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.
The Ninth Promise:
"I Will Bless the Homes in which the Image of My Heart Shall Be Exposed and Honored." *
1. Blessed Margaret Mary's vision. She repeatedly insists on the manifold blessings that will be bestowed wherever the image of the Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored.
Meditations on the Ninth Promise
It was the feast of St. John the Evangelist; the Divine Office for the day was over, the nuns had left the choir, and all alone before the. Blessed Sacrament, Sister Margaret Mary was kneeling rapt in prayer. Suddenly the altar was ablaze with dazzling light that seemed to issue from the tabernacle and that filled the little convent chapel with celestial radiance. We had better let her tell the story of it all herself:
"One day, on the feast of St. John the Evangelist," she writes, "this Divine Heart was shown to me as on a throne of fire and flames, emitting brilliant rays on all sides, more dazzling than the sun, and transparent as crystal. The Wound that He received on the Cross appeared quite clearly. There was a crown of thorns round this Sacred Heart and a cross above it . . . And the Savior assured me that He took a singular delight in being honored under the figure of this Heart of flesh, the representation of which He desired to be exposed in public, in order, He added, by its means to touch the insensible hearts of men. He promised me that He would pour down in abundance into the hearts of all those who honor It all the gifts of which It is so full; and that wherever this image was exposed, with a view to receiving special honor, it would draw down on the place every sort of blessing. "
Again and again Blessed Margaret insists upon the desire that Our Lord expressed to her of seeing the image of His Sacred Heart set up for honor in our homes and churches. "My: Savior has assured me that He takes singular delight in seeing Himself honored under the figure of His Heart of flesh, and that He wishes the representation of It to be exposed in public, in order by its means to touch the unfeeling hearts of men. He promised that wherever that image should be set up for veneration it would bring every sort of blessing on the place." "He has promised," she writes again, "that as He is the source of all blessings, He will pour them forth in abundance wherever the image of His Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored."
2. The teaching of the Church regarding images. This teaching consonant with the feelings of men, and the outward expression of these feelings in everyday life. Pictures a powerful help to devotion. St. Teresa and St. Basil on this subject. Good pictures mute sermons on canvas, and often more lasting and
efficacious than preaching.
The teaching of the Church regarding images is clearly set forth in the Seventh Session of the Second Council of Nicrea [A.D. 787], in which the heresy of the Iconoclasts was condemned: images are to receive veneration; but the honor paid to them is purely relative, i.e., the image is honored for the sake of what it represents-----its prototype: "As often as they" [Christ and His Angels and Saints] "are seen in their pictorial representations," says the Council of Nicaea, "people who look at them are ardently lifted up to the memory and love of the originals, and induced to give them respect and worshipful honor . . . For honor paid to an image passes on to its prototype; he who honors an image honors the reality of him who is painted in it." [Denzinger, Enchiridion, 10th Ed.,
This is altogether consonant, not only with the natural feelings of men, but also with their outward expression of these feelings in everyday life. Thus people salute and honor a flag or a statue or a picture as a symbol or representation of some thing or some person they esteem and respect. The honor is not paid to the cloth, or the stone, or the painted canvas, as such. We carry about with us or keep in our houses or in public places the photographs, statues and pictures of friends and relations, or of persons in public esteem. In like manner the Church sets before us the images of Christ and His Saints to remind us of our heavenly pro- tectors and friends, and induces us to pray to them; and just as the world honors and treats with appropriate reverence the pictures and statues of its great men and heroes, so, too, does the Church pay befitting respect to the pictures and statues of Christ and His Saints.
Creatures as we are of sense, we need the powerful help which the senses afford, especially that of sight, to assist our devotion. We keep by us the pictures and photographs of those we love. When separated from each other by long distances, children love to gaze on the pictures of their parents, and parents on those of their children. They frame them and place them on the walls of their homes, on their drawing-room tables and mantelpieces. These pictured images foster love and remembrance of the dear ones that are absent or dead. Should it not be the same with regard to Our Lord, His Blessed Mother and the Saints? It argues ill for our love of God and His Mother if their pictures are nowhere to be seen in our homes. This is the thought of the great Saint Teresa. Speaking of holy pictures she says:"How unhappy are those who through their own fault lose the powerful helps they might gain from them! It would appear as though they had no love for Jesus Christ, for if they loved Him they would surely rejoice at beholding His portrait, just as people of the world love to look on the pictures of those that they love." St. Basil, in a panegyric of one of the Martyrs, urges Catholic painters to glorify the Saints by their paintings, "seeing," he adds, "that by their colored representations they can do so with greater effect than than I can by my words." A good painting of, say, Our Lord or Our Lady is an eloquent sermon on canvas, and may do far more good than the words of the preacher, inasmuch as these pass away with the sound of his voice, or are shut up in books for the learned alone, while the picture remains to preach its mute sermon, it may be for centuries. The Madonnas of Raphael, the glorious creations of Michelangelo, of Fra Angelico, and the other immortal masters of sacred art, are a priceless inheritance to the Church, and are as full of devout inspiration today as they were to the generations that looked on these men in the flesh. Moreover, the lessons they teach can be learned at a glance, both by learned and simple. Good pictures are, in short, an instantaneous, a powerful, and a universal appeal to the lettered and ignorant, the leisured and busy, the thinking and thoughtless, of all times and places alike.
