Behold the Heart . . .
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”
Just when the feasts following Easter seem to have come to an abrupt end, Jesus rescues us with perhaps the most beautiful of them all: the Feast of His Most Sacred Heart. He is so good to us and can’t stand the thought of leaving us alone, so after Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, and His 40 days among us; after the Ascension when He bids us rejoice that He goes to the Father that the Advocate may come to us; after Pentecost with His outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us; and after He brings us back to the Father as well as the Holy Spirit on Trinity Sunday with the great mystery of the Three-in-One; and finally after Jesus bids us regard the outpouring of His Love in the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi . . . well then it would be natural to suppose He has come to the end of His revelations of tender and solicitous compassion, His revelations of infinite love. Ah, but that is the ticket: Infinite Love never can exhaust itself and must always find a new outlet by which to reach and win us!
Thank Heaven, then, for Jesus’ gift of His Sacred Heart, and the Church’s gift of this Feast. And as we at Miss Marcel’s Musings ponder how Jesus has rescued us from feastlessness, it dawns on us that this is the perfect way for Him to conclude the annual series of Easter festivities. What better image and reality to leave with us, what better object for our own love throughout the coming months than His love and His Heart which He bids us imitate in meekness, gentleness, and humility. As always, His Heart’s Feast will be followed by a day in honor of His dear Mother’s Immaculate Heart. But this year, as a friend happily pointed out to me, we also have had the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist the day before the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart Solemnity! I’m thrilled that St. John couldn’t be forgotten, for though his usual day is June 24, this year the 24th is overtaken by Jesus’ Feast . . . so what do you think our Holy Mother Church did but move this birthday just one day forward to prevent our missing out on John’s great Feast! A triduum of joy, from St. John the Baptist to Jesus to Mary!
For lovers of Marcel, the Nativity of St. John falling on the 23rd accomplished a triple feast, for two other birthdays fall on June 23rd – that of Miss Marcel East, a tried and true friend of our little brother, and that of Jack Keogan, intrepid translator of the words of Marcel into English, and the one who thus made possible the English copies of Conversations and Marcel’s other writings which have charmed our hearts and changed our lives. Praise to You, Heavenly Father, Eternal Son, and Loving Holy Spirit, for giving us so much of Your mercy through Marcel. Bless these your children, and reward them for their goodness and intimacy with your second little flower, dear Marcel Van!
My heart is always captured by the liturgical antiphons of the great feasts, and the Sacred Heart is no exception. Evening prayer begins, “God has loved us with an everlasting love; therefore, when He was lifted up from the earth, in His mercy He drew us to His Heart.” And in the Mass, we hear at the outset: “The designs of His Heart are from age to age, to rescue their souls from death, and to keep them alive in famine.”
How good He is! He will not leave us alone, hungry, cast down far from His embrace, and on the verge of death (or feeling like it). He will rescue us and draw us to His Heart!
I have loved this Heart and its images for many years, but I’ve been woefully ignorant – or perhaps simply forgetful like my brother Marcel – regarding the particulars of Jesus’ revelation to St. Margaret Mary, His chosen instrument for spreading devotion to His Heart. How about you? Are you ready for a short refresher?
Delightfully, long before He spoke to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus - Who can be terrible at keeping a secret - had already revealed much about His Sacred Heart to Saints Gertrude and Mechtilde, St. Peter Canisius, St. Francis de Sales, founder of St. Margaret Mary’s Visitation Order, and to St. John Eudes.
But what did He say about this Heart to Margaret Mary? She knew nothing of these previous revelations, being kept in the dark by the Holy Spirit, kept free by Our Lord to receive the revelation of His Heart directly from Himself. When He could wait no longer to reveal this mystery to his beloved daughter, here is what He said to her:
“My divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men, and for you in particular, that not being able any longer to restrain within it the flames of its ardent charity, it must spread them everywhere through your means, and manifest itself to men that they may be enriched with its precious treasures.”
Margaret Mary explained, “He revealed to me, moreover, that His great desire to be perfectly loved by men had given Him the plan of disclosing His Heart to them, thereby opening to them all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which that Heart encloses, so that all who, according to their best power, wish to show Him all possible love and honor, or to procure this from others, should be enriched exceedingly with the divine treasures whose source is this Sacred Heart.”
Our Lord further told her that “He is pleased especially to be honored under the appearance of this corporeal Heart, and He desired that the picture of this should be publicly exposed for veneration in order to touch by this sight the unfeeling hearts of men. He promised that He would pour forth in richest abundance all the gifts of grace wherewith His Heart is filled upon the hearts of those who would how Him this honor, and that this picture should draw down blessings of every kind in all places where it is exposed for veneration.”
Ah, but then Jesus showed Margaret Mary His glorious love:
“He was brilliant with glory. His five wounds shone like five suns. Flames darted forth from all parts of His sacred humanity, but especially from His adorable breast, which resembled a furnace, and which, opening, displayed to me His loving and amiable Heart, the living source of these flames.”
And yet, Jesus explained that in return for His excess of love, men had shown Him ingratitude and forgetfulness which had pained Him more than the sufferings of His passion, but as He said, “If they rendered Me some return of love, I should esteem all I have done for them as but little, and, were it possible, would do still more for them. But they have nothing but coldness and rebuffs for all my eagerness to do them good.”
Jesus asked Margaret Mary to make up for this neglect by herself receiving Holy Communion in reparation on the First Friday of every month, as well as uniting herself with His Agony in the Garden every Thursday from eleven to midnight – and from these the Church drew forth for us the Nine First Fridays and our custom of Holy Hours. But the most famous words of Our Lord to Margaret Mary came in His fourth or “Great Apparition” in the Octave of Corpus Christi, 1675. She was before the Blessed Sacrament and Jesus showed her His Heart, saying:
“Behold the Heart which has so loved men, which has spared nothing, even to being exhausted and consumed, in order to testify to them its love. And the greater number of them make Me no other return than ingratitude, by their coldness and their forgetfulness of Me in the Sacrament of Love. But what is still more painful to Me is that it is hearts who are consecrated to Me who use Me thus.
