty of the “Eternal High Priest,” of the “Divine Sacrificer” Who, from His open Side, continues to pour out “life–giving torrents of Infinite Love” upon humanity and, in particular, upon priests. The lanced pierced His right side: an evident allusion to the vision recounted in Chapter 47 of the prophet Ezekiel. Christ is, at once, the “High Priest” (Heb 4:14) and the Temple (Jn 2:21). Saving water streams out from below the right side of the Temple, and swells to become “a river” producing life in abundance wherever it flows. In this light, the wound in the Side of Christ is revealed also as “the door” (Jn 10:7) through which one enters the Holy of Holies to “obtain mercy and gind grace” (Heb 4:16).

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Fifth Monday of Paschaltide

Acts 14:5–18
Psalm 113B:1–2, 3–4, 15–16 (R.1ab)
John 14:21–26

Grateful to Saint Jude

We are grateful to the Apostle Saint Jude for the marvelous dialogue recounted in today’s Gospel. Our Lord reveals what it means to love Him and to be loved by Him. He declares that anyone who loves Him will be loved by the Father. He promises to love the one who loves him and to manifest Himself to him. “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (Jn 14:21).

The Way of Love

Saint Jude doesn’t immediately grasp what Our Lord is saying. He cannot conceive of a way of knowing Christ apart from the obvious way given to all. Jude seems to think that it is enough to observe Jesus: something that everyone can do. That there should be a higher way of knowing, a more intimate way, the way of love, completely eludes him. “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” (Jn 14:22).

The Divine Indwelling

Our Lord explains that the manifestation of Himself to His disciples will be inseparable from His Father’s love for them. He promises a mysterious indwelling: “We will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23). He declares that anyone who loves Him will hold fast to His words. Those who let go of his words, those who fail to store them up in their hearts, will not enjoy the manifestation reserved to His friends. They will remain strangers to the joy of the indwelling of the Father and the Son.

Friends of the Sacred Heart

How can we not relate this Gospel to the tender love Our Lord revealed in manifesting Himself to the friends of His Sacred Heart over the centuries. To each one of them He said in a unique way, “Behold, I love you and manifest Myself to you, even as I promised.”

I am thinking above all of the Virgin Mother beneath whose own Pure Heart His Sacred Heart of flesh first began to beat. I am thinking of Saint John the Beloved Disciple who, inflamed by his experience of the Heart of Jesus, was compelled to write: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it” (1 Jn1:1–2).

I am thinking of Saint Bernard, Saint Gertrude, Saint Mechthilde, Saint Lutgarde, and Saint Bonaventure. I am thinking of Saint Margaret Mary and of Saint Claude la Colombière, of Mother Marie Adèle Garnier of Tyburn, Mother Clelia Merloni, and Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil–Martiny; of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, and of Blessed Marie–Joseph Cassant. For each one of these men and women Our Lord fulfilled the promise he makes in today’s Gospel: “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (Jn 14:21).

A Gift Without Price

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, before being a gift of ours offered to Christ is a gift that He offers us. “If you but knew the gift of God!” (Jn 4:10). This is the clear teaching of Pope Pius XII in Haurietis Aquas: “We are perfectly justified in seeing in this same devotion . . . a gift without price which our divine Saviour . . . imparted to the Church, His mystical Spouse in recent centuries when she had to endure such trials and surmount so many difficulties” (HA, art. 2).

The Holy Spirit, First Gift of the Heart of Christ

For Pope Pius XII, the Holy Spirit is the first Gift from the Heart of the risen Christ. This too is announced in today’s Gospel: “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26). The work of the Holy Spirit is threefold. (1) The Holy Spirit is our Advocate with the Father, “interceding for us with sighs too deeps for words” because “we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26). (2) The Holy Spirit is sent to teach us all things, that is, to make clear for us “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8). (3) The Holy Spirit is sent to quicken the memory of the Church, to bring to remembrance all that Christ said, lest any word of His be neglected or forgotten.

Advocate, Teacher, and Prompter

The Holy Spirit is our Advocate, our Teacher, and our Prompter. As Advocate, the Holy Spirit aligns us with the prayer of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Father; “the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27), that is, according to the Heart of Christ. As Teacher, the Holy Spirit gives us “the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:18); in a word, the Holy Spirit teaches us the Heart of Christ. As Prompter, the Holy Spirit calls to mind the words by which Christ communicates to us all “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3) hidden in His Sacred Heart.

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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