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 Eleventh Promise: - Part One
"Those who propagate this Devotion shall have their name written in My Heart, and it Shall never be effaced." *
1. This Promise specially regards Promoters, and is full
of encouragement and consolation for them.
Of all the Promises of the Sacred Heart there is none that is so full of encouragement and consolation for our Promoters as this Eleventh Promise. It holds out to them a very copious and most wonderful reward for their zeal, nothing less, indeed, than a humble assurance of salvation. It is, in a sense, the Beatitude of the Promoter, who is really zealous in his efforts to advance devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Of old, the Savior, standing on the mountain, spoke a strange and hitherto unheard-of message to the multitude. To a money-loving people, avaricious of this world's goods, fond of pleasure and of power, it was a startling thing to hear that "Blessed are the poor of spirit," and the mourner, and the man that suffers persecution, and so forth. The eight Beatitudes were in truth the enunciation of a new and very different order of things, the canonization of the virtues of the new law. In this present Promise we have what may, perhaps, be called the special Beatitude of the Promoter. It adumbrates a recompense appropriate to the ardent zeal that urges on true clients and Promoters of the Sacred Heart to try and kindle in many other hearts the fire of Divine love that glows so brightly in their own.
For what is a Promoter of the Sacred Heart? He is a person who has consecrated himself, his thoughts, words, actions, sufferings, and labors to the service of the Sacred Heart. He is one who, like St. Paul, in season and out of season, is habitually occupied in working for the Heart of Christ and striving to advance His interests. The sweet and sacred Name of Jesus is, in a manner, written in his heart, for he is ever working for or thinking of Him; and Jesus, in return, writes the name of His devoted client in His own Most Sacred Heart of Love. "I promise thee," He says, "that My Heart will dilate Itself to pour forth in abundance the riches of lts love upon all those who give honor to It or procure that others honor It; they shall have their name written in My Heart and it shall never be effaced." "Oh! how happy and blessed are they," cries out the Blessed Margaret Mary, "of whom the Heart of Jesus vouchsafes to make use in order to assist Him in establishing His reign, and destroying that of satan on the souls of men. Oh! that I could only find words to tell of the reward that they will receive from this adorable Heart, who employ themselves in making It known and loved!
They would surely say with me: Happy, indeed, are those whom He employs in the execution of His designs."
Such burning words as these from the pen of Blessed Margaret Mary cannot fail to bring a sense of joy and gratitude to our Promoters, and fill them with a high appreciation of their office and an ardent desire to fulfill its duties in a manner less unworthy of the mighty Master they are working for.
2. Meaning of the words "their names shall be forever written in My Heart". They have a twofold signification.
(a) They imply a wonderful and very strong and faithful friendship on the
part of Christ. What an unspeakable happiness to enjoy
the special friendship of Jesus Christ Himself!
Hence the words, "their names shall be written in My Heart" imply, in the first place, a very special love on the part of Our Lord for those who propagate devotion to His Sacred Heart.
Even in the language of daily life people sometimes make use of such a metaphor to express their deep and lasting affection for another.
(b) They present to us the Heart of Jesus Christ as being the "Book of Life" of the Apocalypse. This Promise contains two separate parts: explanation of each. To have one's name inscribed in the Heart of Jesus is nothing less than an assurance of final perseverance and salvation.
In the second place, the words, "their names shall be written in My Heart" seem to bear a certain analogy to the words of the Apocalypse. "He that shall overcome shall thus be clothed in white garments and I will not blot out his name from the book of life." [Apoc. 3: 5] Again, St. Paul writing to the Philippians speaks of his friend Clement and the rest of his fellow-laborers, "whose names," he adds, "are written in the book of life" [Philippians 4: 3]. In the Book of Exodus we find the words, "He that hath sinned against Me, him will I strike out of My book." [Exod. 32: 33] Again, the Psalmist says of the wicked, "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; and with the just let them not be written." [Ps. 68: 29]
Commenting on these passages of Scripture, A. Lapide explains that by the book of life is meant the catalogue or list of those whom God has destined to eternal life. "Men's names," says A. Lapide, "are written in this book in two ways: First, absolutely and finally: thus are written all and only those who die in sanctifying grace, and are therefore destined to eternal life. Secondly, many names are written inchoately only: in this way are written the names of all good men who are still in this life struggling with the world, the flesh and the devil, in such manner that, if they persevere in well-doing, they shall at last be finally and fully written in the book of life, and come to everlasting life, but if, on the other hand, they fail to persevere they shall have their names 'blotted out of the book of the living,' as says the Psalmist in the text already given." [Ps. 68: 29]
According to St. Thomas Aquinas the "book of life" is the knowledge that God has of the predestined. But there are, he says, two species of predestination, scil. , predestination to grace and predestination to eternal glory. All those who are predestined to grace are not, necessarily predestined to eternal glory. Some there are who tarry on the way, and wander from the path that leads to life, on which their feet were set at the beginning. They ultimately lose the grace of final perseverance, and thus their names are "blotted from the Book of Life," to use the phrase of the Apocalypse. Not that God has annulled His first decree or been deceived in their regard. He knows from all eternity who will be saved and who will not. The words merely mean that these persons by their own perversity and evil dispositions, and despite the repeated efforts of God's grace, have deliberately withdrawn from the path of duty which, had they only persevered in it, would ultimately have led them to eternal life.
