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 Eighth Promise:
"Fervent Souls Shall Speedily Rise to great Perfection." *
1. The Transforming power of the Sacred Heart, whereby it raises up the soul to higher sanctity. It is the "bond of perfection."
Meditations on the Eighth Promise
Thus far we have seen that sinners have their own special Promise, that "they hall find in My Heart a source and infinite ocean of Mercy," and tepid souls their Promise likewise, "that they shall become fervent." We shall now see what the Sacred Heart is ready to do for those who are already fervent. For them, in truth, He has a very rich award, a striking favor. "They
shall speedily rise to great perfection."
"I do not know," writes Blessed Margaret Mary Alocoque, speaking of devotion to the Sacred Heart, "that there is any exercise of devotion better calculated to raise a soul in a short time to the highest perfection." High perfection, this is the reward, surpassing great, that Christ bestows upon the loving clients of His Sacred Heart. For this devotion has, as its especial fruit, to transform us into a close resemblance to Our Blessed Lord. And this it does by kindling in our souls a wondrous fire of Divine love, which, as the Apostle says, is "the bond of perfection" [Coloss. 3: 14]. What more fragrant and attractive than a bouquet made of many sorts of flowers? Cut the bond that binds them into one, and you no longer have a bouquet, but a heap of tossed and scattered blooms. Now, charity or love, the love that glows within the Sacred Heart is, as it were, the "bond" that binds the various virtues into one sweet fragrant whole, and makes of them the bouquet of perfection in God's service.
2. Perfection likened to a mountain. Different classes of persons who seek to make the ascent. No better means to reach the summit than devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Spiritual writers compare Christian perfection to a steep and lofty mountain. The route by which we may ascend it has been carefully marked out by Jesus Christ Himself. His love has left its sign-posts along the way. The first part of the ascent is rendered easy and attractive by His grace. But presently it narrows to a footpath, leading over steep and rugged rocks or desert places, and beset with obstacles at every step, where the climbing is fatiguing and laborious. At the sight of all these difficulties many who, at first, had readily undertaken the ascent, turn back disheartened and afraid. Others there are, more cautious from the outset, more bereft of generosity, who spare their strength for fear of being fatigued and overcome, and who, at sight of the first tall precipice that lies across their path, despair of ever getting to the top, and promptly turn to seek the safer levels below.
Some few, more generous and brave and more determined, push on energetically over every obstacle. Their courage and their intrepidity increase at every step. They find fresh strength and confidence as they behold the footprints of the Divine Guide, Who for their sakes first scaled these dizzy heights. Their ardor grows as they approach the summit, and the bracing atmosphere invigorates them in their arduous labors.
These are the chosen few who, despite the numerous obstacles and difficulties that bar their way, despite occasional slips and falls and many dangers, persevere upon the course on which they first set out, and gather strength and courage from the thought of Christ and of His Saints, who are their Heavenly guides upon the upward journey. The vivifying atmosphere of higher sanctity surrounds them, where prayer and sacrifice go hand in hand with ardent love of God. And on the heights, far up above the sordid level of mere worldly aspirations, where towering peaks shoot up beyond the clouds into the serene blue sky above, bathed in the everlasting sunshine of God's sanctifying grace, they lead a life of highest sanctity, for "Behold upon the mountains [are] the feet of Him . . . that preacheth peace," [Nahum 1: 15] and "Behold He cometh leaping upon the mountains," [Cant. 2: 8] making straight for His Heavenly Home upon the heights of Sion. And through it all, the power that; most of all, will comfort and sustain Him, and thus enable Him to reach the lofty goal of His desires, is the Sacred Heart, the "Source of life and holiness," the "Abyss of every virtue," the "Delight of all the Saints," as It is styled in the titles of the Litany. Through It, in troth, "Fervent souls shall speedily rise to high perfection."
3. In what perfection consists: two elementary constituents,
love of God and of our neighbor, and self-denial or self-sacrifice.
Perfection in its negative aspect.
