Traditional Feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
October 17, 2002
volume 13, no. 118

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 Sixteen

The Tenth Promise:

"I Will Give to Priests the Power to Touch the Most Hardened Hearts." *

1. The True Meaning and Scope of this Promise. It Embraces Not Merely Priests but all Who Labor for the Salvation of Souls.

    The translation given above of this Tenth Promise is that which is ordinarily used in books. It is, nevertheless, a restricted and incorrect translation of the original French words, as found in the Letters of Blessed Margaret Mary. The fuller and more accurate translation are as follows: "My Divine Savior has given me to understand that those who work for the salvation of souls will have the art of touching the hardest hearts, and will labor with marvelous success, if they are themselves penetrated with a tender devotion to His Divine Heart." Hence this promise of Divine assistance is by no means restricted to priests alone; it extends alike to all who labor for the salvation of souls; embracing, no doubt, in an especial manner, priests whose chief and peculiar vocation it is to labor for the salvation of men's souls.

    Therefore this promise conveys a message of help and encouragement to all our promoters [Note 2], whose special business it is to "promote" and advance by all means in their power the interests and the cause of the Sacred Heart. It, tells them that, if they are penetrated themselves with a tender devotion to the Sacred Heart, their work for that Divine Heart will carry with it a special blessing, and bear fruit beyond their highest expectations.

    Nevertheless, it is to the priest, above all, that this promise of special assistance is addressed. To labor for the salvation of souls is his work par excellence, and if in the discharge of his sacred ministry he seeks the special help of the Sacred Heart, he Will have "marvelous success" in all his labors.

2. Two Principal Sources of the Apostolic Power Conferred on the Clients of the Sacred Heart.

    It may be asked, Whence comes it that devotion to the Sacred Heart secures for those who practice it such special help and skill in all their apostolic labors for God's glory? To this the answer is that (a) devotion to the Sacred Heart initiates into the Divine art of winning souls to God; and that (b) it draws down from God very special helps and graces on the labors and enterprises undertaken with this end in view.

    Let us examine this matter just a little more in detail.

    (a) This Devotion Initiates Them into the Celestial Art of Winning Souls to God.

        The conversion of a soul to God, and in general all works undertaken in God's service, are in their nature supernatural, and depend for their success on supernatural aid. Neither eloquence nor learning nor other human gifts are, of themselves alone, sufficient to convert a soul, or to accomplish even the smallest supernatural effect in God's service. Nay, it often happens that the greatest works of God are accomplished through the weakest and most insufficient instruments. Witness the foundation of the Church and the conversion of the pagan world at the hands of twelve poor ignorant fishermen. Witness the wonder wrought by many Saints bereft of all the human aids of wealth and influence and knowledge that, in the world's eyes, are absolutely essential to success. God loves at times to confound, as it were, and set at naught all human means and efforts, and show how utterly inadequate they are, and how entirely dependent on Himself for their success. This He does by accomplishing the greatest things through instruments the most unfitted, in themselves, for such a lofty purpose. In this way God's omnipotence is shown forth before the eyes of men, and His glory is safeguarded. If He makes use of instruments to accomplish His designs, He makes it clear that all their power and success are due to Him alone "To God alone be honor and glory."

        Hence, in those who labor for the cause of God, the humble and sincere acknowledgment of their personal weakness and inability, combined with an immense trust in the Divine assistance, are essential conditions for success.

        Now these dispositions are engendered in them by devotion to the Sacred Heart. It teaches them humility. It teaches them to lean entirely on God. It fosters the spirit and love of prayer. It teaches forgetfulness of self and ardent zeal for the interests of the Master. And into all and above all, it infuses the Divine power of God's love, which so sets the heart on fire with the longing to promote His interests that toil and sacrifice grow sweet, and self is set aside, in that great, glorious service of the Sacred Heart.

    (b) Secondly, it Draws Down Very Special Graces on Their Works of Zeal for God's Glory, and Affords Them Special Assistance in the Conversion of Obstinate Sinners.

