Sacred Heart of Jesus: June 2009 Archives

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The Sacred Side of Jesus in the Redemptorist Church of Sant'Alfonso in Rome
Home of the Miraculous Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help


On this Octave Day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: the Vatican's English translation of the Holy Father's homily at Vespers in Saint Peter's Basilica on June 19. My comments are in italics.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In a little while, we shall be singing in the Antiphon to the Magnificat: "The Lord has welcomed us in His Heart Suscepit nos Dominus in sinum et cor suum". God's Heart, considered to be the organ of His will, is mentioned 26 times in the Old Testament.

What a brilliant opening! Pope Benedict XVI goes straight to the Magnificat Antiphon, the mystical key that unlocks the most solemn moment of Vespers. Then he presents the biblical understanding of the heart: the organ of the will.

Man is judged according to God's Heart. Because of the pain His Heart feels at the sins of man, God decides on the flood, but is subsequently moved by human weakness and forgives.

Yes, the Heart of God can feel pain. The Heart of God grieves over the sins of men.

Then there is an Old Testament passage in which the subject of God's Heart is expressed with absolute clarity: it is in chapter 11 of the Book of the Prophet Hosea in which the first verses describe the dimension of the love with which the Lord turned to Israel at the dawn of its history: "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son" (Hos 11: 1). Israel, in fact, responds to God's tireless favour with indifference and even outright ingratitude.

The message of Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary echoed the Reproaches of the Good Friday Liturgy and, beyond them, the indifference and ingratitude of Israel to a Bridegroom God. "In return for My love," He said to Saint Margaret Mary, "I receive from most nothing but ingratitude, irreverence, sacrilege, coldness, and scorn. . . . Look how sinners treat Me. They have nothing but coldness and disdain for all My eagerness to do them good."

"The more I called them", the Lord is forced to admit, "the more they went from Me" (v. 2). Nonetheless he never abandons Israel to the hands of the enemy because "my Heart", the Creator of the universe observes, "recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender" (v. 8).

Speaking through His prophet, God bares His Heart: He reveals that, even in the face of coldness, indifference, and betrayal, He remains compassionate and tender.

The Heart of God throbs with compassion! On today's Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus the Church offers us this mystery for contemplation, the mystery of the Heart of a God who feels compassion and pours forth all His love upon humanity. It is a mysterious love, which in the texts of the New Testament is revealed to us as God's immeasurable love for the human being. He does not give in to ingratitude or to rejection by the People He has chosen; on the contrary, with infinite mercy He sends His Only-Begotten Son into the world to take upon Himself the burden of love immolated so that by defeating the powers of evil and death He could restore the dignity of being God's children to human beings, enslaved by sin.

The translation is a little awkward, but the message is overwhelming. It is Love Crucified. It is the Heart of the Only-Begotten Son opened by the soldier's lance so that sinners might be drawn through the awful gaping wound into the bosom of the Father.

All this comes about at a high price: the Only-Begotten Son of the Father is sacrificed on the Cross, "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (cf. Jn 13: 1).

The Holy Father quotes the beginning of Saint John's account of the Cenacle and of the Lord's final discourse: in finem dilexit. He loved them to the end. I read chapters 13 through 17 of Saint John every Thursday; it is an abyss of love, an inexhaustible mystery. It is the Heart of Jesus forming His first priests.

A symbol of this love which goes beyond death is his side, pierced by a spear. In this regard, the Apostle John, an eye-witness, says: "one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water" (cf. Jn 19: 34).

Yes, the Sacred Side of Jesus is opened after His death so that even the roseate blood and water remaining in His Heart might be poured out for sinners.

Dear brothers and sisters, thank you because, in response to my invitation, you have come in large numbers to this celebration with which we begin the Year for Priests. I greet the Cardinals and Bishops, in particular the Cardinal Prefect and the Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy with their collaborators, and the Bishop of Ars. I greet the priests and seminarians of the various seminaries and colleges of Rome; the men and women religious and all the faithful.

I address a special greeting to H.B. Ignace Youssef Younan, Patriarch of Antioch for Syrians, who has come to Rome to meet me and to acknowledge publicly the "ecclesiastica communio" which I have granted him.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pause together to contemplate the pierced Heart of the Crucified One. We have heard again, just now, in the brief Reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Ephesians, that "God, Who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ... and raised us up with Him, and made us sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2: 4-6). To be in Jesus Christ, is to be already seated in heaven.

This, Fathers, is how to preach at Vespers! The Holy Father began with the Magnificat Antiphon (not yet sung at this point, therefore creating a certain anticipation), and then quotes the Short Reading, explaining what Saint Paul means when he speaks of being "in Jesus Christ."

The essential nucleus of Christianity is expressed in the Heart of Jesus; in Christ the whole of the revolutionary newness of the Gospel was revealed and given to us: the Love that saves us and already makes us live in God's eternity.

The Heart of Jesus is the essentIal nucleus of Christianity! Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an immense gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. We have not yet begun to probe its inexhaustible richness. The point of departure in any such attempt is the liturgy of the Church: the Proper of the Mass, the Lectionary, and the Divine Office with its antiphons, responsories, hymns, and orations.