Perfection may be said to consist in what St. Paul terms "putting on" Christ: "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ," he says. [Rom. 13: 14] What is meant by this? It means, first, clothing ourselves with the spirit of Our Lord------making His aims and desires our aims and our desires, His will our will, His thoughts and sentiments the thoughts and sentiments of our own hearts. Now, this transformation of ourselves into Christ, this "putting on" of His spirit, is most surely and speedily effected by devotion to the Sacred Heart. For it is the natural result and consequence of the kindling of God's love within the soul, It is, in fact, identical with it. When Jesus was asked what was "the great commandment of the law," He answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," etc., and the second commandment was, He said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Love of God, and of our neighbor for His sake------this is the primary element of perfection. The second, self-denial or self-sacrifice, is but a necessary condition of the first: "If anyone will come after Me let him deny himself." We cannot "put on" Christ unless we first put off ourselves: this putting off of ourselves is self-denial. In its negative aspect, perfection entails the removal of the obstacles to the full and unrestricted reign of Christ in the soul. These obstacles are, briefly, self-love and the disordered love of creatures. These we must put aside, "to place," as St. Ignatius puts it, "our whole affection on the Creator of them."
4. Blessed Margaret Mary and the holocaust of self, in its relation
to perfection through devotion to the Sacred Heart.
This spirit of self-renunciation, as a necessary condition of perfection, and as intimately associated with devotion to the Sacred Heart, is commended in the following words by Blessed Margaret Mary: "If you wish to live for Our Lord and to arrive at the perfection He desires of you, make an entire sacrifice of yourself to Him, without reserving anything; so as no longer to wish for anything save in accordance with His Will, or to do anything save through the light and direction you receive from Him, giving the glory of everything to Him, and looking on yourself as absolutely and in all things dependent on Him." "Let us," she continues in another place, "abandon ourselves entirely to the mercy of His Providence, to become as it were, living victims, entirely immolated and sacrificed to His Will, without offering any resistance on our own part." Thus, through our devotion to the Sacred Heart, we shall become most entirely and intimately united to Our Lord, we shall "put on" His spirit, we shall be lost in the infinite ocean of His love, consumed within the burning furnace of His Heart, until at length all self-love, like the rust on iron, will disappear, and in its place an all-consuming love of God and an ardent zeal for the promotion of His interests, will take possession of our hearts and be the very breath and life of our entire being. This is climbing to the lofty summit of high sanctity. Thus the fervent shall rise speedily to great perfection, through devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
"I do not know," writes Blessed Margaret Mary, "that there is any exercise of devotion more calculated [than that to the Sacred Heart] to raise a soul in a short time to the highest perfection, and to enable it to taste the genuine sweetness that is to be found in the service of Jesus Christ. Religious persons will find in it such help that communities, already living in exact observance, will need no other means [than this devotion] to raise them to the very highest perfection.
"Jesus Christ made known to me in a manner that admits of no doubt . . . that it was His wish to establish this solid devotion everywhere, and through its means to raise up for Himself an infinite number of faithful servants, perfect friends and loving children." ------Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, Letter 182, vol. II, p. 285.
1st Point-----A Heart that is Free from Sin
Looked at in a slightly different aspect, perfection, in relation to devotion to the Sacred Heart, connotes three things.
"Weeds grow apace" is an old maxim. Hence the gardener must keep constantly plucking up the weeds, if he would not have them overpower and destroy his flowers. In like manner, in the garden of the soul, the weeds of vice must be plucked up, else they will soon choke and utterly destroy the virtues that are like spiritual flowers. The noxious roots will oftentimes remain and sprout afresh. And so we must be always plucking out the weeds as they appear, and trying, if we can, to pull the roots as well. Despite our vigilance, old passions grow anew and show again above the surface. They soil, al most in spite of us, the beauty and the brightness of the soul. Hence the Psalmist prays: "Wash me yet more from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin"; [Ps. 1: 4] and again: "Thou shalt wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow." [Ps. 1: 9] Through the devotion to the Sacred Heart our souls shall be "washed" in the purifying streams of Its most Precious Blood, especially in Holy Communion and at Mass.
Affections and Petitions:
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, purify and cleanse my soul from all its sins. Wash away in Thy Most Precious Blood the many stains that it contracts in its daily contact with the world of sin, and through the growth of its own evil passions. Do Thou render it, each day, more pleasing in Thy sight, and thus, enabling the flowers of all virtue to spring up and flourish in it, do Thou lead it to perfection in Thy service.
