SACRED HEART OF JESUS, in recent centuries, one of the most widespread devotional practices in the Roman Catholic Church. It is based on the church’s teaehing with regard to its founder, Jesus Christ, who is both God and man. He is but one single person having both the nature of God and the nature of man. Since Jesus Christ is a divine person, the second person of the Blessed Trinity who has become man, his heart is truly “the divine Heart which wrought our salvation,” to which is owed “honor and glory forever.” Hence devotion is directed to the person of Jesus Christ, to his living, sentient heart, and to Üıat heart as a symbol of the love that he has for his heavenly Father and for men.
This devotion has a manifold purpose: to honor Christ, the Saviour of mankind; to seek flıat men’s hearts be inflamed with love for him whose love for them is recalled by thouglıt of his sacred heart; and to make reparation for injuries committed against him. Scriptural foundation for the devotion is found in the many references to the heart as the seat of thought, will, and affection, to Christ’s own words, “Learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29), and other texts.
Development of Devotion. Although tilere are patristic and medieval references to the heart of Christ, as in the writings of such saints as Cyril, Cyprian, Basil, Ambrose, Francis of Assisi, Bonaventura, Bernard of Clairvaux, Gertrude, and Mechtilde, it was in the 17th century, partly in reaction against Jansenism, that the devotion began to spread most rapidly and widely anıong Roman Catholics. Chief among those who promoted it were Saint Jean Eudes, Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, and especially Sainte Marguerite Marie Alacoque, a nun of ParayleMonial, France, whose letters contain records of private revelations that have become known as the “promises of the Sacred Heart.” The 12th of these, “the great promise,” reads: “The allpowerful love of My Heart will grant to those who shall communicate on the fîrst Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance.” Closely connected with this devotion is that to Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, with the attendant practice of frecjuent reception of Holy Communion. The devotion has inspired many beautiful prayers, including notably the Litany of the Sacred Heart, the Morning Offering, and acts of consecration to the Sacred Heart.
The Society of Jesus has long taken a leading part in promoting the devotion. The League of the Sacred Heart, commonly known as the Apostleship of Prayer, founded in France in 1844 by Father Francis X. Gautrelet, has a membership of over 30 million. Various religious communities, both of men and of women, have been dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Celebrated on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, and usually falling in June, the month dedicated to the devotion, the feast of the Sacred Heart was established in 1765 by Pope Clement XIII and extended to the universal church by Pope Pius IX. Pope Leo XIII consecrated the human race to the Sacred Heart, and Pope Pius XI decreed that this consecration be renewed each year on the feast of Christ the King.