The beginnings of the Sacred Heart devotion

June 27, 2021 • 6 min

From The Sacred Heart, Anecdotes and Examples to Assist in Devotion, page 22
By Rev. Dr. Joseph Keller

The middle of the seventeenth century was the time appointed by God to open this fountain of His mercy, in order to regenerate man, who, on account of his perverse ways, was on the verge of perdition.

Margaret Mary Alacoque, the instrument chosen by Divine Providence to promote this devotion to the Sacred Heart, was a poor, obscure nun, living in the greatest retirement in one of the houses of the Visitation in France, but whose soul was filled with the most burning love for this adorable Heart.

One day, whilst kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, she felt herself marvellously penetrated with the presence of God. Jesus appeared to her, and after allowing her to repose for some time in His divine bosom, He revealed to her the inexplicable mysteries of His adorable Heart, and said to her: “Look at My Heart, which is burning with so great a love for man, and more especially for thee, that it can no longer contain itself, and is compelled through thy means to manifest itself to men, in order that they may enrich themselves with the treasures I long so ardently to give them; I reveal their great value to thee: they are the graces of sanctification and salvation, destined to snatch mankind from the abyss of perdition. I choose thee in spite of thy unworthiness and ignorance to be My agent, so that it may be quite clear that all is done by Me.”

After saying these words He took Margaret’s heart, and on His plunging it into His own, it began to shine like an ocean of fire, and when He returned it to her it was quite bright. As a sign that this apparition was not the work of an over wrought imagination, He caused her ever afterwards to feel a sharp, acute pain in her left side.

Another time, when wrapt up in prayer, she saw her divine Master, with His five wounds shining more brilliantly than the sun, His bosom seeming to be on fire. On opening it, to show Margaret His Heart, she perceived it was the source from which all this light emanated.

He then explained to her all the marvels and excess of His love for men, and how their ingratitude had been the cause of all His sufferings. “If men,” said He, “would only make Me some return for all I have done for them, I would gladly, were it possible, do still more, but they only repay My love by coldness and My tenderness by rejecting Me. Therefore, in order to atone in some measure for their ingratitude, try as far as lies in thy power to console Me.”

On Margaret laying all her weakness and incapacity to do so before Our Lord, He replied: “Behold, I give thee a superabundant means to supply for all that is wanting in thee!” He then opened His Heart, out of which gushed forth flames of fire, which seemed to consume her heart with such an intensity of burning love that she implored her divine Master to take pity on her weakness, as she could not endure such a superabundance of graces. “Fear nothing,” replied our dear Lord, “I will be thy strength; but listen to My voice in order to prepare thyself to fulfil My instructions.”

He then taught her the way to honor His Divine Heart. “Thou wilt receive holy communion on the first Friday of every month, to make reparation to Me. On the night between Thursday and Friday I will make thee participate in My sadness and agony in the Garden of Olives. Between the hours of eleven and twelve thou wilt prostrate thyself flat on thy face on the ground, and unite with Me in imploring the divine justice to have pity on poor sinners, and thus mitigate the grief I felt at the faithlessness of My apostles.”

The most wonderful of all these apparitions took place during the octave of Corpus Christi. Whilst Margaret Mary, kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, was, in the intensity of her love, thinking what was the best way to give herself entirely up to God, Our Lord, as if in answer to the longings of her heart, appeared and said to her: “Thou canst render Me no greater service than by doing what I have so repeatedly asked of thee.”

And showing His Sacred Heart, He added those sweet and consoling words, which have re-echoed through out the whole Catholic world: “See that Heart which has so loved men, that it has spared itself nothing to prove its love to them, and the only return I receive from most of them is the basest ingratitude, in the sacrileges, irreverences, coldness and contempt I meet with in this sacrament of My love. But what causes Me the greatest pain is the way I am treated by those consecrated to Me; for this reason I require of you to consecrate the first Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi to My Sacred Heart, by receiving holy communion and making a solemn act of reparation to atone for the insults it must receive whilst exposed on the altar. I also promise you My Heart will expand and pour down in rich abundance the stream of its love on all who will pay this homage to it.”

“But, my most gracious Lord,” replied Margaret, “of whom dost Thou make use? Of me, a miserable sinner, whose unworthiness of itself is capable of its wasting Thy designs?”

“Do you not know,” said her divine Master, “that I make use of the weak to put the strong to shame; that I usually manifest My light in its greater glory to the lowly, the poor in spirit, to the one who attributes nothing to himself?”

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