Separate lovers and you start trouble. Tear the ribbons that tie two hearts together, and tears will flow. Snatch a child from its mother, a wife from her husband, a friend from a friend, a young man from the girl of his heart, and sorrow comes.
That is why the romance of Gabriel and Evangeline is so sad. He who wrote the story of their love was not a Catholic. Yet, Longfellow had a Catholic heart and mind, and when he penned the poignant epic of these lovers, he wrote a truly Catholic poem. More, the author shows an understanding and an appreciation of devotion to the Sacred Heart, so appropriate in June.
Recall, if you please, tbat heart-rending departure scene in Evangeline where the peaceable people of Acadia are driven from their homes by cruel order of the English king. Ousted from their cozy cottages, they were herded to the boats, and then, like cattle, carried away from everyone and everything near and dear. The poet mourns:
"Wives were torn from their husbands,Already betrothed, Evangeline and Gabriel see each other for the last time. To think of the heartaches of those innocent folk, knowing that all their misery was due to the cruel ambition or crass ignorance of a heartless king, makes our blood boil.
and mothers, too late, saw their children
Left on tbe land, extending their arms,
with wildest entreaties."
Imagine the feelings of those honest farmers. The men were trapped in the church. They were furious. Feelings of hatred and revenge and violence were running high, when the good parish priest, Father Felician, entered the church. Calling for quiet, he rebuked their un-Christlike behavior. He seems to have led them to some hidden source of strength and patience, for the very next day as the men were marched down to the boats but let the poet tell it:
"Foremost the young men came; and, raising together their voices.If anyone ever had just cause for anger, these Acadians had. In modem slang, "they had something to fight about." Yet, the Sacred Heart kept them from violence, calmed their angry hearts, and cooled their desire for revenge. To that Heart these honest, practical Catholics appealed in their hour of affiiction. In many a smaller trial it had been a fountain of strength. There they always found quiet and comfort. They would find strength there even in this bitter moment, for the supply was inexhaustible. Millions had drawn from this sacred spring, millions still were drinking consolation from it, yet the well never died. It was limitless.
Sang with tremulous lips a chant of the Catholic Missions:
'Sacred Heart of the Saviour! O, inexhaustible fountain!
Fill our hearts this day with strength and submission and patience.'"
Like the Acadians we have our grievances and injustices, at least so we think. Granting that our complaints are just, they will hardly compare with the injustices done to these innocent people. Certainly all our complaints added together will never measure above the injustice done to our suffering Lord. Jesus forgave; those farmers forgave. How about you?
But the Sacred Heart is not only the fountain of forgiveness, it is the source of every virtue. It is the "fountain of life and holiness," as we pray in the Litany of the Sacred Heart.
Many families have set up this fountain in their home. They have a statue or picture of our Savior, showing His Sacred Heart, in some prominent place of honor, on a shelf or sideboard, often in their bedroom where they must see Him, where they must think of Him in time of trial and temptation.
At that shrine father takes the courage to carry on, mother draws the faith and love that guide her life, sister wins her maidenly charm, brother builds his sterling loyalty. From experience they know Christ keeps His promise:
"I will bless every place where a picture of my Heart is set up and honored."
They know that never is its help exhausted, never.
All the saints, particularly those of the Franciscan Family, knew this. Our own St. Anthony did one day preach:
"If Jesus Christ is the rock, the hole of the rock, in which the religious soul is to seek shelter and take up her abode, is the wound in the side of Christ....This leads to His Heart; and it is hither He calls the soul He has espoused. To her He extends His arms. To her He opens wide His sacred side and divine Heart, that she may come and hide therein."Carried away at sight of Christ's riven Heart, St. Francis cried out:
"O Jesus, let Thy Heart be my strength! O Love, Love that hast so wounded me! Love, Love, let me be one with Thee! Let me die for Thy Love; draw me, urge me to come to Thee, and give me Thy Heart! Love, Love, let me behold Thy Heart!"That sweet saint's prayer will be mine too: "Let me behold Thy Heart!"
Adapted from Occasional Talks
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1949)