Posts Tagged Spiritual Life

Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

by Reverend Irenaeus Schoenherr, O.F.M.

Most Sacred Heart of Christ the King

God has always dealt with men in a way consonant with their nature – by drawing them to His Holy Will by promises of reward. It was so with His dealings with the chosen people under the Old Dispensation. It was the way of Christ in the New, promising even a hundredfold return for compliance with His desires. And so it is in the history of the revelation and propagation of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

‘That men might more readily respond to that wonderful and overflowing desire of love,’ wrote Leo XIII in his Encyclical Annum Sacrum (1899) on the devotion, ‘Jesus, by the promise of rich rewards, called and drew all men to Him.’ Saint Margaret Mary in her writings insists again and again on the ardent desire of Christ to pour out blessings with a royal generosity on those who would honour His Divine Heart and return Him love for love.

These Promises of the Sacred Heart, in the form in which they are now popularly known and approved by the Church, far surpass in variety, universality and importance those attached to any other exercises of devotion in the Church.

They are addressed to all sorts of persons: to the fervent, the tepid, and the sinful. They embrace every condition of life: priests, religious, and seculars. They promise relief to the afflicted, strength to the tempted, consolation to the sorrowful, peace to the family, blessings in the home, success in our enterprises, mercy to the sinner, high sanctity to fervent souls, courage to the cold of heart. They promise power to the priest to soften the hardest hearts. They promise strength and courage on our deathbed, and tell us of the priceless gift of final perseverance and of a refuge in the Heart of Christ at the last moment.

What greater or more valuable favours than these could even the omnipotent and boundless love and goodness of the Sacred Heart bestow on us? These Promises help us to an understanding of the truth of Saint Margaret Mary’s glowing words: ‘Jesus showed me how this devotion is, as it were, the final effort of His love, the last invention of His boundless Charity.’

First Promise: ‘I will give to My faithful all the graces necessary in their state of life.’

The duties of our daily life are numerous and often difficult. God grants us in response to prayer and frequent reception of the Sacraments all the necessary graces for our state of life. There are also extraordinary graces which lie outside the usual action of God’s Providence, graces that He gives to His special friends. These are more efficacious graces, more plentifully given to the clients of the Sacred Heart.

Second Promise: ‘I will establish peace in their homes.’

‘Gloria in excelsis Deo! Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.’

‘Peace is the tranquillity of order, the serenity of mind, simplicity of heart, the bond of charity.’ (Saint Augustine) It was the first thing the Angels wished to men at the birth of Jesus. Our Lord Himself bade His disciples to invoke it: ‘Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!”‘ (Luke 10:5) In the Heart of Jesus will be found the true peace, that makes the home the reflex and anticipation of our heavenly Home.

Third Promise: ‘I will comfort them in all their afflictions.’

The desire to comfort the sorrowful is the mark of a noble and kind heart. The Sacred Heart is the most noble and generous of hearts, both human and divine. How does He console us? Not necessarily by freeing us from sorrow and affliction. He knows the priceless value of the cross – that we have sins to expiate. By His grace, He makes what is painful tolerable. ‘I am filled with comfort, I overflow with joy in all our troubles.’ (2 Corinthians 7:4)

Fourth Promise: ‘I will be their secure refuge in life, and above all in death.’

Saint Longinus pierced the side of Jesus with a lance.

‘One of the soldiers opened His side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water.’ (John 19:34) Christ’s side was opened to show that Divine Providence wished all men to find in His Divine Heart an assured refuge against the enemies of our salvation. In His Heart we can find protection, strength in our frailty, perseverance in our inconstancy, assured refuge in the dangers and toils of life, and at the hour of death.

Fifth Promise: ‘I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.’

‘God is love.’ He is ready to give His children abundant temporal blessings as long as they do not imperil our eternal interests. His ‘special’ Providence protects and watches over those devoted to the Sacred Heart with peculiar love and tenderness. However, we should not be discouraged if our prayers for temporal favours are not always answered, for God always puts our eternal good before our temporal good.

