The Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart |
by Father Joseph McDonnell, S.J.
Reprinted with permission of Catholic Family News, see Editor's Notes below.
A royal gift coming straight from the Sacred Heart of the Redeemer and a touching testimony of His boundless love for us, the Promises which we are about to examine in detail are such as to arouse in us, if anything be capable of doing so, a deep appreciation of Our Blessed Savior's love for us, and a tender devotion to His Sacred Heart. Buried as we are in self, we are all largely influenced by the prosper of personal advantage. Hence, however wanting we may be in love of God, the conviction that devotion to the Sacred Heart carries with it very important and exceptional personal blessings and advantages, both spiritual and temporal, is likely to prove a very strong incentive to its practice.
For this reason it. is clearly useful for us to make a special study of the Promises of the Sacred Heart, with a view to having a more intimate knowledge of their meaning, and a higher appreciation of their great value and importance.
Therefore with a humble prayer to Jesus Christ to enlighten our minds, and a spirit of gratitude to Him for His excessive goodness, we approach the consideration of the Promises that He has made to those who practice devotion to His Sacred Heart.
The first of these Promises, given in the formula now in common use among the faithful, runs as follows: "I will give them all the graces necessary, for their state. "
There are two kinds of grace: habitual grace and actual grace. Habitual or sanctifying grace is that supernatural quality in the soul which makes us the friends of God, the brothers and co-heirs of Christ, and the inheritors of His Heavenly kingdom. Actual grace is of a transient nature; it means light to the mind and inclination to the will, given us in the various details of life, to enable us to avoid evil and do good, and to fulfill the various duties of our daily lives. It is of grace taken in this latter sense that there is question in this Promise.
Again, actual graces may be of two kinds. There are the ordinary graces which are absolutely essential to salvation, and which are within the reach of all. Above and beyond these are the extraordinary and exceptional graces which are usually given only to God's special friends.
Prayer and the Sacraments are the normal channels of God's grace. Christ has promised to us: "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you" [Matthew 7:7].
Nevertheless, according to the circumstances that surround them, some prayers have greater efficacy than others. The official prayers of the Church are more efficacious than those we offer up in private. Prayer in common has more power than individual prayer. Prayer inspired by the love of God, by zeal or by obedience to superiors is, ordinarily speaking, more powerful than prayer inspired by some lower motion of self-interest. And so of other exercises of devotion partaking of the character of prayer.
Now among these various exercises of devotion there is one that stands forth notably pre-eminent among the rest. It is devotion to the Sacred Heart.
I shall not delay the reader to point out at length the sources of this pre-eminence. They may be summed up in this, that devotion to the Sacred Heart touches Our Blessed Lord, as it were, in His most vulnerable point ---- His love. It is an appeal, resting on the sweet command of Jesus Christ Himself, to the boundless, everlasting love that burns with such irresistible and quenchless ardor in the glowing furnace of His Sacred Heart. In this one fact we have an all-sufficient explanation of the marvelous efficacy of devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Thus, like the fully ripened fruit that needs but the slightest touch to make it drop into your hands, the precious graces treasured up abundantly within the Sacred Heart require but the faintest touch of prayer to make them fall in golden harvest of rich spiritual gifts upon the soul.
Let us hear the Blessed [Saint] Margaret Mary Alacoque on this point:
"The Heart of Jesus," she says, "contains the treasures of grace, and it is the Savior's Will to pour them forth on men through the medium of devotion to this Sacred Heart." And again: "The treasures of grace and benediction that this Sacred Heart contains are infinite. I do not know that there is any other exercise of devotion in the Spiritual life more calculated to raise a soul in a short time to the highest perfection and thus enable it to taste the genuine delights that may be found in the service of Jesus Christ."
The graces that help us to discharge our daily duties are most precious. These duties of our daily lives are numerous and often difficult. They differ widely, according to the various states of life. There are the daily duties of a father, a mother, of brothers and sisters, of masters and servants, of priests, of religious, of secular persons, of all the grades of social life ---- the laborer, the tradesman, the farmer, the soldier, the sailor, the businessman or woman, the various professions and walks of life; each has its own peculiar duties and difficulties and responsibilities, its own peculiar sorrows, temptations, and joys.