The Evangelist John writes: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (3: 16). His Divine Heart therefore calls to our hearts, inviting us to come out of ourselves, to abandon our human certainties to trust in Him and, following His example, to make of ourselves a gift of love without reserve.

To abandon our human certainties to trust in Him! How many of you learned to say as children, "Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee"? I learned that aspiration as a small boy and it has never left me. Children need to learn such prayers from the heart at an early age, because they will need them later on in life's moments of crisis.

If it is true that Jesus' invitation to "abide in my love" (cf. Jn 15: 9) is addressed to every baptized person, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Day for priestly sanctification, this invitation resounds more powerfully for us priests, particularly this evening at the solemn inauguration of the Year for Priests, which I wanted to be celebrated on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Curé d'Ars.

What does the Sacred Heart of Jesus say to His priests? "Abide in my love" (Jn 15:9). The school of this abiding is, without any doubt, prolonged daily prayer in front of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, close to His Open Heart, hidden in the Sacrament of His Love. A priest who has learned to tarry in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament will progress from tarrying there to abiding in His Heart, that is, in His Love.

One of his beautiful and moving sayings, cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, immediately springs to my mind: "The Priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus" (n. 1589).

How is it possible not to remember with emotion that the gift of our priestly ministry flowed directly from this Heart? How can we forget that we priests were consecrated to serve humbly and authoritatively the common priesthood of the faithful?

Priestly ministry flows from the Heart of Jesus, from His pierced Heart.

Ours is an indispensable mission, for the Church and for the world, which demands full fidelity to Christ and in unceasing union with him this to remain in His love means that we must constantly strive for holiness, this union, as did St John Mary Vianney.

In case you had any doubts, Fathers: ours is an indispensable mission both for the Church and for the world! With priests the fecundity of the Church would dry up; she would become barren. And the world would become a wasteland.

In the Letter I addressed to you for this special Jubilee Year, dear brother priests, I wanted to highlight certain qualifying aspects of our ministry, with references to the example and teaching of the Holy Curé d'Ars, model and protector of all of us, priests, and especially parish priests.

We are to spend this year in the company of Saint John Mary Vianney, that is in the real experience of his companionship, made possible by the Communion of Saints.

May my Letter be a help and encouragement to you in making this Year a favourable opportunity to grow in intimacy with Jesus, who counts on us, his ministers, to spread and to consolidate his Kingdom, to radiate his love, his truth.

Intimacy with Jesus.

Therefore, "in the footsteps of the Curé of Ars", my Letter concluded, "let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!" (L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, see p. 5).

Enthralled by Jesus.

To let oneself be totally won over by Christ! This was the purpose of the whole life of St Paul to whom we have devoted our attention during the Pauline Year which is now drawing to a close; this was the goal of the entire ministry of the Holy Curé d'Ars, whom we shall invoke in particular during the Year for Priests; may it also be the principal objective for each one of us.

And totally won over by Christ.

In order to be ministers at the service of the Gospel, study and a careful and continuing pastoral and theological formation is of course useful and necessary, but that "knowledge of love" which can only be learned in a "heart to heart" with Christ is even more necessary. Indeed, it is He who calls us to break the Bread of His love, to forgive sins and to guide the flock in His name. For this very reason we must never distance ourselves from the source of Love which is his Heart that was pierced on the Cross.

Study is necessary and useful, but "cursed be the study that leadeth not to love." The priest must never distance himself from the Heart pierced on the Cross; this of course, is why he will offer Holy Mass daily. If a priest is comfortable letting a single day pass without offering the Holy Sacrifice, his priesthood is in danger. He may continue going through the motions for a tIme, but a certain spiritual lifelessness will betray the distance he has taken from his First Love. The faithful will notice it.

Only in this way will we be able to cooperate effectively in the mysterious "plan of the Father" that consists in "making Christ the Heart of the world"! This plan is brought about in history, as Jesus gradually becomes the Heart of human hearts, starting with those who are called to be closest to him: priests, precisely.

Christ is the Heart of the priest's heart. If He is not, other loves will move in to occupy the void.

We are reminded of this ongoing commitment by the "priestly promises" that we made on the day of our Ordination and which we renew every year, on Holy Thursday, during the Chrism Mass. Even our shortcomings, our limitations, and our weaknesses must lead us back to the Heart of Jesus.

Yes, yes. Even our shortcomings, our limitations, and our weaknesses must lead us back to the Heart of Jesus. This is why I practice and recommend frequent -- very frequent Confession. Every Confession is a return to the Heart of Jesus. We priests need to avail ourselves very frequently of the restorative grace of sacramental absolution. It makes an enormous difference in the fruitfulness of our sacred ministry. Weekly? you ask. Yes. Weekly is not too often. I once heard the confession of a saintly Jesuit (!) who approached the sacrament daily with the most touching compunction and humility.