Sixth Promise: ‘Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.’

The Redemption is the immortal drama of God’s mercy; and our Divine Redeemer is, as it were, God’s Mercy Incarnate. ‘With the Lord is kindness and with Him plenteous Redemption.’ (Psalms 129:7) On earth the Heart of Christ was full of mercy toward all. Now in His glorified humanity in Heaven Jesus continues to show forth His boundless mercy, ‘always living to make intercession for us’. (Hebrews 7:25)

Seventh Promise: ‘Tepid souls shall become fervent.’

Lukewarmness is a languid dying state of the soul that has lost its interest in religion. The Holy Spirit expresses deep disgust for such a soul: ‘You are neither cold nor hot … I am about to vomit you out of My mouth.’ (Apocalypse 3:15) The only remedy for it is devotion to the Sacred Heart, Who came ‘to cast fire on earth’, that is., to inspire the cold and tepid heart with new fear and love of God.

Eighth Promise: ‘Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.’

High perfection is the reward that Christ bestows on the fervent clients of His Divine Heart; for this devotion has, as its special fruit, to transform us into a close resemblance to our Blessed Lord. This is done by kindling in our hearts the fire of divine love, which, as Saint Paul says, ‘is the bond of perfection’. (Colossians 3:14) Through devotion to the Sacred Heart self-love will give way to an ardent zeal for His interests.

Ninth Promise: ‘I will bless every place in which an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honoured.’

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Furnace of Charity

Religious pictures are a powerful appeal and inspiration. The Sacred Heart is an open book wherein we may read the infinite love of Jesus for us in His Passion and Death. He shows us His Heart, cut open by the lance, all aglow like a fiery furnace of love, whose flames appear bursting forth from the top. It is encircled with thorns, the anguishing smarts of unheeded love. May it ever impel us to acts of love and generosity.

Tenth Promise: ‘I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.’

The conversion of a sinner calls sometimes for extraordinary graces. God never forces the free will of a human being. But He can give actual graces with which He foresees the sinner will overcome the resisting attitude of the most obstinate sinful soul. This, then, is what occurs in the case of priests who are animated with great devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Eleventh Promise: ‘Those who promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.’

This Promise holds out to promoters of devotion to the Sacred Heart a wonderful reward; they ‘shall have their names written in My Heart’. These words imply a strong and faithful friendship of Christ Himself, and present to us the ‘Book of Life’ of Saint John: ‘I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life.’ (Apocalypse 3:5)

Twelfth Promise: ‘To those who shall communicate on the First Friday, for nine consecutive months, I will grant the grace of final penitence.’

This Promise contains a great reward, which is nothing less than heaven. ‘Final perseverance is a gratuitous gift of God’s goodness, and cannot be merited as an acquired right by any individual act of ours.’ (Council of Trent) It is given as the reward for a series of acts continued to the end: ‘He who has persevered to the end will be saved.’ (Matthew 10:22)

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Balm for the Sick and Consolation for the Dying

taken from The Glories of the Precious Blood by Rev. Max F. Walz, C.PP.S.

Pain, as beautifully described by Père Laurent, not only respects the past, that is, it is not only expiatory in character, but it is one of the finest signs of God’s mindfulness for us in the present, as well as for the future. We are afflicted that we may be saved, and the hand that wounds is also the hand that heals. Through suffering, new spiritual life is borne from this partial destruction of our being. God allows jealous rivalries, cruel disappointments, unexpected humiliations, to accomplish this aim; here He shatters a fortune, there He humbles a pride; dissipates this man’s dreams for the future, strikes that man in his affections; maybe for another all earthly happiness will be swallowed up at a blow.

In all this lies the mission of pain – to bring God nearer to us and to raise us up to God. It detaches us from this wicked world and our sinful habits. Our sufferings ascend to Heaven like sweet incense, even as a log is raised to the skies by applying fire to it and letting it go up in flame and smoke.

