Sacred Heart of Jesus: June 2008 Archives

Pro Affligentibus Nos

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Commanded from the Heart

“I say to you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Lk 6:28). These are not suggestions; they are not pious recommendations. They are clear precepts of Christ: commandments conceived in His merciful Heart and addressed to each of us without exception.

The Prayer From the Cross

It is no coincidence that this Gospel passage should be given us in this month of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. One cannot receive the Forgiving Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist and persist in refusing anyone forgiveness. One cannot approach the Pierced Heart of Jesus and not be drawn into His prayer to the Father from the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).

Obedience

The prevalent culture of options and of personal choices has all but rendered us impermeable to the commandments of Our Lord. We prefer to think of them as suggestions or as “talking points.” Contemporary sensibilities in the world and, alas, even in the Church, resent the objective precept, the non-negotiable commandment, the mandate coming from above. A combination of the effects of original sin and actual sins of pride has conditioned us to want to discuss everything, to debate everything, to argue the value of any law coming from above us or outside of us. Our Lord presents us with just such a commandment. It is not a suggestion. It is not open to discussion. It is not the subject of debate. It is a divine commandment. In obeying it, we obey God. In neglecting to obey it, we neglect to obey God.

Blessings and Prayer

Insofar as we consider ourselves disciples of Christ, we are bound to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who speak evil against us. We are commanded to do good to those who hate us. This good that we are commanded to do is, first of all and above all, prayer.

The Prayer of Christ

There is no greater force for good than prayer. There is no better way to do good to those who hate us than by asking the light of the Face of Christ to envelop them and penetrate them. There is nothing more beneficial to those who afflict us than confident recourse to the pierced Heart of Jesus. There is no more powerful blessing of those who curse us than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered on their behalf. For those speak evil against us there is no prayer more powerful than the prayer of Christ the High Priest who, in every Mass, stands before His Father, pleading and interceding for those who approach God through Him.

To Damage, Crush, Break, Ruin, or Vex

Mother Church, with her ancient experience of human nature, provides us with the means of obeying this commandment of our Lord. The Roman Missal contains a Mass specifically for this purpose. It is entitled Pro Affligentibus Nos, “For Those Who Afflict Us.” The title of the Mass speaks volumes. Opening my Latin dictionary to the entry for affligo, I see that it means to throw down, to afflict, damage, crush, break, ruin; humble, weaken, or vex. If you have ever felt thrown down, if you have ever felt afflicted, damaged, crushed, broken, ruined, humbled, weakened, or vexed, you need to enter wholeheartedly into the Mass Pro Affligentibus Nos.

The Power of Prayer

There is a mysterious power in praying for those who have hurt us, in interceding wholeheartedly
— for those who have spoken ill of us,
— for those who have damaged our reputations,
— for those who have incited others to think less of us,
— for those who have hurt us emotionally, physically, or spiritually,
— for those who have been abusive toward us,
— for those who have cursed us,
— for those have broken our hearts, betrayed us, or rejected us.

Our Lord commands us to pray for them, not only for their sakes, but also for our own. Our own spiritual liberation, our own inner healing from resentment, hatred, and lingering bitterness is contingent upon our persevering obedience to the commandments of Christ in the Gospel.

The Root of So Much Suffering

Prayer for those who afflict us has, at times, immediate and astonishing results. Persons suffering from physical complaints — chronic illnesses, pains, and weaknesses — have been completely healed after praying sincerely for those with whom they are at enmity. Persons suffering from emotional illnesses — depression, chronic jealousy, addictive patterns of behaviour, and irrational fears — have been liberated from these after obeying Our Lord’s commandment to pray for those at the root of their suffering.

Conquerors Through the Sacred Heart

Prayer for those who afflict us sets in motion concentric circles of reconciliation and healing. In praying for those who have hurt you, place no limits on the munificence of God. Ask boldly. Beg God to overwhelm them with His choicest blessings, to make them profoundly and truly happy in this world and in the next. This kind of prayer, made in obedience to the commandment of the Lord, radiates an invisible but supremely efficacious love: the very charity of God “poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which He has given us” (Rom 5:5). “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom 8:37)., conquerors, that is, through the Sacred Heart.