Indeed, if it is true that sinners, in contemplating Him, must learn from Him the necessary "sorrow for sins" that leads them back to the Father, it is even more so for holy ministers. How can we forget, in this regard, that nothing makes the Church, the Body of Christ, suffer more than the sins of her pastors, especially the sins of those who are transformed into "a thief and a robber" of the sheep (Jn 10: 1 ff.), or who deviates from the Church through their own private doctrines, or who ensnare the Church in sin and death?

The sins of priests horribly disfigure the face of the Church, the Bride of Christ. Reparation for the sins of priests is not the unfashionable product of an overheated 19th century piety. It is a compelling call to plunge oneself into the Fire and the Blood. It is the means by which priests themselves are restored to spiritual health, and by which the most the unspeakable damage to souls, caused by the sins of priests, is repaired.

Dear priests, the call to conversion and recourse to Divine Mercy also applies to us, and we must likewise humbly address a heartfelt and ceaseless invocation to the Heart of Jesus to keep us from the terrible risk of harming those whom we are bound to save.

This is phenomenally powerful: "We must likewise humbly address a heartfelt and ceaseless invocation to the Heart of Jesus to keep us from the terrible risk of harming those whom we are bound to save."

I have just had the opportunity to venerate in the Choir Chapel the relic of the Holy Curé d'Ars: his heart. It was a heart that blazed with divine love, that was moved at the thought of the priest's dignity and spoke to the faithful in touching and sublime tones, affirming that "After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is" (cf. Letter, Year for Priests, p. 3).

Sobering and humbling: after God, the priest is everything. If anything should keep us prostrate and faces to the ground before the Blessed Sacrament, it is this, dear Fathers.

Dear Brothers, let us cultivate this same emotion in order to carry out our ministry with generosity and dedication, or to preserve in our souls a true "fear of God": the fear of being able to deprive of so much good, through our negligence or fault, those souls entrusted to us, or God forbid of harming them.

The Holy Father asks us to cultivate the fear of God: the fear of not doing good, the fear of harming souls, the fear of not corresponding to grace.

The Church needs holy priests; ministers who can help the faithful to experience the merciful love of the Lord and who are his convinced witnesses.

Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes the experience of the merciful love of the Sacred Heart. A priest cannot communicate what he has not experienced.

In the Eucharistic Adoration that will follow the celebration of Vespers, let us ask the Lord to set the heart of every priest on fire with that "pastoral charity" which can enable him to assimilate his personal "I" into that Jesus the High Priest, so that he may be able to imitate Jesus in the most complete self-giving.

"The most complete self-giving": this is the victimal or oblative dimension of priesthood. A priest cannot stand at the altar without placing himself on the altar.

Also, a liturgical note: Exposition, adoration, and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament properly follow Vespers. This is the Roman practice. Vespers "coram Sanctissimo" poses the same theological problem as celebrating the Mass of the Catechumens (or Liturgy of the Word) "coram Sanctissimo." It is not something one would do. Pope Pius XII recognized the unsuitableness of it.

Vespers, being a complete Liturgy of the Word (even as it ascends in the sight of the Divine Majesty as a Sacrifice of Praise) calls for its Eucharistic complement in the exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The paradigm remains the "Liturgy of the Word" on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27-32). So moved were the two disciples by Our Lord's revelation of Himself in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, that they pleaded with Him, "Mane nobiscum, Domine -- Stay with us, Lord." He acceded to their prayer, and going in, they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. This is why the centuries old practice of the Roman Church has been to celebrate Vespers first, and then procede to the recognition and adoration of the Lord in the adorable Sacrament of the altar.

May the Virgin Mary, whose Immaculate Heart we shall contemplate with living faith tomorrow, obtain this grace for us. The Holy Curé d'Ars had a filial devotion to her, so profound that in 1836, in anticipation of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he consecrated his parish to Mary, "conceived without sin".

Pope Benedict XVI does not tire of expressing his filial devotion to Our Blessed Lady. Here he relates the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Parishes consecrated to Our Lady's Immaculate Heart thrive and prosper. The Curé d'Ars knew that.

He kept up the practice of frequently renewing this offering of his parish to the Blessed Virgin, teaching the faithful that "to be heard it was enough to address her", for the simple reason that she "desires above all else to see us happy".

How wonderful! The Blessed Virgin desires above all else to see us happy! Happy, of course, in the sense of the Beatitudes preached by her Son. It is a happiness with no alloy of bitterness, satiety, or boredom. It is the bliss of her own Immaculate Heart communicated to the hearts of her children.

May the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, accompany us during the Year for Priests which we are beginning to day, so that we are able to be sound and enlightened guides for the faithful whom the Lord entrusts to our pastoral care. Amen!

And so, the Year for Priests is entrusted to the Blessed Virgin, our Mother! Holy Mary, behold your sons! Sons, behold your Mother.

