June 7-9, 2002
volume 13, no. 106

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 Thirteen
The Seventh Promise:

Tepid Souls Shall Become Fervent *

1. Revelations of the horror in which tepidity is held by Christ

    The beloved disciple, St. John, amid the silence and solitude of the lonely seagirt rock of Patmos, turned his thoughts with apostolical solicitude to the churches committed to his pastoral care. And as he yearned and prayed for the spiritual welfare of his charge, a wondrous revelation was bestowed on him. He was bidden, among many other things, to write to the "Angel of the Church of Laodicea," in the name of the spirit that spoke within him. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would thou wert cold or hot, but because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will begin to vomit thee out of My mouth. Because thou sayest: I am rich and made wealthy, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked. I counsel thee to buy of Me gold fire-tried, that thou mayest be made rich: and mayest be clothed in white garments, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear: and anoint thy, eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise. Be zealous therefore and do penance. Behold I stand at the gate and knock." [Apoc. 3: 15-20]

    This, in his own words, was the revelation made to the Evangelist, St. John, on the island of Patmos.

    And sixteen centuries went by, and lo! in the silence of a humble cloister close to Paray, in the south of France, Jesus Christ Himself, appearing to a lowly Visitation nun, spoke to her, not through the medium of an Angel, as He did in Patmos, to St. John, but with His own Divine lips.

    Weighed down, as it were, with sorrow, and showing her His Heart all wounded and begirt with thorns, surmounted with a cross, and glowing with the flames of love, He bitterly bemoaned the coldness and tepidity of those who called themselves His friends and servants, and spoke to her those memorable words: "Behold this Heart which has loved men to such a degree that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, to prove to them Its love; and in return I receive from the greater part of men but ingratitude, contempt, irreverence, sacrilege and coldness, which they show Me in this Sacrament of Iove. But what wounds Me still more is that it is hearts consecrated to My service that do use Me so." -------Life and Writings of St. Margaret Mary, vol. I, p. 93

    Both in the Apocalypse and in the private revelation to the Nun of Paray, we learn how deep a wound tepidity inflicts upon the Heart of Christ.

2. Tepidity------What it is Not, and What it Is.

    Lest timorous persons who are in reality both fervent and true to God, should imagine that these descriptions apply to them, it is well to show in what tepidity does not consist. It is not the condition of those-------often very holy and fervent souls-------whose life is well-nigh a never-ending struggle with temptation. Such as these should remember the words of Holy Writ: "Because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee;" [Tobias 12: 13] and again: "When thou comest to the service of God . . . prepare thy soul for temptation;" [Eccl. 2: 1] and "Blessed is the man who endureth temptation, for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life." [St. James 1: 12] Nor is it the condition of those who, through human frailty and despite their vigilance, commit, it may be, many venial sins of inadvertence, e.g., involuntary distractions in their prayers, surprise faults of the tongue, or of impatience, or of anger, or the like. Nor, once again, is it the condition of those timorous persons who live in constant fear that they have committed sin, and who scarcely dare to think of God as otherwise than angry with them for their daily faults. Such distrust and want of confidence in God does great injury to His unbounded goodness, but it does not constitute tepidity. The tepid person has no fear whatever. He is quite at ease in his tepidity. He neither knows nor cares about his real state of spiritual destitution.

What, then, is tepidity?

    You have, perhaps, seen a young man, still in the flower of youth, a prey to the terrible disease, now known as tuberculosis. He is thin and worn, and bent, though not with years; his cheeks are hollow, his eyes are sunken and lusterless, his color gone, he has a constant racking cough; and yet he never realizes or admits that he is dying by inches. What this wasting fever does for the body, tepidity does for the soul. It is the languid dying, state of a soul that has utterly or nearly lost its grip of the supernatural, and yet that neither knows nor fears the danger it is in. "Thou knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Prayer without attention, Confession without any attempt whatever at amendment, Communion without fruit; dissipation, utter distaste for spiritual things, are among the earlier symptoms of this fell disease. Then fully deliberate venial sins are multiplied, without misgiving or anxiety, till, like a leprosy, they so weaken and disfigure the soul that spiritual death draws near and seems inevitable. Thus weakened and disabled, it falls an easy prey to the promptings of the devil or of vicious and corrupted nature.

3. The Remedy: First steps towards recovery of fervor.

    What is the remedy? It is found in the text of the Apocalypse that I have quoted: "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold fire-tried that thou mayest be made rich." [3: 18] As a first step towards its cure let that poor, fainting, sickly soul humbly acknowledge that it is indeed "wretched, and miserable, and poor," and pray to Christ as did the blind man by the wayside, saying, "Lord that I may see;" [Luke 8: 41] or using the words of the text, [Ibid.] "anoint my eyes with eye-salve that I may see" the sad and wretched state into which I have fallen. And as with the prodigal of old, so, too, to this poor tepid soul, the grace will come to cry from the depths of its sorrow, "I will arise, and will go to my Father, and say to him: Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before Thee: I am not now worthy to be called Thy son." [Luke 15: 18,19]

4. The consummation of the cure to be found in devotion to the Sacred Heart.

    In the winter, when the earth is wrapped in snow, or hard and cold with frost, all nature seems to sleep in death. But with the balmy breezes and the sunshine of returning spring, nature again revives, and leaves and flowers appear, and clothe the world once more in summer garb. More beautiful and wonderful by far is the restoration of the tepid soul to fervor in God's service. "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold fire-tried that thou mayest be made rich." It turns, full of humble trust and confidence, to the Sacred Heart, and there seeks the "gold" of charity that glows with such surpassing luster in that furnace of God's love, and from being "wretched, and miserable, and poor," it is speedily "made rich" with all the treasures of that Heart of love. "Tepid souls, "that thus approach the Sacred Heart, "shall become fervent;" for "I have come," He tells us, "to cast fire on the earth"-------upon the hard, cold, tepid heart, and "what will I but that it be kindled" at the furnace of My Sacred Heart, the glowing Source of spiritual fervor and most ardent love of God?

    Thus, too, will the once tepid soul be "clothed in white garments," that is to say, as A'Lapide explains, "in innocence and purity of life."

    Let those who suffer from tepidity remember that Jesus "stands at the gate and knocks:" the Sacred Heart is ever waiting at the door of their souls for entrance; ever "knocking" by His grace, and calling them to open and to let Him in, that once again He may inflame them with His love and teach them to abide with Him for evermore.    

    *"He has promised that He will shed the sweet unction for His ardent charity on all those communities that show honor to His Divine Heart and place themselves under Its special protection; that He will turn away from them the shafts of the Divine Justice and restore them to His favor should they have fallen from it." ------Blessed Mary Alacoque, Letter 33, vol. II, p. 48.
    In another letter, addressed to her Director, Blessed Margaret Mary writes: "Do what you can to induce religious persons to embrace this devotion, for they will receive such help from it that no other means will be required to restore even the most relaxed communities to their primitive fervor and to the most exact observance."

    See also Letters 26, 86, 109 and 132.

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 installments to date, see Archives.

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

June 10-30, 2002
volume 13, no. 103
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