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On June 9, 1899, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The eighty-nine year old Pontiff was prompted to do this by two letters written to him "upon the order of Our Lord" by a Religious of the Good Shepherd named Mother Mary of the Divine Heart (Droste zu Vischering), the first on June 10, 1898, and the second on January 15, 1899. Here is an extract from her second letter:

"When, last summer, Your Holiness was suffering from an indisposition which, given your great age, filled the hearts of your children with cares, Our Lord gave me the sweet consolation [of knowing] that He would prolong the days of Your Holiness, so as to bring about the consecration of the entire world to His Divine Heart. . . .

On the eve of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lord gave me to know that by means of this new impetus given to the worship of His Divine Heart, He would make a new light shine upon the whole world . . . . I seem to see this light (interiorly), the Heart of Jesus, this adorable sun, sending down its rays upon the earth, at first narrowly, and then more widely, and finally illumining the entire world. I recognized the ardent desire He has to see His adorable Heart more and more glorified and known, and to spread abroad His gifts and blessings upon the whole world.

And He said: 'By the brightness of this light, peoples and nations will be illumined, and by its ardour they will be warmed again'. . . . One might find it strange that Our Lord should ask for this consecration of the entire world and not content Himself with [that of] the Catholic Church. But His desire to reign, to be loved and glorified, and to set ablaze all hearts with His love and His mercy is so ardent that He wants Your Holiness to offer Him the hearts of all those who belong to Him by Baptism to facilitate their return to the true Church, and the hearts of those who have not yet received spiritual life by Holy Baptism, but for whom He has given His life and His Blood, and who are equally called to be one day children of the Holy Church, to hasten by this means their spiritual birth."

Mother Mary of the Divine Heart died in her cloister in Portugal as the Church was singing First Vespers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 8, 1899. The following day, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the following prayer:

Contra spem in spem credidit

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Many years ago, as I was standing in the rain in front of the grotto at Lourdes on a cold February morning, a saintly old priest, the Chanoine Croset, told me that it was time for me to pass from having hopes to having hope. Passer des espoirs à l'espérance. This came back to me this morning as I meditated the text from Saint Paul's Epistle to the Romans given as today's Second Reading: "In hope Abraham believed against hope" (Rom 4:18–25). I cannot help but relate this word to the magnificent Act of Hope written by Saint Claude La Colombière:

An Act of Hope and Confidence in God

My God, I believe most firmly that Thou watchest over all who hope in Thee, and that we can want for nothing when we rely upon Thee in all things; therefore I am resolved for the future to have no anxieties, and to cast all my cares upon Thee.

People may deprive me of worldly goods and of honors; sickness may take from me my strength and the means of serving Thee; I may even lose Thy grace by sin; but my trust shall never leave me. I will preserve it to the last moment of my life, and the powers of hell shall seek in vain to wrestle it from me.

Let others seek happiness in their wealth, in their talents; let them trust to the purity of their lives, the severity of their mortifications, to the number of their good works, the fervor of their prayers; as for me, O my God, in my very confidence lies all my hope. "For Thou, O Lord, singularly has settled me in hope." This confidence can never be in vain. "No one has hoped in the Lord and has been confounded."

I am assured, therefore, of my eternal happiness, for I firmly hope for it, and all my hope is in Thee. "In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; let me never be confounded."

I know, alas! I know but too well that I am frail and changeable; I know the power of temptation against the strongest virtue. I have seen stars fall from heaven, and pillars of firmament totter; but these things alarm me not. While I hope in Thee I am sheltered from all misfortune, and I am sure that my trust shall endure, for I rely upon Thee to sustain this unfailing hope.

Finally, I know that my confidence cannot exceed Thy bounty, and that I shall never receive less than I have hoped for from Thee. Therefore I hope that Thou wilt sustain me against my evil inclinations; that Thou wilt protect me against the most furious assaults of the evil one, and that Thou wilt cause my weakness to triumph over my most powerful enemies. I hope that Thou wilt never cease to love me, and that I shall love Thee unceasingly. "In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded."

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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