My Prayer

Jumping into the Sacred Heart

Jesus loves you. We’ve all heard the phrase, but, sometimes, it is used so often that it starts to sound tired and cliché when you hear it – maybe even a little corny or trite at times. I think this happens when we allow ourselves to forget what this simple saying really means for us. It happens when we forget how Jesus really walked among us. It happens when we forget how Jesus really suffered and died for us. And, it happens when we forget how Jesus rose again. Seriously – Jesus really does love you. This isn’t just a nice idea that we tell ourselves. It’s true. That being said, we should all try to do a better job of remembering what that really means for us. One good way to do this is to consider taking up a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is a widespread devotion that has a long history in the Church, so you’d certainly be in good company with this one.

Origins of the Devotion

But, before I get into the specifics of what a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is, it might be good to have an idea of where it came from first. Although it was common to practice varying forms of this devotion starting around the 11th century, it exploded in popularity around the 17th century and was given an official feast day in 1856 by Pope Pius IX. This sudden rise in popularity was mostly because of a humble French nun named Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Margaret Mary experienced several visions of Jesus during her life. In these visions, she was tenderly encouraged by Jesus to spread word of His goodness and love to all. Jesus told her that humanity needed to take better advantage of this love by receiving the Eucharist regularly, displaying images of His Sacred Heart, doing penance and making reparations, and attending Mass on the first Friday of the month for nine months in a row (kind of like a long, extended novena). Jesus promised that anyone deciding to take Him up on this offer, would be encouraged in their faith and experience peace, blessings, comfort, and grace throughout the rest of their lives.

If you haven’t seen a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is commonly depicted with Jesus exposing His human heart for all to see. This exposed heart is usually shown as being wounded, with a crown of thorns wrapped around it, and having tongues of fire bursting forth from it. The heart, as you know, is a universal symbol for love. The wounds and crown of thorns present on it are solemn reminders of the agony that Jesus endured for us on the cross. Meanwhile, the flames show how passionate and all-consuming the love that He holds for humanity is. Once you see an image like this and explore the symbolism within it, you can definitely begin to understand how a devotion to something like this might make it hard to forget how real and authentic Jesus’ love for us is.

Diving In

Luckily, this devotion isn’t a difficult one to get into, so I’d highly encourage diving in. You don’t really need special tools or need to read any long books. For starters, just try to find a picture or prayer card of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to display somewhere in your room, home, or workplace. These are available pretty widely online and a lot of Catholic bookstores carry them too. If this isn’t possible for you, maybe you can try setting it as the background image on your phone. Not only would it help you recall Jesus’ love for you each day, but it might also bring up some interesting conversations with people in your daily life who happen to see it. Plus, if this happens, you’d have a chance to be like Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and spread the news of Jesus’ goodness to others.

As far as penance and reparation go, there are plenty of options available. You could do an examination of conscience followed by an act of contrition, make a trip to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or maybe you could even abstain from meat on Fridays even though it isn’t Lent. Regardless of what you might choose to do, the main idea is to let Jesus know that you are sorry for sins that you have committed and to do things to that show that you mean it and want to make up for them.

Attending Mass for the first Friday for nine months in a row might be a little more challenging with work, school, and limited Mass options, but might be easier if you can get a friend or family member to commit to doing it with you. Some parishes actually encourage their members to do this together as a church function. If your parish doesn’t do this, perhaps you could encourage them to start. That way you can all get holier together and hold each other accountable when it might be tempting to bail out during a particularly busy week. For extra help, go ahead and mark your calendar (or set reminders on your phone) for the nine dates that you want to attend Mass on. That’ll make it harder to forget and easier to make your plans around.

And, while you’ve got your calendar out, be sure to mark it for June 28th this year. That is the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mass that day would be a perfect way to celebrate, but, if that isn’t doable because it’s on a Friday, you can take some extra time out of your day to pray, reflect on how much Jesus loves you, or maybe even dedicate yourself to the Sacred Heart by praying the words of Saint Mary Margaret Alcoque,

To the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I give myself and consecrate to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, my person and my life, my actions, pains and sufferings, so that I may be unwilling to make use of any part of my being other than to honor, love and glorify the Sacred Heart. This is my unchanging purpose, namely, to be all His, and to do all things for the love of Him, at the same time renouncing with all my heart whatever is displeasing to Him. I therefore take You, O Sacred Heart, to be the only object of my love, the guardian of my life, my assurance of salvation, the remedy of my weakness and inconstancy, the atonement for all the faults of my life and my sure refuge at the hour of death.

Be then, O Heart of goodness, my justification before God the Father, and turn away from me the strokes of his righteous anger. O Heart of love, I put all my confidence in You, for I fear everything from my own wickedness and frailty, but I hope for all things from Your goodness and bounty.
Remove from me all that can displease You or resist Your holy will; let your pure love imprint Your image so deeply upon my heart, that I shall never be able to forget You or to be separated from You.

May I obtain from all Your loving kindness the grace of having my name written in Your Heart, for in You I desire to place all my happiness and glory, living and dying in bondage to You. Amen.

About the Author

Trenton Mattingly

I'm from Kentucky and am adamant that it is the best state. I'm really into Catholic theology, angry rock music, and libraries but (mostly) not at the same time. I was once called a bad influence for helping teach a Franciscan friar how to skateboard and am pretty bummed that there isn't a St. Trenton, but hope to change that one day.