“It is because of this that I ask you to have the First Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi kept as a special feast in honor of My Heart, by receiving Communion on that day and offering it as a reparation of honor for all the insults offered to My Heart during the time that it has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that My Heart will pour out in abundance the powerful effects of its influence on all those who will render it this honor and who will procure that others shall render it also.”
While I have long loved this Feast for the Love of Our Lord it pours forth in such visible fashion, I admit I wasn’t aware that Jesus asked of us a Holy Communion of reparation on this day! If you have missed out, perhaps you can go to Holy Communion on the special day of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, or at least you will certainly be at Mass on Sunday, when you can offer your Holy Communion in reparation and adoration, and Jesus will surely understand! He is waiting for us to return love for Love, and though we do it poorly, He understands us. His justice and mercy fuse into one compassionate gaze because He rejoices to know that His littlest ones desire to love Him for the love He has given, and even as our offerings are pitiful, so He, who knows we are but dust, raises us to the heights of His own love by giving us His Heart with which to love Him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
I must add, too, that this reparation Jesus desires is, for us who have met Therese and strive to follow her Little Way, perfectly fulfilled by our sister’s Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, wherein we ask Jesus to pour into and onto us all the love in His Heart that is rejected by others. May His infinite tenderness find a place in our souls and may our kisses console Him even as His console us!
In Marcel’s Conversations there is a hilarious New Year’s exchange we have mused over in the past: the Redemptorist novices, of which Marcel was one, were given a saint for the New Year to be their special patron. Marcel had previously drawn the name of St. Therese, which pleased him to no end, and he requested Therese again when speaking with Jesus about the upcoming saint-draw for 1946. Our Lord had a surprise in store and gave to Marcel the great St. John Eudes, but when Marcel, knowing nothing about him, asked Jesus who St. John Eudes was (in great exasperation that he had not drawn Therese again), Jesus replied:
“Saint John Eudes, Marcel, is Saint John Eudes, that’s all. He is a saint who loved me a lot during his life, after his death he ascended to heaven with me and then the Church canonized him . . . And now, I want to give you him as your patron for the year. Marcel, you are too fussy; even if you know nothing of Saint John Eudes, that’s of no consequence and I am not obliging you to know any more about him. The only thing that you must know is that I have chosen him for your patron of the year. And since I have chosen him for you, why would it not be as suitable as another. Do not be sad, Marcel. And even if you were sad, you would not be able to change it since you have already eaten some sweets in his honour; if you were going to change, all the saints would make fun of you and you would be very ashamed.” (229)
Leave it to Jesus to bring sweets into it!
But now Marcel knows and wants to share with us a little more from this great St. John Eudes, for his patron was, like St. Margaret Mary, a great champion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and he has left us a prayer, “Colloquy of a holy soul, in solitude, with the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” which we can pray together in honor of this great feast and in thanksgiving for so much love Jesus pours into our hearts from His.
We can begin by asking Marcel and Therese to pray with us, along with our guardian angels and all lovers of the Sacred Heart, in heaven and on earth. And then, bringing to our minds this Heart which has so loved us, we can pray in the words of St. John Eudes:
O Lord, how delectable is the odor of Thy fragrance! It is my hope that henceforth its sweet delight will make me entirely forget the false pleasures and the vain delights of the world. May Thy sweetness draw me after Thee and in Thee so that, having abandoned all that binds me to earth, I shall follow Thee, run to Thee, flee to Thee and take up my abode in Thy loving Heart.
That divine Heart is a port of safety, where the soul is sheltered from the winds and storms of the sea of this world. In that adorable Heart there is a calm which fears neither thunder nor storm. Therein one tastes delight that knows no bitterness. One finds a peace that never brooks any trouble or discord. There one meets with a joy that knows no sadness. In that Heart one possesses perfect felicity, a gentle charm, and unclouded serenity and happiness unthinkable. That Heart is the first principle of all good, and the initial source of al the joys and delights of paradise.
Most Sweet Jesus, from Thy divine Heart, as from the inexhaustible source, all felicity, all sweetness, serenity, security, repose, peace, joy, contentment, charm and happiness flow into the hearts of the children of God. What good can there be, or how can there be any good thing, that does not proceed from Thee, my Jesus, who art essentially good, the real good, the sovereign good, the only good?
What a joy to drink from this divine spring! What happiness to be refreshed by the delicious waters of this fountain of holiness, which issues forth from itself like a torrent of delight and contentment! Ah, delightful a thousand times is the fragrant perfume of Thy heavenly virtues, whose fragrance is so delectable as to entice all men to Thy loving Heart. It invites them, it strongly attracts them and leads them into the sanctuary of that divine Heart. It never disappoints their hopes. On the contrary, it so fortifies and confirms them that they will never again depart, having found in that most kindly Heart, as on a bed of repose, the end of all their toils.
O Thou God of love, let the sweet fragrance of Thy divine perfumes, which are the wonderful virtues of Thy holy Heart, flow abundantly into the depths of my heart! Let that fragrance penetrate all the faculties of my soul, O one and only source of all happiness, so that being enticed by the sweetness emanating from Thee, it may become detached from self and perfectly united to Thee, that it may make its abode in Thy loving Heart, there to die to itself and no longer to live but in Thee and for Thee! Amen.
Draw me; we will run!
May this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus bring you deep into His Heart, now and forever!
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