- Luke 17:5-10, We have done what we are obliged to do, what we are called to do.
Catholic Social Teaching:
How do we respond to the negative reactions we might encounter when we uphold our Catholic Social Teachings? Our rootedness in God’s love, and our call to holiness enables us to respond to the challenges of social justice for all. Through the Beatitudes, God promises the fullness of life as together we build a transformed global community.
Saint of the Month:
St. Margaret Mary
Every liturgical year on the third Friday following the great feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The heart has always represented the whole person, and the heart of Jesus is the symbol of his eternal love for us. The solemnity is our opportunity to acknowledge his love and offer repentance for the times when we have ignored his affection. It was a young nun named Margaret Mary Alacoque of the Visitation order at Paray-le-Monial, France, who would become Jesus’ conduit to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart throughout the Roman Church. This is an ancient devotion that began when the Roman soldier stuck his spear into the side of our crucified savior and God’s grace, in the form of water and blood, flowed from his side, from his heart. Saints, theologians, writers and individuals have long recognized the Sacred Heart as the source of endless blessings, mercy and love. But for centuries it was mostly a personal devotion. In the 17th century, Catholicism was under attack from the spread of Protestantism and the heretical beliefs of Jansenism. The Jansenists, who were Catholics, claimed that only a chosen few people would reach heaven and that God was to be feared. They degraded the humanity of Jesus, including his heart, and wanted the Church to return to rigorous penances of the past. Both Protestantism and Jansenism impacted the fervor the faithful had for many Church teachings, including devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Jesus would confront this falling away through Sister Margaret Mary.
Beginning in 1673 and over a period of more than 18 months, Sister Margaret Mary claimed to have received visions during which our Lord Jesus displayed his Sacred Heart as the symbol of his love for mankind and told Sister Margaret Mary that she was to be his instrument to spread a universal devotion to his divine heart.
In one vision, Jesus appeared with his “divine heart, enthroned, as it were, in flames, was surrounded by a crown of thorns, and the wound it had received was still open, while a cross more brilliant than the sun, surmounted all” (“The Beauties of the Catholic Church,” F.J. Shadler).
According to Margaret Mary, Jesus told her that despite loving mankind so much that he gave his life for them, he was being treated with irreverence, coldness and ingratitude. He wanted the world to recognize the love he continually poured out for them symbolized by his Sacred Heart and for mankind to make amends for their ingratitude.
He urged Sister Margaret Mary to begin a personal devotion to his divine heart by receiving Holy Communion every first Friday and spending an hour in prayer the night before, both focused on seeking his pardon and making prayerful reparations for mankind’s desertion of his love.
In another vision, Jesus asked her to establish a Church feast day to honor his Sacred Heart, one to be held on the third Friday following Pentecost. On that day, those faithful to Jesus would attend Mass, receive Holy Communion, profess their love and offer reparations for the way he had been insulted by mankind. These visions are the basis for the first Friday devotions and the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we have today. The love and compassion of Jesus’ heart dispels the heresies of Jansenism.
When Margaret Mary first attempted to explain the visions, many around her were skeptical. It was St. Claude de la Colombiere, her spiritual adviser, who recognized the holiness, fervor and sincerity of Margaret Mary. Even when she was believed, as a cloistered nun there was little she could do to foster her visions outside of her order. Thus it was St. Colombiere, along with St. John Eudes, who would continue promoting a Sacred Heart feast day to the faithful and to the Holy See. Pope Pius XII (r. 1939-58), in his encyclical Haurietis Aquas, wrote: “The most distinguished place among those who have fostered this most excellent type of devotion [Sacred Heart] is held by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who, under the spiritual direction of Blessed Claude de la Colombiere who assisted her work, was on fire with an unusual zeal to see to it that the real meaning of the devotion which had had such extensive developments to the great edification of the faithful should be established and be distinguished from other forms of Christian piety by the special qualities of love and reparation” (No. 95).
Universal approval eventually came from the Vatican in August 1856 during the reign of Pope Pius IX (r. 1846-78). In 1899, Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903), encouraged by Catholics around the world, consecrated the human race to the Sacred Heart. In our time, the devotion is celebrated every first Friday Mass, and the solemnity is part of the Church liturgical calendar. The devotion is acknowledged through numerous prayers and depicted in thousands of images, including the image of Our Lord holding his flaming compassionate and merciful heart. Many homes are consecrated to the Sacred Heart. During Eucharistic adoration we revere the Sacred Heart in our Benediction prayers: “May the heart of Jesus, in the most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored and loved with grateful affection, at every moment in all the tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time.”
Margaret Mary died in 1690 and was canonized in 1920. Some argue that, like in the 17th century, our fervor for the Sacred Heart is again waning today. Turning to the visions and words of Margaret Mary, once again we can rally to this symbol, this source of Christ’s love.
Call to Holiness Review
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