3. All this applies with special force to the images and pictures of the Sacred Heart, and for two reasons.
All this applies with especial force to the images and pictures of the Sacred Heart first, because of what they are in themselves, and secondly, because of the special graces and blessings that Christ Himself has attached to those representations.
Viewed in itself, the picture of the Sacred Heart, as It was represented to Blessed Margaret Mary in the vision referred to above, is surely supremely suggestive of the infinite love of Our Lord for Jesus, the Man-God, stands before us, a human being like ourselves, with gesture and eyes full of tenderest pleading, asking us-----just to think of it!-----to make Him some little return of love. He shows us His Heart, cut open by the spear that inflicted the Divine wound of love; all aglow like a fiery furnace of love, whose un quenchable flames appear bursting forth from the top; It is, so to speak, red hot with love and emits dazzling rays all around It; It is encircled with thorns, the anguishing smarts of unheeded love; It is surmounted by the Cross, the unspeakably powerful proof of unbounded love. What more eloquent-----shall I say passionate-----appeal could be imagined than this? The image of the Sacred Heart is a gathering up, into one pictured whole, of the most powerful motives that can urge us to the devoted love and service of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To all this Christ has, in the second place, added His own sacred promise of special graces and blessings attaching to the public exposition and veneration of the representations of His Sacred Heart. "I will bless the homes where It shall be exposed and honored." He tells us, "I will pour down all sorts of blessings in abundance on the places where It shall be exposed and honored."
Assuredly we should hasten to secure for our families, our dwellings, our homes, this pledge of abundant blessing. We should make it our ambition to spread the images and pictures of the Sacred Heart far and wide, and thus become apostles of this comforting Promise. We should not beafraid or ashamed to display these pictures prominently and openly in our homes, rather than relegate them to the privacy of the bedroom or boudoir. "Whosoever shall confess Me before men," says Our Lord, "him shall the Son of Man also confess before the Angels of God. But he that shall deny Me before men, shall be denied before the Angels of God." [Luke 12: 8, 9] We may expect God's favors in proportion as we boldly and publicly profess our devotion. If we hide it away and are ashamed of it, we cannot look for so copious an outpouring of blessing and grace from the Heart of Christ.
4. Some Examples.
Examples are not wanting of the fulfilment in a very marked way of this Ninth Promise. In the Franco-Prussian War, the celebrated General deSonis carried with him a large and beautiful banner of the Sacred Heart. Under its shadow his troops fought like lions, and almost alone of the entire French army made a successful stand against the advancing Prussians. Had the rest of the army acted as they did, victory would most undoubtedly have been, with the French.
The noble Garcia Moreno, as President of the Republic of Ecuador, solemnly dedicated his country to the Sacred Heart, and set up on all sides the emblems and pictures of that Divine Heart. Never in the whole history of the Republic was such prosperity and happiness known as under his rule.
It is well known how, when a terrible plague was raging in Marseilles and the people were dying in the thousands, its ravages were suddenly and absolutely stopped by the distribution of badges amongst the citizens bearing a representation of the Heart of Jesus with the words, "Cease! the Sacred Heart of Jesus is with us."
Instances of striking favors of all kinds obtained for individuals by wearing the Sacred Heart badge might be multiplied indefinitely. Not a month passes without many letters being sent to the Messenger bearing testimony to favorsoftentimes very remarkable -----obtained in this way.
From all that has been said, it is clear that the representation of the Sacred Heart is a fertile source of benediction, and that it brings many "graces and" blessings on the places where it is exposed for veneration. "I will bless the homes in which the image of the Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored."
"He gave me to understand that the great desire He had to be perfectly loved by men caused Him to form the design of manifesting to them His Heart ...in order that all who were desirous of rendering Him all the love they were capable of might be enriched with those Divine treasures of which His Heart is the source; and He assured me at the same time that He took a singular pleasure in being honored under the figure of this Heart of flesh, . . . promising me that He would pour down in abundance into the hearts of all those who would thus honor It all the gifts of which It is replete, and that wherever this image should be exposed with a view to showing it special honor it would draw down every sort of blessing."-----Letter of Blessed Margaret Mary to her Director, vol. II, p. 275.
"It seemed to me that He promised . . . that He would pour down His blessings in abundance on every place in which the image of this amiable Heart should be exposed, in order to be loved and honored."-----Life and Writings of Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, vol II, p. 64; Letter 32.
1st Point-----The Image of the Sacred Heart
an Exhortation to Devotion
"I Will Bless the Homes in which the Image of My Heart Shall Be Exposed and Honored."
We cannot contemplate attentively the image of the Sacred Heart without recalling the many reasons it suggests to us for praising this devotion.