By the light of these passages of Scripture and their explanation, we may venture in a way, to interpret this present Promise of the Sacred Heart.  It contains two separate parts: First, those who propagate devotion to the Sacred Heart shall have their names written in that Divine Heart. This is the setting of their feet upon the path that leads to everlasting life. So far no guarantee is given that they shall not wander from that path and ultimately lose their souls. No doubt they will receive extraordinary graces, very exceptional helps will be bestowed on them, but, so far, they have no assurance that they will duly correspond with these great graces and thus reach the goal of everlasting life. This is reserved for the second portion of the Promise: "And they shall never be effaced." The first portion of the Promise seems to correspond with the first of the classes mentioned by St. Thomas, i.e. those who are predestined to grace; the second portion with the second class who are, furthermore, predestined to eternal glory.
3. Let us do our part towards the fulfillment of this Promise. Let us earnestly endeavor, by our persevering zeal for the interests of the Sacred Heart,
to have our names so engraven in the Savior's Heart that they may never be effaced.
We ourselves must do our part towards the fulfillment of this Promise. As we have seen, it will not avail us much to have the first portion of the Promise realized in us, unless we also make sure of the second, namely, that our names shall not be effaced from that Divine Heart by our own deliberate negligence. We must not work for the interests of the Sacred Heart and propagate devotion to It merely for a time and then desist. We must persevere in our endeavors. "He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved." [Matt. 10: 22] "If your names are written in the Heart of Jesus," says Blessed Margaret Mary, "it is as yet only with ink. The crown will not be given either to beginners or even to the advanced, but only to those who being victorious shall persevere unto the end." "It is with the gold of pure love," she adds, "that we write our names in the Heart of Jesus."
It only remains for us, therefore, to show our zeal for the interests of the Sacred Heart by striving our best to become apostles of this devotion, and to spread abroad on all sides the knowledge, love, and service of this Divine Heart. Means of doing all this are not wanting to us. The spreading of the Messenger alone is a great work of zeal for the interests of the Sacred Heart. Wherever it goes it is sure to carry with it devotion to the Heart of Christ. By the prayers we offer, the Masses we hear, the Communions we receive, the example we give, the influence we exercise, especially upon the young, by the daily recital of the Morning Offering; in a word, by the thousand ways our zeal will tell us of, we may become apostles of the Sacred Heart, and thus merit in our own person the accomplishment of this most consoling Promise, "Those who propagate this devotion shall have their name written in My Heart and it shall never be effaced."
"As it appears to me, He showed me how very many persons have their names written in His Heart, by reason of their desire to bring others to honor Him, and how for that reason He will never allow their names to be effaced from His Divine Heart."-----Letter 34 to Mother Greyfie, vol. II, p. 70.
"I feel myself completely lost in this Divine Heart ...wherein He discloses treasures of love and of grace reserved for those who devote themselves to rendering and procuring for Him all the honor, love and glory in their power. But so great are these treasures [elsewhere she calls them endless blessings] that I find it quite impossible to give adequate expression to their value." -----Letter 82 to Mother de Saumaise, vol. 11, p. 158.
"The Sacred Heart has made known to me that the desire that He has to be known, loved and honored by men is so excessive that He promises to all who consecrate and dedicate themselves to Him, in order to give Him pleasure, that He will never allow them to perish, that He will be their assured refuge against all the snares of their enemies, that He will receive them lovingly into His Heart, making their salvation sure." -----Letter 100 to Pere Croiset, S.F., August 10, 1689.
1. Needless to remark, there is no parity between the pious belief with which we may be disposed to accept (as we are free to reject) the authenticity and truth of these" Promises," and the unquestioning assent of Divine faith, with which we accept the revealed word of God as contained in Holy Scripture. In the former case there is, at best, but a pious belief, a sort of provisional acceptance of what may or may not have been a genuine revelation from God. The Church has made no pronouncement whatever, in detail, regarding the genuineness or consequent truth of these "Promises."
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, published in 1913 and now out of print, 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 October 2002 issue of Catholic Family News.
For installments to date, see www.DailyCatholic.org/2003pro.htm Archives.