2nd Point-----A Heart that Resembles
the Heart of Jesus
Resemblance to the Heart of Jesus is the second step towards perfection in His service. If we would be perfect we must imitate His example, we must learn of Him: "Learn of Me," He tells us. Imitation is the fruit of study. If we know Our Lord and study Him, we shall infallibly be drawn to imitate Him. Now, this knowledge of Our Lord, this study of His Divine characteristics, is one of the direct results of devotion to the Sacred Heart. It will lead us to "put on" Christ, in which, as we have seen, perfection consists: "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ"; [Rom. 13: 14] "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
[Philip. 2: 5] It is by adopting the sentiments and "mind" of Christ that we shall truly resemble Him. And this it is that devotion to the Sacred Heart will best enable us to do.
Hence we pray, "O Sacred Heart of Jesus, make my heart like unto Thine." If we would be perfect we must try to make our hearts in some way like the Heart of Jesus, or rather, Christ Himself will make our hearts like to His, if we are, careful to cultivate devotion to His Sacred Heart. This is the transforming power of the Sacred Heart whereby He insensibly clothes us with His spirit, fills us with His love, and thereby makes us, in a manner, one with Him, so that we can truly say, "I live, not now I, but Christ liveth in me" [Gal. 2: 20].
Affections and Petitions
O most loving Heart of Jesus, come take entire and unreserved possession of my being. Transform my cold and insensible heart into some resemblance to Thine own most loving and most Holy Heart. This must be "the change of the right hand of the Most High" [Ps. 66: 2]. Thou alone, Who art omnipotent, canst make so wonderful a change. Come, O Heart of my Redeemer, fill my heart with Thy Divine grace, and kindle within it the all-consuming fire of Thy love. Amen.
3rd Point-----A Heart that is United
to the Heart of Jesus
Union with God is perfection, it is the attainment of, the summit of the mountain. That this blessed union is the natural result of devotion to the Sacred Heart is pretty evident. For love is the link that unites the soul with God, and this Divine love is the necessary outcome of devotion to the Sacred Heart. "Behold," said Our Lord to Blessed Margaret Mary, at the same time showing her His Heart, all blazing like a furnace with Divine love, "the purgatory of My love, wherein you must be purified during the purgative period of your life on earth; I shall then enable you to find in It an abode of light, and finally of union and of transformation". In other words, the Sacred Heart has in It graces capable of leading up Its clients rapidly to very high perfection.
Again, perfection is the possession of a high degree of sanctifying grace. Now, devotion to the Sacred Heart procures this precious treasure for the soul; for it usually connotes the spirit of prayer and the frequent reception of the Blessed Eucharist, the two great sources of the growth of sanctifying grace within the soul.
Affections and Petitions
O Heart of my Redeemer, set my heart on fire with Thy love. Place it in this burning furnace, that like iron, which itself is hard and cold, yet quickly glows and softens, in the fire, so my heart, however cold and hard it be itself, will yet be softened and inflamed when plunked into the glowing furnace of Thy Sacred Heart. Thus, however poor and wretched in myself, however far removed from all approach to sanity, I may hope, by the marvelous transforming power of devotion to Thy Sacred Heart, to reach, by Thy all-powerful grace, to the perfection of my state. For Thou hast promised that "the fervent shall speedily rise to great perfection".
* "I do not know," writes Blessed Margaret Mary, "that there is any exercise of devotion more calculated [than that to the Sacred Heart] to raise a soul in a short time to the highest perfection, and to enable it to taste the genuine sweetness that is to be found in the service of Jesus Christ. Religious persons will find in it such help that communities, already living in exact observance, will need no other means [than this devotion] to raise them to the very highest perfection.
"Jesus Christ made known to me in a manner that admits of no doubt . . . that it was His wish to establish this solid devotion everywhere, and through its means to raise up for Himself an infinite number of faithful servants, perfect friends and loving children."------Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque, Letter 182, vol. ll, p.285.
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 January 2001 issue of Catholic Family News.
For installments to date, see www.DailyCatholic.org/2002pro.htm Archives.
MID-SUMMER HIATUS ISSUE
July 15 - September 1, 2002
volume 13, no. 104
THE TWELVE PROMISES OF THE SACRED HEART