December 3-9, 2001
volume 12, no. 159

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.
Part One

    A remarkable and distinctive feature of devotion to the Sacred Heart lies in the fact that Our Lord has, according to the testimony of Blessed [Saint] Margaret Mary Alacoque, promised very special rewards and graces to those who practice it. These favors are summed up in what are popularly known as the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart. These "Promises" are derived from the writings of Blessed Margaret Mary.

Early French Formula

    In the original formula, as first published by permission of the Diocesan authorities of Autun in France, the number of the Promises was eight. This document, with all the necessary references, contains the "Promises" in the exact form in which they were written down [in French, of course] by Blessed Margaret Mary herself. They are valuable as having been authenticated, if not actually drawn up, by the authorities of the Diocese in which Blessed Margaret Mary lived. I am unable to assign their exact date, but it is not improbable that they belong to a period not far removed from that of Blessed Margaret Mary's own lifetime. The reader will not be surprised to find that they differ, in greater or less degree, from the texts I have cited in the footnotes to the various Promises. The explanation is that the same Promise is often found under various forms in different parts of Margaret Mary's writings. The following is a pretty accurate translation of this earlier French formula:

1. In behalf of those who labor for the salvation of souls. "My Divine Savior gave me to understand 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 His Sacred Heart."

2. In behalf of Communities. "He has promised me . . . that He will pour forth the sweet unction of His ardent charity on those communities who honor Him and place themselves under His special protection; moreover, that He will turn away from them all the shafts of Divine justice in order to restore them to the state of grace, whenever they have fallen from it."

3. In behalf of people of the world. "As for people of the world, they will, through the means of this admirable devotion, secure for themselves all the help necessary for their state, that is to say, peace in the family, alleviation of their toils, the blessing of Heaven on all their undertakings, 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 their death."

4. In behalf of dwellings in which the image of the Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored. " . . . Assuring me that he took a singular pleasure in being honored under the figure of this heart of flesh, whose image He wished to have exposed in public, in order, as He added, by means of this object to touch the unfeeling hearts of men; promising me that He would pour in abundance into the hearts of all who honored It all the gifts of which It is full; and that wherever this image should be exposed and specially honored, it would draw down all sorts of blessings on the place."

5. Promise of grace to those who consecrate themselves to Him. "I find myself, as it were, completely lost in this Divine Heart, if I mistake not, as in a fathomless abyss, wherein He discovers to me treasures of love and grace reserved for those who consecrate and devote themselves to the task of rendering and procuring Him all the honor, love and glory in their power."

6. Promise of salvation to all those who are specially consecrated and dedicated to Him. "He then assured me that the pleasure He takes in being loved, known and honored by His creatures is so great, that, if I mistake not, (1) 1. This expression, "if I mistake not---- se je ne me trompe," is very frequently used by Blessed Margaret Mary, not as indicating any doubt on her part, but as having been enjoined on her by her superior, Mother Greyfié, and as the natural outcome of her own profound humility. See also Commentary on Promise, further on, answer to 6th objection. He promised me that no one who has specially dedicated and consecrated Himself to Him will ever perish."

7. Promise of a happy death to such as go to Communion on the nine first Fridays of consecutive months. "One Friday, during Holy Communion, if she is not mistaken, He addressed these words to His unworthy slave: 'I promise thee, in the excess of the mercy of My heart, that Its all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Communion on the nine first Fridays of consecutive months the final grace of repentance; they shall not die under My displeasure nor without receiving their sacraments, (2) 2. "Its ne mourront point . . . rerçevoir leurs sacrements." Obviously, this does not necessarily imply the reception of what are called "the Last Sacraments," in cases where they are not needed. For such persons their Confession and Communion were "Last Sacraments." See also Commentary on 12th Promise, answer to 2nd objection. My Divine Heart becoming their assured refuge at that moment.' "

8. Promise of the reign of the Sacred Heart. "Fear nothing, I will reign in spite of My enemies and of those who endeavor to oppose me. This Sacred Heart will reign in spite of Satan and of all those whom he raises up to oppose it."

    "She heard Him repeating these words to her: 'Heaven and earth shall pass away but My words shall not fail.' "

    In these Promises it is worth while noticing that what is popularly known as the "Twelfth Promise," or the "Great Promise," is very explicitly set forth, and in the exact words in which it is found in our modern formula.

    Moreover it is the only Promise which is found in exactly the same words in both formula. This fad alone may serve to give pause to those hyper-skeptical or incredulous persons who venture to dispute its authenticity. (3) 3. See Commentary on the 12th Promise, answer to 1st objection. It is not my purpose, here, to offer an explanation of the theological difficulties which it appears to present to certain minds. This I shall endeavor to do when treating of this Promise in particular. All I am concerned with at present is to show that the so-called Twelfth Promise is a perfectly authentic transcript from the writings of the Blessed Margaret Mary.

    On comparing the modern with the Autun formula of Promises it will be found that our Promises 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are contained in No. 3 of the French formula. Our No. 6 is not explicitly contained in the Autun list, except as regards religious who are explicitly mentioned in No. 2. Our Nos. 7 and 8 are found, at least implicitly, in No. 4; No. 9 on our list is very clearly expressed in No. 4 of the Autun list. Our No. 10 is found explicitly in No. 1. Our No. 11 is at least closely connected with No. 6 of the French list. Finally, our No. 12 is identical with No.7 of the French formula. This, as I have said, is the only Promise in the modern list which is found in exactly the same form of words in both.

    Hence it will be seen that the Autun formula is in many respects better and more comprehensive than ours, inasmuch as, while embracing practically all that is found in the modern list, it contains a good deal more in addition.

Variety, Universality, Importance

    The Promises of the Sacred Heart, in the form in which they are now popularly known, far surpass in variety, universality and importance those attached to any other exercises of devotion in the Church. They are addressed to all sorts of persons: the fervent, the tepid and the sinful. They embrace every condition of life: priests, religious and seculars. They promise relief to the afflicted, strength to the tempted, consolation to the sorrowful, peace to the family, blessings to the home, practical aid in the affairs of daily life, success in our enterprises, mercy to the sinner, courage to the cold of heart, high sanity to fervent souls. They promise power to the priest to touch the hardest hearts, they promise strength and courage on the bed of death, they tell us of the priceless gifts of final perseverance and of a refuge in the Heart of Christ at the last moment. So much for the variety of the graces that they promise.

    Secondly, these graces are, moreover, given in their highest and most universal measure: "I will give them all the graces necessary; I will be their comfort in all sorrows; I will shed abundant blessings upon all their undertakings; sinners shall find in My Heart an ocean of mercy; fervent souls shall reach to high perfection; priests shall have the power or touching the hardest hearts."

    Yet further still, the variety and universality of the blessings offered to the faithful in these Promises are only equaled by the value and importance of the favors promised: all the graces necessary for our state; peace, that greatest of all earthly blessings; consolation in affliction; a place of refuge in the toils of life; abundant blessings on our enterprises; endless mercy on the sinner; strength and courage for the tepid; highest sanctity for holy souls; God's grace and blessing in the home; wondrous power to the priestly lips; our names inscribed forever in the Savior's Heart; the crowning grace of final perseverance and a happy death ---- what greater or more valuable favors than these could even the omnipotent and boundless love and goodness of the Sacred Heart bestow on us? Truly these Promises help us to an understanding of the truth of Blessed Margaret Margaret's glowing words: "Jesus showed me how this devotion is, as it were, the final effort of His love, the last invention of His boundless charity."

Next Issue: Part Two.

    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 the List of Promises given to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, see Twelve Promises

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December 3-9, 2001
volume 12, no. 159
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