January 22, 2002
volume 13, no. 12

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 Seven

Meditation on the Fourth Promise:
"They Shall Find in My Heart an Assured Refuge During Life and Especially at the Hour of Death."

1st Point - The Heart of Jesus was pierced on the Cross in order to afford us a refuge in affliction.

    Recall the scene on Calvary: how when Our Lord had died the Roman soldiers came and broke the legs of the two thieves who had been crucified with Him. "But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, and immediately there came out blood and water." [John 19: 33, 34] Why did they break the legs of the thieves and, instead, pierce our Lord's side with a spear? They saw that Christ was already dead; why, then, did they wound Him? It was not through hatred or cruelty. The Roman soldiers had no reason for either. The reason was, among others, that Providence decreed that in all future ages men should find in the open Heart of Jesus "an assured refuge in life and especially at the hour of death." "Thy Heart was opened," says St. Bernard, "only in order to prepare for us a refuge."

2nd Point ----- This refuge prefigured in the Old Law.

    This refuge was prefigured in the Old Law. Thus we read in the Book of Deuteronomy [chapter nineteen] how the Lord bade His people set aside, in the midst of the land, three cities, at equal distances one from another, as cities of refuge, to which those who might by accident have killed a fellow creature might fly for refuge from the fury of the dead man's friends. Moreover, the way leading to these cities was to be made broad and open. But should it appear that the death inflicted was malicious and premeditated, then the murderer was taken from the city and handed up to justice. So, too, Christ would fain open for us in His Wounded Heart a ready refuge from misfortune, whither we may, without any difficulty, fly for comfort and protection. With this difference, however, that no matter how black and heinous be the crime, if repentant, we are always sure of a refuge in the Heart of Christ.

3rd Point - The Sacred Heart our refuge in this life:

    (I) against ourselves;
    (2) against our enemies;
    (3) against the Divine Justice.
    This refuge is a twofold one; in life and, still more, at the hour of death. Now, during our entire life the Sacred Heart is our refuge, first, against ourselves, that is to say, against our weakness, our vicious inclinations, the domestic enemy that strives within us for our ruin. The Apostle St. Thomas, in his pride and self-sufficiency, refused to believe in his Master's Resurrection from the dead. That loving Master deigned to appear to him and bid him place his hand within His Wounded Side; and lo! upon the spot he cried aloud in wondering accents of repentance and belief, "My Lord and My God!" The soldier who pierced the Savior with his lance was converted in his very act. And from that day, down to this, throughout the rolling years, the Heart of Jesus has ever been the refuge wherein poor, weak human nature finds the strength and energy and grace to fight against itself, and rise superior to its native misery, inconstancy, and inclination to all evil. "Is there no balm in Galaad?" cries the Prophet Jeremias, "or is there no physician there?" [Jer. 8: 22] And he adds, "For the affliction of the daughter of my people I am afflicted, and made sorrowful." [lbid. 21] The Wounded Heart of Jesus is afflicted for our sorrows; He has balm to pour into our wounds; He is the Great Physician Who will cure our spiritual maladies and give us strength and vigor in our weakness.

    Secondly, the Sacred Heart is our refuge against our exterior enemies, the world and the devil. Against their attacks we need an assured refuge, a strong fortress: that fortress is the Sacred Heart. Again: as in the Deluge that destroyed the human race of old, only those escaped who found a refuge in the Ark, so too amid the deluge of iniquity that surges round us in the world, we must take refuge in the Sacred Heart, the true Ark of Refuge, if we would escape being swallowed in the waves of wickedness that threaten to engulf us. In Holy Writ the soul is often likened to a dove that seeks for shelter from the hawk. What must it do? It must take refuge "in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall" [Cant. ii, 14]: it must fly for refuge to the Sacred Heart, to the cleft of the Savior's side, opened by the soldier's lance on Calvary. There it will remain in peace until "the day break, arid the shadows retire" [Cant. ii, 17], that is, until the everlasting day of Heaven breaks upon our raptured gaze, and the shadows of this vale of tears have passed for ever. "In every danger," says St. Bernard, ''as the dove when frightened flies for refuge to the hollows of the rock, so will the Christian soul seek protection in the cleft of the mystical rock, the Wounded Side of the Redeemer."

    Thirdly, the Sacred Heart is our refuge against God's avenging Justice. Blessed Margaret Mary writes: "Never be tired of recommending devotion to the Sacred Heart; it is through It that God wills to save many souls from everlasting death. This Divine Heart is an assured refuge against God's just wrath towards sinners." "Let us go therefore with confidence to the Throne of Grace," says St. Paul, "that we may obtain mercy." [Heb. 4:16] The Sacred Heart is the "Throne of Grace" at which sinners will find mercy and an assured refuge from the anger of Almighty God.

4th Point----- The Sacred Heart our refuge, especially at the hour of death.

    But it is especially, and above all, at the hour of death that the Sacred Heart will be our "assured refuge." When the world and all we know and love in it are fast fading from our sight, when, as the German poet puts it, "we stand upon the limit of our days" and are about, in our frail bark, to "cross the bar" into the vast ocean of eternity, when we tremble at the thought of approaching judgment and the eternal issues that depend on it-----O! then, what solace and what comfort we shall find in the entire abandonment of ourselves to the sweet mercies of our crucified Redeemer, whose Heart of love lies open as our refuge in that parting hour! What consolation and what. courage in the thought that He Who is ever faithful to His word has promised to the clients of His Sacred Heart that they shall find in that same Heart of boundless love an assured refuge at the hour of death! "How sweet a thing it is," wrote Blessed Margaret Mary, "to die, after having had a true devotion to the Heart of Him Who is to be our Judge!"

    "Our Lord gave me to understand that it is, in a peculiar manner, in His Sacred Heart that they will find their refuge during their entire life and especially at the hour of death."-----Letter of Blessed Margaret Mary to her Director

Next Issue: Part Eight

    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.


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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

Tuesday, January 22, 2002
volume 13, no. 12

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