Saturday, June 10, 2006

Alter Christus - Zeal for Devotion to the Sacred Heart

I. Every priest ought to be an apostle of the Sacred Heart, if he wants to reap the maximum result of his labours.

There are many helps to the priest in his ministry; zeal to spread the devotion to the Sacred Heart is one of them. If he neglects it, he leaves idle a great capital wherewith he might trade most successfully...

How many priests are saddened by their powerlessness to achieve the good they dream of; they complain of, and lament over, the barrenness of their apostolate, the difficulty of bringing souls to Christ, and of making Him truly reign in those that are His.

To feel such regrets, and feel them keenly, is a grace. Unhappy the priest who remains untouched by what wrung the Heart of Jesus with sorrow... But a sign of the sincerity of our regret is the keenness not to leave untried any means to remedy the evil. The efficacy of this devotion has been experienced by many holy priests.

Indeed, it expresses the essence of Christianity under its deepest, most appealing and most powerful aspect: God is love, and He wants our love.

"Deus caritas est."

"Sic Deus dilexit mundum ut Filium suum unigenitum daret."
"Dilexit me et tradidit semetipsum pro me."
"Diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo..."
"Ama et fac quod vis."
In the Sacred Heart we find the concrete, telling, human sign of God's love and a moving appeal for love.

Thus, while constituting a special devotion, it has at the same time a universal character: it is the whole of religion, and, in a sense, it is in all other devotions, since all the mysteries of our faith are but particular expressions of the love of God... "This most blessed sign (the Sacred Heart) and the devotion inspired by it contain the sum total of all religion and the norm of perfect life" (Pius XI, in the encyclical Miserentissimus Deus).

Let us remember the powerful help Our Lord has promised to those devoted to His Sacred Heart:
For the priest himself: there is the first promise that applies to him as to everybody: "I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life". And the tenth promise, explicitly to him: "The gift of touching the most hardened hearts".

For the faithful: we know the promises, for the sinner, for the tepid, for the fervent, for the families and houses, in afflictions, in trials and in death: truly magnificent promises. And if we are tempted to fear exaggerations in the way St Margaret ­Mary has recorded her revelations, let us call to mind the words in which the sacred liturgy unfolds for us the ­designs of Christ when His Heart was pierced on the Cross; "Ut apertum Cor divinae largitatis sacrarium torrentes nobis funderet miserationis et gratiae" (Preface of the Mass of the Sacred Heart).

II. Am I a fervent apostle of the Sacred Heart? Is my zeal a burning one: one that fills me with an habitual longing for the reign of the Sacred Heart, and makes me seize every opportunity to spread it? ... For, surely, the measure­ of my zeal will be one of the determining factors that will settle the measure of the Sacred Heart's blessings.

A point of comparison; many of us have seen, in our midst, a priestly soul truly consumed with such a zeal: Fr Matheo Crawley. Well, let us ask ourselves: What is my zeal for the Sacred Heart, compared to his? ...

It may be objected: his case is quite a special one: he was at Paray-le-Monial in the Chapel of the Apparition - ­he was cured, there, miraculously - he felt, there, a distinct call to spread the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Granted the extraordinary degree in which it all happened; granted also the peculiarity of his mission, to which we are not called. But as to the sources of his burning zeal: are we so far from enjoying like privileges?

Have we not our own Paray-le-Monial, in our church or chapel, where Jesus truly present is ever ready to reveal Himself to souls that long for Him? Have we not seen, with the eyes of the soul, at times, something of the Apparition of the Sacred Heart, when we looked with faith at the taber­nacle, when we recalled to mind (while reciting slowly the Litany of the Sacred Heart) all His titles to our adoration and love and confidence and generosity, above all when we held Him in our hands and lifted Him up for the adoration of men in the Mysterium Fidei?

As to being cured by the Sacred Heart, like Fr Matheo: barring the miracle of a sudden bodily cure, each one of us surely has experienced in his soul the healing power of the Sacred Heart, "pax et reconciliatio nostra", "vita et resurrectio nostra",... in his soul, and in the souls of penitents and sinners.

And the secret inspirations urging us to be apostles of the Sacred Heart? Let each one scan the history of Christ's dealings with his soul, in moments of special fervour and devotion: who is the priest who has not again and again heard the voice of the Master, asking him to be a messenger of His Love, and to spread that Fire which He came to cast on earth and yearns to see enkindled? ...

III. Examine and resolve: What shall I do this month of June to reap more abundant fruit from the devotion to the Sacred Heart in my ministry:

For my flock:
Can I not put new life in the practices already established in my parish or school;
Can I perhaps add something, with due prudence and everything con­sidered;
In my sermons and catechisms, in private direction (confessional, conversations) am I on the look-out for chances to draw souls to the Sacred Heart? ...

For myself:
Am I doing, as far as circumstances permit, what I recommend to others;
Have I remained faithful to what were my practices of devotion in times of fervour; if not, why not?
Do I feel confident that the last promise of the Sacred Heart applies to me:
"Those who shall promote this devotion, shall have their names written in my Heart, never to be blotted out."?
Adapted from Alter Christus, Meditations for Priests
by F.X. L'Hoir, S.J. (1958)
Meditation 30.

Please pray for our priests and pray for vocations to the priesthood.

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