        But this is not all, nor even half. By far the largest and most powerful favor in accomplishing a supernatural work is that which comes direct from God Himself.

        True, our own endeavors are, in general, an essential condition. But God's grace is the main favor. Our success as workers in God's vineyard is in proportion to the nature and the greatness of the graces that accompany our efforts. This is especially the case when there is question of that most supernatural of all supernatural works, the conversion of a soul to God. It often calls for extraordinary and exceptional graces-----graces that is to say, that lie outside the ordinary action of God's Providence. God never forces the free will of any human being, but He can always give a grace of a nature such that He foresees that it will overcome the resisting power of even the most obstinate of sinners. This, then, is what occurs in the case of priests and other laborers for God who are themselves animated with a tender devotion to the Sacred Heart. Out of regard for their special devotion to His Sacred Heart, Our Blessed Lord places at their disposal, as it were, when needful, these peculiar, efficacious graces, which win over the most obdurate hearts.

3. A Remarkable Example of the Action of this Tenth Promise, from the Writings of the Blessed Margaret Mary.

    In one of her letters addressed to a former superior, Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque gives a remarkable instance of the action of this Tenth Promise. A certain priest, a religious, she tells us, had undertaken to have an image of the Sacred Heart engraven, with a view to promoting the spread of the then nascent devotion to the Heart of Jesus. In the meantime he was commissioned by the Bishop of Autun to work for the conversion of the Calvinists of a neighboring city. As a result, all thoughts of the picture were for the moment set aside. Here is how Blessed Margaret Mary writes about the matter: "You can scarcely imagine what pain this delay has caused me, for I must confess that I believe it is the reason why so few are being converted in this city. I seem, indeed, to hear these words addressed to me continually: 'If this good Father had first fulfilled his promise to the Sacred Heart, he would have succeeded in changing and converting the hearts of those poor Calvinist heretics, by reason of the gratification he would have afforded to Our Lord, in seeing Himself thus honored in this image which He wishes to, have made; But since this Religious prefers to devote himself to other things, however conducive to God's glory, rather than afford Our Blessed Lord this pleasure, the hearts of these poor heretics will remain untouched, and the efforts which he makes in their behalf, will produce but little fruit.' "

    "My Divine Savior gave me to understand that those who work for the salvation of souls will have the art of touching the most hardened hearts, and will labor with marvelous success, if they are themselves penetrated with a tender devotion to His Divine Heart." -----Letters of Blessed Margaret Mary to her Director, vol. II, p. 286.

    The same Promise is repeated in still more energetic terms in favor of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus. -----Letters, vol. I, p: 200, and vol. II, p. 289.

    Thus: "It is a duty of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus," writes Blessed Margaret Mary, "to make known the utility and value of devotion to the Sacred Heart, in order that all may profit by it, receiving it with the respect and gratitude due to so great a benefit, And in proportion as they shall do this, the Divine Heart will shed Its blessings and graces in such abundance on the functions of their ministry that they will produce fruit beyond their labors and their hopes, and at the same time in particular for their own salvation and perfection," -----Letter 85.

    "He promises that He will shed His blessings in abundance and profusion on their labors of holy charity in which they are engaged for the salvation of souls. But to this end, they must endeavor to draw all their lights from this inexhaustible source of the science and charity of the Saints," -----Letter 95. "Jesus Christ has shown me in a manner that admits of no doubt, that it was specially by means of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus that He wished to establish everywhere this solid devotion, and by means of it to make to Himself an infinite number of faithful servants, perfect friends, and truly grateful children," -----Ibid.

    Fr. McDonnell was talking about the promoters of the Sacred Heart who were subscribers to the Irish Messenger of the Sacred Heart.

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

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 May and June 2002 issues of Catholic Family News.

For installments to date, see Archives.

THURSDAY, October 17, 2002
volume 13, no. 118
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