It is the Will of God, expressed in three ways: first, by His own Divine lips in the vision above referred to, vouchsafed to Blessed Margaret Mary, wherein Christ tells His servant expressly that He "takes a singular delight in being honored under the figure of His Heart of flesh." That He "wishes the
representation of It to be exposed in public, in order by this means to touch the unfeeling hearts of men;" and that wherever His image is so exposed it will "draw down every sort of blessing on the place." Secondly, by the Church, the mouthpiece and the representative of Christ on earth, which has given its official sanction and approval [in the person of Pope Pius VI in 1799, and through the Congregation of Indulgences in 1878] to the exposition of these images in public, as a powerful incentive to devotion to the Sacred Heart. Thirdly, by the faithful in general, who, by their love and veneration for the statues and pictures of the Sacred Heart, whether set up in public, in the churches, or in private in their homes, seem to show the intention of God's Providence that the representations of the Sacred Heart should be used as a strong incentive to devotion.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a powerful means of arriving at perfection. It fills the heart with love of God, it banishes tepidity, it urges men to make war upon their passions and aim at greater purity of soul, it inspires generosIty towards God; and self forgetfulness and holocaust of self and many other virtues, that in their aggregate constitute perfection.
The Heart of Jesus is our refuge and our strength: in sorrow and affliction we can fly to It for comfort; in danger and in weakness we can fly to It for strength. We need, in short, a powerful and faithful friend to counsel and support and aide us on the way to Heaven. That friend we shall at all times have in Jesus, acting on us through the inspirations of His Sacred Heart.
Lastly, in the Heart of Jesus we shall find a burning zeal to labor for His interests, and thus win for ourselves His special blessing and support.
Affections and Petitions:
O Jesus, may the contemplation of the image of Thy Sacred Heart produce in me these precious fruits. May the sight of this sweet image kindle in my hard cold heart the fire of Thy love, may it rouse me from my criminal tepidity and sloth, and be a spur to me to urge me to do something in Thy service. Thus the image of Thy Sacred Heart will be for me a source of benediction, a perpetual reminder of my duties to Thee, a beacon ever calling me, throughout the darkness of this life, to higher things. Do Thou vouchsafe, in short, to "bless the homes wherein the image of Thy Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored".
2nd Point----- The Image of the Sacred Heart
an Exhortation to Perfection
What do I behold, as with attentive eye I look upon the image of the Sacred Heart as it was shown to Blessed Margaret Mary?
1. The Heart of flesh: a living Heart that animates the living Body of the Man-God. It is not a heart that is dead or separated from the body. So, too, if my heart is to resemble His, it must be living with the life of grace,-----it must be intimately united to Him by the bonds of fervent love.
2. I behold the rays that issue from that Heart of love and that remind me that my life must shed around it the bright rays of good example, to draw my neighbor to a better life.
3. I behold the flames that leap from out of Its fiery depths, to tell me of the zeal that I must show in working for the interests of the Sacred Heart, and the all-consuming fire of love that must be the animating principle of all I do.
4. I behold the thorns that lacerate that tender Heart, and that so forcibly reproach me for my many sins and faults and negligences, and my manifold irreverences before the altar.
5. I behold the Cross that surmounts the Heart, and tells me that, if I am to be His true disciple, I too must bear my cross with Him to Calvary.
6. And lastly, I behold the wound that tells me, trumpet-tongued, of Jesus' generosity in doing all and suffering all for me, and shedding even to His last few drops of Blood for my salvation.
Affections and Petitions
O Heart of Jesus, may the sight of Thy sweet image rouse in me the thoughts and feelings that it naturally inspires. May it be to me an open book wherein to read, in characters of fire and blood, the awful yet consoling lessons of Thy Passion and Death. And may the sight or so much generosity and love impel me in return to some small acts of generosity and love, myself. Bless me thus, O Heart of Jesus, bless my home, my relatives and friends, with all the copious, priceless blessings of Thy Kingly Heart: "I will bless the homes in which the image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored."
*"He gave me to understand that the great desire He had to be perfectly loved by men caused Him to form the design of manifesting to them His Heart . . . in order that all who were desirous of rendering Him all the love they were capable of might be enriched with those Divine treasures of which His Heart is the source; and He assured me at the same time that He took a singular pleasure in being honored under the figure of this Heart of flesh, . . . promising me that He would pour down in abundance into the hearts of all those who would thus honor It all the gifts of which It is replete, and that wherever this image should be exposed with a view to showing it special honor it would draw down every sort of blessing." -----Letter of Blessed Margaret Mary to her Director, vol. II, p.
"It seemed to me that He promised . . . , that He would pour down His blessings in abundance on every place in which the image of this amiable Heart should be exposed, in order to be loved and honored." -----Life and Writings of Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque. vol II, p. 64; Letter 32.
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 www.DailyCatholic.org/2002pro.htm Archives.
volume 13, no. 105
THE TWELVE PROMISES OF THE SACRED HEART