[Translation Libreria Editrice Vaticana]

The Year of the Priest

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Hosea 11:1.3-4. 8-9
Isaiah 12:2-6
Ephesians 3:8-12. 14-19
John 19:31-37

I preached this evening to the Spiritual Mothers of Priests of the Diocese of Tulsa, gathered for the Mass of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the opening of the Year of the Priest. Here is my homily:

When Israel Was a Child

"Thus says the Lord: When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son" (Hos 11:1). This is the very voice of God pouring out His Heart to us: the story of how every vocation to the holy priesthood began, begins, and will begin until the end of time. The priesthood is not a career one chooses: it is a mystery into which one is called. "You did choose Me," says the Lord, "but I chose you."

Chosen by the Heart of Jesus

Where are life's truest and deepest choices made, if not in the heart? We are created in the image of a God whose divine choices are formed in His Heart and whose designs from age to age reveal that Heart as Love. The call to the priesthood is a choice of the Heart of Jesus. Looking upon a given man, Our Lord sets His Heart upon him and, at length, guides his steps to the altar to enter there into the life-giving Mysteries of the Open Heart.

The Indelible Character of Priesthood

In the context of the Year of the Priest, the First Reading may be heard as the account of a priestly vocation. The names of Israel and Ephraim, designating the Chosen People, also represent every man destined by the Father to bear in his soul the character of the priesthood of the Son, indelibly engraved there by the incandescent incisions of the Holy Spirit.

I Bent Down to Him

"When John -- or Mark -- was child, I loved him, and out of Egypt -- that is to say, out of the world insofar as it is the realm of sin -- I called my son. Yet it was I who taught him to walk; I took him up in my arms. I led him with cords of compassion, with the bands of love, and I became to him as one who raises an infant to his cheeks, and I bent down to him and fed him" (Hos 11:1).

Sin and Grace

There is, of course, the question of sin in the life of one so chosen. How can weaknesses and betrayals be reconciled with the irrevocable choice of God? Once, in prayer a certain priest put this question to Our Lord: "Why didst Thou call me to the priesthood, knowing in advance all my weaknesses, sins, and betrayals of Thy friendship." The Lord answered him, "I saw all the sins that you would commit and these grieved My Heart that so loves you, even as they outraged My Divine Majesty, but I also knew the mercies that my Heart held in store for you and the future full of hope into which My merciful Love would bring you, and this was for My Heart an immense joy. Where sin abounded grace has abounded all the more."

Pleading and Hoping

You, Spiritual Mothers, are called to plead for priests with the Heart of Jesus, believing in their call even when they, in hours of doubt, struggle to believe in it. You are called to obtain for priests, by your intercession, an abiding confidence in the unchanging choice of God, a choice that reveals the Heart of Jesus. This perhaps is why Saint Jean-Marie Vianney said, "The priesthood is the Heart of Jesus." And when the world, the flesh, and the devil conspire to extinguish the flame of hope in the soul of a priest, you must be there to cup your hands around it. Hope on behalf of that priest on the edge of despair until, helped by Our Lady's prayers and by yours, he regains confidence in the mercy of God and begins to breathe freely once again.

The Wounds of Christ

In the Responsorial Psalm we heard these exultant and mysterious words: "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Is 12:3). What are the wells of salvation if not the five glorious wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ: those in His Sacred Hands, in His Sacred Feet, and in His Sacred Side? The joy of the priest, the joy that he communicates to the faithful entrusted to him, the joy that will never fail him or cease to quicken the Church, flows from the wounds of Christ. Where does the priest go to draw the living water of this joy? To the altar. Ancient liturgical tradition prescribes that the mensa of the altar should be engraved with five crosses representing Our Lord's five glorious wounds. So often as the priest ascends to the altar, greeting it with a kiss, he finds himself at the very wellspring of eternal joy.

God Who Giveth Joy to My Youth

You, Spiritual Mothers of Priests, are charged with obtaining for every priest a copious participation in the fresh, ever-youthful joy that flows from the altar. Saint Jean-Marie Vianney said, "How we ought to pity a priest who celebrates as if he were engaged in something routine." Routine is, in fact, the death knell of joy. Pray then that every priest may say in truth, even fifty or more years after his ordination: "Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. I will go in unto the altar of God, unto God who giveth joy to my youth" (Ps 42:4).

The Prayer of the Priest

In the Second Reading, Saint Paul shows us how every priest is to pray for souls entrusted to his spiritual paternity: "For this reason," the Apostle says, "I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph

Partners in Prayer

Spiritual Mothers, you are partners of the priesthood in prayer for the Church. Just as your prayer leans on the prayer of the priest for the Church and relies on it, so too will the priest lean on your prayer for him, knowing that you are praying so that he will persevere in prayer and never lose heart.

Calvary

Finally we come to the Gospel, the very Gospel that we heard on Good Friday. Today, in the light of the Resurrection, Ascension, and outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we return to Calvary with the Virgin Mother of Jesus, with Saint John the Beloved Apostle, and with the other holy women.

The Open Heart

The centurion -- tradition calls him Saint Longinus -- seeing that Jesus was already dead, opened His side with a spear. The verb "opened" is used here designedly": the pierced Side of Jesus is the open door in the ark of salvation. We know that at this moment, John and undoubtedly the Sorrowful Mother were looking on attentively. John calls himself "he who saw it," adding that he speaks as an eyewitness. Then, demonstrating that the thrust of the centurion's lance fulfills Zechariah's ancient prophecy, he adds, "They shall look on Him who they have pierced" (Zech 12:10).