The Scourged Jesus

Pain is a grace which sanctifies the soul; through it, a sort of mystic union is effected which unites the life of the suffering soul to the very life of the suffering God-Man, and in this contact of the soul with God, pain is transmuted into power of redemption. Those who are patient and resigned to the will of God, acquire a likeness to their Divine Master, assuming the lineaments of the Crucified, especially if their sufferings be, in a measure, undeserved. They are identified with Jesus Christ, as victims of His special love, offered in expiation for the sins of this wicked world, and as such, they become a part of the vast scheme of atonement.

‘Without the shedding of blood there is no remission,’ says Saint Paul. It matters little whether it be the blood of bodily wounds or tears, which are the blood of the soul. ‘The good God,’ says the Curé of Ars, ‘asks not for the martyrdom of our bodies, but for the martyrdom of our hearts and wills.’ There is an apostolate of suffering, as well as an apostolate of prayer and labor. ‘For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son.’ (Romans 8:29) Jesus Christ continues to make reparation through those whose mission it is to suffer with Him for this sin-sick world. This is what Saint Paul meant when, persecuted like his Master, he said of himself, ‘I fill up these things what are wanting of the sufferings of Christ.’

What a consoling truth this should be for the sick, especially for nervous persons who feel like outcasts from human society, and frequently consider themselves abandoned even by God. Their past sins, and even their smaller faults, weigh heavily upon them. They imagine that God has forsaken them on account of their mistakes in life, and their offenses against Him, and they feel that neither in this life nor in the next can they receive forgiveness or attain happiness.

Crucifixion of Jesus

Look up to the Cross, despondent souls, you who share in the bitter abandonment of your dying Saviour, and listen to the words of the Beloved Disciple, ‘He has loved us and washed us in His Blood,’ and He loves us now; as much as He did then.

O sweetest Blood, that can implore
Pardon of God, and Heaven restore,
The Heaven which sin has lost,
While Abel’s blood for vengeance pleads,
What Jesus shed still intercedes
For those who wrong Him most.

For neurotic persons, at a certain stage in their despondency, the future has naught in store but gloom and despair. ‘And I wept much,’ writes Saint John of what he saw as a pilgrim in Heaven, ‘because no man was found worthy to open the book nor to see it.’ To this book, by which is meant the history of the fall and redemption of mankind, the future of our own lives may be compared; it is a sealed book to us, and a most perplexing riddle, full of anxieties and fearful uncertainties, especially for the nerve-racked. Saint John continues: ‘And one of the ancients said to me, “Weep not; behold the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and loose the seven seals thereof.” And I saw … a Lamb standing as it were slain … and he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne. And when he had opened the book … they sung a new canticle, saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and has redeemed us to God, in Thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.”‘ (Apocalypse 5:4–10)

Jesus, the Crucified King

Therefore, weep not, dear despondent soul! The Lamb that was slain, but rose again on the third day, as the Lion of the tribe of Juda, will lead you safely through your labyrinth of gloom and despair, if you will but cling to Him by the virtue of hope. The Lamb that was slain becomes the Lion of the tribe of Juda. ‘Ideo victor quia victima,‘ says Saint Augustine, ‘Christ is the Victor because He became a Victim.’

Saint Paul encourages us in these words: ‘In all things we suffer tribulation, but are not distressed; we are straightened, but are not destitute; we suffer persecution, but are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we perish not. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man is corrupted, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.’ (2 Corinthians 4:8)

Thus, from this seeming destruction of your being, you will emerge renewed in heart and character, your soul purified and sanctified, and worthy to sing a new canticle of life. ‘These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ (Apocalypse 7:14)

Lamb of God

‘For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall rule them and shall lead them to the fountains of the waters of life, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’ (Apocalypse 7:17)

In the light of our future glory, our present tribulations should seem light and transient indeed!