This first Promise is to the duties of our daily lives what oil is to the machine. Its effect will be to make the wheels of life run smooth, to enable us to discharge the duties of our state of life with facility, with ease, with pleasure.
For as we all know, only too well, from experience, the round of duties that constitutes our ordinary daily life is liable to grow, at times, monotonous and irksome. This may even give rise to a certain feeling of disgust and weariness. We may be tempted to grow careless and neglectful in our daily duties, or it may be even to shirk them or at least discharge them without taking any interest or making any proper effort in our work. It is hard indeed, not to say impossible, to do work efficiently and be painstaking and persevering when we take no natural interest in our occupation. Perseverance in such uphill toil, if long continued and unsweetened by any natural consolation, is beyond the reach of most persons.
Here it is precisely that the graces of the Sacred Heart, set forth in this first Promise, come to our assistance. They lighten the labors and sweeten the toils of daily life. They give facility and ease in the accomplishment of daily tasks. They attach people to their work and give them even a natural interest in it. They infuse energy and vigor into weary hands and minds, inspire hope into the discouraged and dispirited, infuse the oil of consolation into crushed and sorrowing hearts. The husband will get grace to fulfill efficiently and easily his duties towards his Wife, his children and his home. The wife will be enabled to rear her children as she ought, to live in loving union with her husband, to discharge her duties to her family, to be the light and comfort of the home. The children will be docile and obedient and respectful to their parents, industrious in their work and faithful in their religious duties.
Thus the entire family will be happy under the grace and blessing of the Sacred Heart. "As for persons of the world," writes Blessed Margaret Mary, "They will receive, through means of this most admirable devotion, all the graces necessary for their state. That is to say peace in their families, alleviation in their toils, the blessing of Heaven on their enterprises, consolation in their sorrows. And it is especially in this Sacred Heart that they will find a place of refuge during their entire life and particularly at the hour of death."
And as for those who un religious life have sought the higher way and strive to follow closely in the footsteps of the Master, "these souls," says Blessed Margaret Mary, "will draw from this devotion so much help and strength that no other means will be required to re-establish primitive fervor and the most exact observance even in the most relaxed communities, and to raise to the highest sanctity such as are already living in exact observance."
In time, the priest, and those who, like him labor to bring souls to God, will receive through this devotion very special help and blessing on their sacred work. "My Divine Savior gave me to understand," writes Blessed margaret Mary, "that those who labor for the salvation of souls shall have the art of touching the most hardened hearts, and shall labor with marvelous success, if they are themselves penetrated with a tender devotion to the Sacred Heart."
In the same way each individual state and condition will receive the helps and graces necessary for itself. Gladness and interior joy, "the peace that surpasseth all understanding," and that springs from a good conscience and a holy life, and from the indwelling of God's sanctifying grace within the soul, will make sweet music in the heart, and will so render it impervious to the shafts of sorrow and affliction that they will never reach below the surface of our being. In short, a holy life, the preparation for a happy death and everlasting bliss, will be the fruit of this first Promise of the Sacred Heart.
Next Issue: Part Three.
EDITOR'S NOTES: Since this site is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we are presenting the Meditations and Commentary first written by Father Joseph McDonnell, S.J. during the pontificate of Pope Saint Pius X. We have received the gracious permission of John Vennari, editor of Catholic Family News to reprint the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart in The DAILY CATHOLIC. We urge you to subscribe to John's excellent monthly publication for only $20 a year by calling 1-905-871-6292 or e-mail them at CFN.
The book by Fr. McDonnell has been a favorite of countless Catholics over the decades, and CFN gives it the highest praise, "especially because of the author's erudition in weaving solid doctrinal considerations into his spiritual commentaries. The work is as much a catechism as it is a book of meditations. It continually instructs and uplifts. We pray this series serves as an incentive for more people to practice the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus." We echo our 'Amen' to that and thank John and his publication for allowing us to publish this outstanding work in installments each issue. The one in this issue is reprinted from the January 2001 issue of Catholic Family News.
For past installments , see Archives of The Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart
For the List of Promises given to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, see Twelve Promises
December 10-16, 2001
volume 12, no. 160
THE TWELVE PROMISES OF THE SACRED HEART