Gazing on the Heart of the Crucified

John gazing at the pierced Heart of Jesus is the image, the prototype, the model of every priest. The priest is a man who lives with the eyes of His heart fixed on the open Heart of Jesus. Therein is the assurance of the eternal love of Christ from which nothing can separate him and those entrusted to his mystical paternity. You, Spiritual Mothers, stand with the Mother of Sorrows and, together with the priest, look on the Heart of Jesus in order to witness to the Blood and the Water that gush from its deep wound.

Into the Sacred Heart

The priest is essentially a man who, in offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, witnesses day after day to the mystery of the Heart of Jesus, opened by the soldier's lance and never closed. Your role, Spiritual Mothers, is not to look at the priest; it is, rather, to look with Him at the pierced Side of Jesus until, by the force of Love's irresistible attraction, the priest, and you with him, are drawn across the threshold of that wound, into the inner sanctuary of the Sacred Heart. This more than anything else will make this Year of the Priest fruitful for our Diocese of Tulsa and for the Church throughout the world.

Cogitationes Cordis Ejus

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The thoughts of His Heart
are to all generations;
He will save their souls from death
and give them to eat in time of famine.
(Psalm 32:11, 19, Introit of the Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus).

To All Generations

The thoughts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are to all generations, touching all, excluding no one. By His death, He rescues us from death; by the mysteries of His Body and Blood, He feeds every hungry heart.

All Priests

On the threshold of this Year of the Priest, we recall that the thoughts of the Heart of Jesus embrace all priests from the first ones assembled with him in the Cenacle on the night before He suffered to those who will welcome Him when he returns in glory.

Beset by Sin and Repaired by Love

What are priests if not weak men beset by sin and repaired by love? The Heart of Jesus sends out his priests for the healing, reconciliation, and restoration of those who, like themselves, stand at every moment in need of mercy. Speaking to a priest, Our Lord said:

"There has never been in all of history a single priest whom I have not destined for a great holiness. My Heart has suffered much because so many of my chosen ones have refused my gifts and, preferring their own ways to mine, gone into the outer darkness where it is night.

My Heart burns to see my priests all ablaze with Eucharistic holiness. The altar is the source of priestly holiness. The kiss given to the altar at the beginning and end of Holy Mass means that the priest recognizes this. By kissing the altar, he makes himself vulnerable to my piercing love. By kissing the altar he opens himself unreservedly to all that I would give him and to all that I hold in the designs of my Heart for his life. The kiss to the altar signifies total abandonment to the priestly holiness that I desire and to the fulfillment of my desires in the soul of my priest.

The holiness to which I call my priests, the holiness to which I am calling you, consists in a total configuration to me as I stand before my Father in the heavenly sanctuary, beyond the veil. Every priest of mine is to be with me both priest and victim in the presence of my Father. Every priest is called to stand before the altar with pierced hands and feet, with his side wounded, and with his head crowned as my head was crowned in my passion. You needn’t fear this configuration to me; it will bring you only peace of heart, joy in the presence of my Father, and that unique intimacy with me that I have, from the night before I suffered, reserved for my priests, my chosen ones, the friends of my Heart."

My Heart Thirsts for You

Mother Marie des Douleurs, writing for priests in the 1930s,
placed these words in the Heart and mouth of Our Lord:

“I have need of this body of priests
who continually will live their Mass,
who will continue my Passion.
My immolation must go on until the end of time;
I must find priests who will hand over to me
their bodies, their souls, their whole being so that in them,
I may be the one whom nearly no one accepts to recognize,
the Crucified.
You whom I have chosen
and marked for this mission glorious above all others,
will you not understand, will you too go away?
My Heart thirsts for you.
Do you not see all the souls torn away from me?
If my priests do not continue me, I am alone and powerless.”

Priests Passionately Loved

Mother's text, like the message of Our Lord to a priest cited above, is almost frightening in its lucidity and crushing in its implications, but it is meant to inspire today in each one a more ardent prayer for all priests, chosen and passionately loved by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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We have crossed the threshold,
not only of Your feast, but also of Your mystery,
O Pierced One.
We have been in pilgrimage to Your Heart.
It was the light of Your Eucharistic Face that drew us on,
compelling us, impelling to seek in its radiance
the wound in Your side.

Now before us lies the door
opened not by the turn of a key
but by the thrust of a lance,
and beyond the door the abode of love.
“He has brought me to the banqueting house,
and is banner over me was love” (Ct 2:4).

We opened our books to First Vespers
and found there not the mere form of words
but the traces of a burning, blazing Word
-- Your Heart --
and beneath the text
embers glowing
waiting to be fanned again into flame
by a mingling of Spirit-Breath with ours,
breath well spent in the chants of Your Church.

The Spirit came again to the help of our weakness,
loosing our tongues for the praise of Love wounded and wounding,
teaching Love’s own language:
strange to those in exile from Your Heart
but now become -- O wonder!--
our native tongue.