We are on our way to life everlasting, to the land of the living, to the world, to the life, to the light. The road thither leads us through long and dark tunnels, then again up steep paths covered with thorns and thistles; our present infirmities will serve but to shorten the way. All Heaven is awaiting us at the other end.

The Blood of Christ is truly a balm for the sick, and a consolation for the dying. The Sacrament of Extreme Unction is the channel through when the Precious Blood is conveyed to the sick, during their last moments, by means of the application of the holy oils to the wounds of body and soul.

The devotion to the Blood of Jesus has the wonderful distinction of dispelling the fear of death, and the dread of meeting our Judge. ‘Having, therefore, a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ.’ (Hebrews 10:19)

‘The Blood of our Lord, wherever it is found, must produce great confidence in God; confidence in God is its primary and principal effect. Not only does it give us confidence through the belief that we have been bought at so great a price, but it gives confidence by a kind of heredity, a psychological transformation in the spirit that receives it. We become spiritually, supernaturally sanguine. We expect everything from God, precisely because we have in our veins that Precious Blood that makes the Heart of the Son of God throb with unlimited confidence in the goodness of the Father.’ [So says] Vonier.

Allegory of the Eucharist

‘The Blood of Jesus Christ,’ says Saint Bernard, ‘speaks with trumpet tones, not of the judgements of God, but of His mercies.’ The great Saint Thomas Aquinas calls the Precious Blood the key to the heavenly Paradise. How consoling are the words of Saint John Chrysostom: ‘This Blood has the power to drive away the evil spirits and to draw to our side the Good Angel, aye, the King of Angels, and to blazon the way to Heaven.’ Ah! how well the Saints knew the wonderful power of the Blood of the God-Man! ‘O Blood of Jesus, shed for love of me,’ exclaimed Saint Francis Caracciolo at the hour of death, ‘Thou belongest to me. I ask it of Thee, O Lord! Thou canst not refuse it to me, because it is mine.’ Then he devoutly kissed the five wounds of the Crucified and repeated again and again: ‘Blood of my Jesus, Thou art mine and only with Thee and through Thee I hope to be saved.’

Thou, too, discouraged soul, art stretched upon a cross of pain, twixt earth and Heaven; being above the earth, its comforts and vain hopes can give thee no relief; and since thou art yet fastened to the earth, Heaven and its consolations are far from thee. Look up to the Cross of Christ, despondent soul – nay, happy soul, that sharest the bitter abandonment of thy dying Saviour. For thy sake, His cry of agony, ‘My God, my God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ is piercing the very heavens. Courage, sad heart, thy God has not forsaken thee. The Beloved Disciple says, ‘And I heard a loud voice in Heaven, saying, “Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; because the accuser of our brethren is cast forth, who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.”‘ (Apocalypse 12:10-11)

Sacrament of Confession

You, who sometime were afar off, were made nigh by the Blood of Christ in the Sacrament of Baptism. Your soul, stained by sin, was time and again washed by the Sacrament of Penance. In Holy Communion you were brought still nearer to Jesus. You entered into the closest relationship with Our Lord so that His Divine life pulsated in yours. In Confirmation your soul received the impression of an indelible seal which marked you as the property of God. In how many Masses was your soul sprinkled with the Precious Blood of your Redeemer! And now in the Sacrament of Extreme Unction and in the plenary indulgence for the hour of death the Precious Blood achieves its final triumph here on earth so that you may appear with the robe of royalty before your Judge.

In the words of the Dies Irae you may well exclaim:

Faint and weary Thou has sought me,
On the Cross of suffering bought me;
Shall such grace in vain be brought me?
Thou Who didst the robber hear,
Biddest me with hope draw near.
Yes, bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy Saints to sing Thy love.

Now you are prepared to join the Saints, now you are entitled to sing; and the echo from your death-chamber will be: With Thy Saints to win Thy love. From Heaven the words of Saint John fall like a gentle dew upon your grave: ‘Blessed are they that wash their robes in the Blood of the Lamb!’

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