Strange and blessed
this language of Your Church,
spilling fire in antiphons
and rivers of light in psalms,
infusing Your prayer, O Christ, Eternal Son, Eternal Priest
-- nothing less than that --
into all of us who know not how to pray as we ought.

Your Heart’s prayer
poured into every aching emptiness of ours.
Your Heart’s song
rising in our silence.
Your Heartbeat
making us bold
by a gift of words not of our making.
And in those words Heart speaks to heart.

In them
Your Heart speaks to the Father;
and the Father’s heart to yours.
In them Your Heart sings to Your Church, Your Bride;
and her heart sings to yours.
This is Love’s exchange,
hidden from the learned and the clever
but revealed to little ones,
splashed like pure water on the lips of children
to delight the Father
and to fall all shining onto the cracked and dusty face
of a world grown old in thirst.

You stood up once
as you stand before us now,
-- it was the last day of the feast, the great day --
and cried out, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink;
out of His heart shall flow rivers of living water” (cf. Jn 7:37-38).
You said this about the Spirit
that blazes from Your face --
and rushes from Your open side
in water and in blood.

Where is the heart held aloft,
the heart become a chalice to catch the torrent in its flow?
Where are hands to press that chalice
to the lips of those who, with weary step,
return from empty cisterns?
My heart?
For this I give it
and for this I give my hands.
My heart to cup the flow of love,
my hands to tip the chalice.

It is Your Face, O Christ, that we came seeking,
the Face that sought us first,
Your Eucharistic Face seen now as through a glass darkly,
a polished monstrance crystal cut by faith.
And we all, with unveiled face,
beholding Your glory veiled here,
are being changed into Your likeness (cf. 2 Cor 3:18)
and drawn beyond the threshold wound,
Your Heart’s pierced portal.
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.” (Ct 2:13-14).

It is time for us to be like the nesting dove
time for us to spread our wings
and, lifted by the Spirit, to hide in the cleft of the rock.
There, “they shall hunger no more,
neither thirst any more;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat” (Rev 7:16).
Pass through the narrow gate.

Apostle of the Sacred Heart,
sent out from that secret place,
be a dove made white in the Blood,
and like the dove, after every mission far-flung or near
to it return to be silent and adore.

Adorers of the Sacred Heart
we will all of us be in the end
for adoration will have the last word
as it must have the first.
“The hour is coming and now is,
when the true adorers shall adore the Father
in spirit and in truth,
for such the Father seeks to adore Him” (Jn 4:23).

Adoration then will be the only word,
an ocean of light dissolving every other discourse
and bathing a broken world
in the healing water and the cleansing blood.
“And He who sat upon the throne said,
'Behold, I make all things new’” (Rev 21:5).

“And they shall see His face,
and His name shall be on their foreheads.
And night shall be no more;
they need no light of lamp or sun,
for the Lord God will be their light” (Rev 22:4-5).
O Eucharist, Sun of Life,
radiating the Heart’s flame of fire!
O Host burning and yet not consumed!

“And Moses hid his face,
for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex 3:6)?
Gentle Christ, humble hidden Bread,
to look at you is all refreshment.
Irresistible God.

“After this I looked,
and lo, in the heaven an open door!
And the voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said,
'Come up hither’” (Rev 4:1).

And I looked and looked
and looked at Him whom they have pierced (cf. Zech 12:10).
“And the angel who talked with me came again,
and waked me, like a man that is wakened out of his sleep.
And he said to me, 'What do you see?’” (Zech 4:1-2).
“A Eucharistic Face,” I said,
“and an Open Heart.”

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This lengthy entry is not entirely new, but it does contain some new autobiographical elements. I decided to share with you, dear readers, the development of my call to live under the Rule of Saint Benedict, in Eucharistic adoration, while offering spiritual support to my brother priests and deacons here in the Diocese of Tulsa.

A continuity with the earliest glimmers of my Benedictine vocation is evident to those who have learned to read events -- even when they are marked by suffering, twists, and uncertainties -- with the eyes of the heart. There is much here that I would have preferred to keep as "the secret of the King," but there are also details that may well redound to His glory and, at the same time, respond to the queries and (not always accurate) speculations of those who want to know the details of my mission as it unfolds.

The Beginning of a Friendship

How did I first come to know Marie-Adèle Garnier? (See the previous entry for details about her life.) I was introduced to her by Blessed Columba Marmion! In order to reconstruct the genesis of our “friendship” -- for one can have a friendship with the saints in heaven -- I must return to my first exposure to monastic life in 1969.

Young Men and the Books They Read

I discovered Abbot Columba Marmion’s writings when I was fifteen years old. I was visiting Saint Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. Father Marius Granato, O.C.S.O., charged at that time with helping young men -- even very young men -- seek God, put Christ, the Ideal of the Monk into my hands. He even let me take the precious green-covered volume home with me. With all the ardour of my fifteen years I devoured it. No book had ever spoken to my heart in quite the same way.

My Spiritual Father

I read and re-read Christ, the Ideal of the Monk. At fifteen one is profoundly marked by what one reads. The impressions made on a soul at that age determine the course of one’s life. As I pursued my desire to seek God, I relied on Dom Marmion. I chose him not only as my monastic patron, but also as my spiritual father, my intercessor, and my guide.

Dom Denis Huerre, O.S.B., in his biography of Père Muard, the founder of the Abbey of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire, discusses Père Muard's extraordinary spiritual kinship with Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. (She is, in fact, the secondary patron of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire.) Dom Denis concludes that it is not we who choose the particular saints with whom we desire to cultivate a special friendship; it is, rather, these particular saints who choose us. This, I am convinced is part of God's plan for the holiness of each one.

Spiritual Affinities

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I became an avid reader of everything written by or about Abbot Marmion. In one of these books I encountered Marie-Adèle Garnier, Mother Mary of St. Peter, the foundress of the Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Tyburn, O.S.B. The little bit I read about her was very compelling: her focus on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and on adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist, her love of the Mass and the Divine Office, and her profound attachment to the Church. We were, without any doubt, united by a certain spiritual affinity.

Dom Marmion's Letters

Blessed Marmion's Letters of Spiritual Direction, edited by Dom Raymond Thibaut under the title Union With God, contain several pages of the Abbot's correspondance with Mother Mary of St. Peter. Among other things, Dom Marmion wrote:

"The very real imperfections which you confess to me do not make me doubt the reality of the grace you receive. God is the Supreme Master, and He leaves you these weaknesses in order that you may see that these great graces do not come from you, and are not granted to you on account of your virtues, but on account of your misery. You are a member of Jesus Christ, and the Father truly gives to His Son what He gives to His weak and miserable member. Do not be astonished, do not be discouraged when you fall into a fault, but draw from the Heart of your Spouse -- for all His riches are yours -- the grace and virtue that are wanting to you."

Saint Luke Kirby and Mother St. Thomas More Wakerley

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In 1972, during my frightfully precocious initial experience of traditional Benedictine life, I wrote to the Tyburn Benedictines for the first time. (In photos from that period I am a very thin bespectacled 20 year old, looking rather like a young Pius XII in a Benedictine habit!) My purpose in writing to Tyburn was to learn more about Mother Mary of St. Peter, and also to request information on Saint Luke Kirby, one of the Tyburn martyrs whose surname I bear. I received a lovely reply written in what appeared to be a frail and trembling hand: a letter from Mother M. St. Thomas More Wakerley. Mother St. Thomas More sent me the information I had requested on Saint Luke Kirby as well as the red-covered biography of Mother Mary of St. Peter by Dom Bede Camm, O.S.B. The book was re-edited in 2006 by Saint Michael's Abbey Press.

Friends of the Sacred Heart

I read and re-read the book, finding that Marie-Adèle Garnier and I moved, so to speak, within the same constellation of mysteries: the Heart of Jesus, the Eucharist, the Sacred Liturgy, the Priesthood, and the Church. Blessed Abbot Marmion’s writings continued to nourish me, as did those of Saint Gertrude the Great and other Benedictine and Cistercian friends of the Sacred Heart. Dom Ursmer de Berlière’s book (in the “Pax” Collection) on the Sacred Heart within the monastic tradition added kindling to the fire. At about the same time, I read the life of other Benedictine mystics of the Sacred Heart: among them were Père Jean-Baptiste Muard, founder of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire, Mère Jeanne Deleloë, and Blessed Giovanna Bonomo.

Stability in the Heart of Jesus

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In 1975, having wisely taken time out from the cloister, I made a pilgrimage to the cradle of Benedictine life at Subiaco. There I met a wise old monk who had been Master of Novices at La-Pierre-Qui-Vire. When I asked him for counsel concerning my monastic journey, he said to me, “Frère, tu dois faire ta stabilité dans le Coeur de Jésus -- Brother, you must make your stability in the Heart of Jesus.” These words were to sustain me in the years ahead. I know that Marie-Adèle Garnier would have understood them perfectly.

The Open Heart of Jesus Crucified

On August 4, 1979, together with Father Jacob, now a Dominican, and another brother, now a Franciscan, I went on pilgrimage to Montmartre in Paris. There, in the crypt of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, at the altar of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and trusting in her intercession, we consecrated ourselves to the Heart of Jesus and to His designs on our life. Within me the desire was growing for a simple Benedictine life, characterized by the worthy celebration of the Divine Office and by adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist. The wounded Side of Our Lord exercised a supernatural power of attraction over me. The text of our Act of Consecration was printed on a leaflet with a drawing depicting a monk being drawn to the open Heart of Jesus Crucified. The attraction to the pierced Heart of Jesus and to His Holy Face was constant and undeniable.

Life Together

For several years I lived with Father Jacob and others in a small monastic community where, every evening after Vespers, we had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In the end it was decided that we should be absorbed by the monastery that was sponsoring and guiding us: the Cistercian Abbey of Notre Dame de Nazareth in Rougemont, Québec. It was a painful detachment for all concerned. Again, Mother Mary of St. Peter would have understood.

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I am preparing for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by repeating each day the Prayer of Forgiveness and Reparation that Our Lord inspired me to write several years ago. This is not a prayer that one says once and for all; it bears repeating in the changing circumstances of life simply because it is a response of obedience to Our Lord's commands in the Gospel. A psychologist to whom this prayer was presented said that if his clients said this prayer sincerely and from the heart, he would effectively find himself out of business.

Many people have made this prayer their own and experienced the healing and blessings that begin to flow when one takes to heart Our Lord's command that we are to pray for those who persecute us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who abuse us. Is not this kind of prayer integral to true devotion to the Sacred Heart?

Prayer of Forgiveness and Reparation

Lord Jesus Christ,
Who revealed the infinite mercy of Your Sacred Heart
in saying: "Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt 5:44)
and again, "Bless those who curse you,
pray for those who abuse you" (Lk 6:28),
give me, I beseech You,
grace to obey these commandments of yours,
and to persevere in praying daily
for those who, in any way,
have abused, cursed, hurt, or rejected me.

I pray for those who hate me,
for those who resent me
and for those who have spoken ill of me.
I beg you to bless them abundantly
and to pour into their hearts
such a profusion of healing mercies
that in them and around them
love will triumph over hatred,
friendship over resentment,
sweetness over bitterness,
meekness over anger,
and peace over enmity.
I further ask you to extend these graces
to their families and to all whom they hold dear.

In particular, I pray today for N. (and N.).
I present him/her/them
to Your Eucharistic Face,
asking You to envelop him/her/them in Its healing radiance,
dispelling whatever shadows of sin
may have darkened his/her/their mind(s)
or hardened his/her their heart(s)
in anger, hatred, or the refusal to forgive.

For my part,
with deep sorrow I confess
that I have sinned grievously against others,
causing them pain and even endangering their souls.
I pray you, O Merciful Jesus, to repair the evil I have done to others
and to heal the hurt I have inflicted on them.
In particular, I acknowledge my sins against N. (and N.)
imploring You to heal and repair the harm I have done him/her/them.

I ask you so to penetrate my heart
with the charity of Your Pierced Heart
that I will be able to forgive
those who have offended me,
to love them sincerely,
and to desire for them all that will contribute to their true happiness in this life and in the next.

By means of a permanent intention,
I desire to renew this prayer
in every offering of Your Holy Sacrifice.
Let the light of Your Eucharistic Face
shine in the hearts of all who harbour
hatred or resentment toward me,
to bring them healing and peace.
Let Your Precious Blood
triumph over evil
in those against whom I have sinned
and in those who have sinned against me,
so that, delivered from the shadows
of this valley of tears,
we may one day praise Your Mercy together
in the sweetness of a boundless charity.
Amen.


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I am very blessed to have been born in the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Today, June 2, is my 57th birthday and the 6th birthday of my nephew Michael Colin Kirby. I am in New Hampshire with my brother and his family at the moment and will be returning to Tulsa tomorrow. When Michael Colin, a child of the sea and surf, was asked what he would like for his birthday supper, he replied, "Lobster and steamers!"

I will try during the month of June to continue the meditations on the Litany of the Sacred Heart that I began two years ago. They can be found in the Sacred Heart archives of Vultus Christi.

One of my favourite prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is this one, written by Cardinal Newman. It is as theologically precise as it is tenderly human. I am especially moved by Newman's allusion to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus: "Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist and thou beatest for us still."

My God, my Saviour, I adore Thy Sacred Heart,
for that heart is the seat and source
of all Thy tenderest human affections for us sinners.
It is the instrument and organ of Thy love.
It did beat for us. It yearned over us.
It ached for us, and for our salvation.
It was on fire through zeal, that the glory of God might be manifested in and by us.
It is the channel through which has come to us all Thy overflowing human affection,
all Thy Divine Charity towards us.
All Thy incomprehensible compassion for us, as God and Man, as our Creator and our Redeemer and Judge, has come to us, and comes,
in one inseparably mingled stream, through that Sacred Heart.
O most Sacred symbol and Sacrament of Love, divine and human, in its fulness,
Thou didst save me by Thy divine strength, and Thy human affection,
and then at length by that wonder-working blood, wherewith Thou didst overflow.
O most Sacred, most loving Heart of Jesus,
Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and Thou beatest for us still.
Now as then Thou savest,
Desiderio desideravi--"With desire I have desired."
I worship Thee then with all my best love and awe,
with my fervent affection, with my most subdued, most resolved will.
O my God, when Thou dost condescend to suffer me to receive Thee,
to eat and drink Thee, and Thou for a while takest up Thy abode within me,
O make my heart beat with Thy Heart.
Purify it of all that is earthly, all that is proud and sensual,
all that is hard and cruel, of all perversity, of all disorder, of all deadness.
So fill it with Thee, that neither the events of the day
nor the circumstances of the time may have power to ruffle it,
but that in Thy love and Thy fear it may have peace.

The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman

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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