Mother Teresa and the Sacred Heart
Spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart was one important aspect in the life and apostolate of Mother Teresa and still is an important part of the missionary apostolate of the Missionaries of Charity. Their Constitutions say: “In their visits, let the sisters encourage true devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Family Rosary. They should induce the Catholic families to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They should teach the families to pray, whether they be Christian or non-Christian (#113).” In her letters, Mother Teresa often encouraged the sisters spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In June of 1972, she wrote, “Jesus has promised to have the names of all who spread devotion to His Sacred Heart written in His Heart. In most of our houses, it is consoling to see the zeal with which they spread this devotion to hundreds of families. Jesus cannot deceive us - your names, my children, are written in His Heart.” In an earlier letter she exhorted her sisters, “My children, during the Novena of the Sacred Heart, let us renew our offering with greater determination to become true apostles of the Sacred Heart...” Let us too hear her words and follow her example become true apostles of the Sacred Heart.”
The following pages summarize parts of the book “Enthronement of the Sacred Heart” written by Rev. Francis Larkin. They will provide you with information that is helpful for spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart and explaining it to others in a simple way. Also included are suggestions about how to prepare families for the Enthronement Ceremony and Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, how to hold the ceremony in the home, and how to help families live their consecration afterwards.
Part I: Devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not new. It was foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the covenant of love God made with His chosen people. Every page of the New Testament gives a picture of the love of the Heart of Jesus. It was widely cultivated among the great religious orders in the Middle Ages, and became a Church-approved liturgical cult in our own times, beginning in 1765, with the approval of the feast of the Sacred Heart.
In the early seventeenth century, devotion to the Sacred Heart was helped to spread by the preaching and writings of St. John Eudes. He is called the “founder of the liturgical cult of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary”. (“Cult” means a definite form of worship.) However, in order to establish fully and entirely the worship of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to spread it throughout the world, God Himself chose as His most humble instrument, a nun from the Visitation Order, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. At Paray-le-monial, France, in the Visitation Chapel, many apparitions of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary took place.
The Four Great Apparitions:
It is impossible to state-the exact number of apparitions of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary. Most of them took place while she was kneeling in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament or after Holy: Communion. The principal apparitions may be summarized as follows:
1. December 27, 1673, feast of St. John the Evangelist.
- Like St. John at the Last Supper, St. Margaret Mary was allowed to rest on the Sacred Heart-of Jesus.
- She was chosen to be the disciple of His Sacred Heart. He told her, “My Heart is so inflamed with love for men, and for you in particular, that being unable any longer to contain within Itself the flame of Its burning love, It is compelled to spread them abroad through you...”
2. 1673 and 1674.
- The Heart alone was shown as “a throne of fire” with the symbols of the Passion: the wound in His Heart, the crown of thorns, and the cross. Jesus explained to her their meaning. St. Margaret Mary tells us, “He made me to understand that the ardent desire He had of being loved by men and of drawing them from the path of eternal damnation into which Satan was hurrying them in great numbers, had caused Him to fix upon this plan of manifesting His Heart to men.”
- Jesus told her that wherever this sacred image of His Sacred Heart would be publicly exposed for veneration, He would pour forth His graces and blessings.
3. Within the Octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi, 1674.
- Jesus appeared in glory, flames issuing from His sacred humanity. He showed His Heart within His breast as the living source of these flames.
- He appealed for reparation and asked for frequent Communion, especially on the First Friday of the Month. He asked for the Holy Hour of Reparation.
- He made known to St. Margaret Mary the ineffable marvels of His pure love and showed her to what an excess He had loved men, from whom He had received only ingratitude and contempt. Jesus told her, “I feel this more than all that I suffered in my Passion. If only they would make me some return for my love, I should think but little of all that I have done for them and would wish, were it possible, to suffer still more. But the sole return they make for all my eagerness to do them good is to reject me and treat me with coldness. Do you at least console me by supplying for their ingratitude, as far as you can.”
4. June 16, 1675. The greatest and most famous of the apparitions.
- Jesus complained of the ingratitude that He receives from the irreverence and sacrileges, by the coldness and contempt He is shown in the Sacrament of His Love – the Holy Eucharist. “But what I feel most keenly,” He said, “is that it is the hearts which are consecrated to me that treat me thus.”
- Jesus requested the Feast of the Sacred Heart with Communion and act of reparation. He promised special graces to those who carry out His request and get others to do the same.
The Reason or Purpose of the Apparitions:
St. Margaret Mary tells us: “This is as a last effort of the Savior to draw sinners to repentance and to give them abundantly efficacious and sanctifying graces to work out their salvation. The devotion to the Sacred Heart contains treasures beyond comprehension which He wishes to communicate to all well-disposed hearts. This divine Heart is the treasure of heaven and earth, which has been given to us as the final endeavor of His love.”
Through the devotion to His Sacred Heart, Our Lord wishes to renew the effects of the redemption and to revive the fire of love in men’s hearts. He wishes to give us through this devotion a new means of loving God as He deserves to be loved.
The aim of all the apparitions of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary was the restoration of His Kingship over individuals, families, and nations. “I will reign through the merciful omnipotence of my Sacred Heart.”
What do we mean by “devotion”?
Devotion has two meanings:
1. It means true love, generosity, loyalty, and union of hearts. (This is what we mean when we say a man is devoted to his family.) When we say a person has great devotion to the Sacred Heart, we mean that he truly loves Our Lord, that he is loyal and generous, and that he is united by bonds of love. In one word, he is devoted to the Sacred Heart.
2. But devotion to the Sacred Heart can mean something else. It can signify the “cult” – the expression of our love for the Sacred Heart. This is worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as He Himself requested it and as it is approved by the Church. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a “doctrinal cult” by which we worship the Person of Jesus Christ considered in His Heart and all that His Heart symbolizes.
Devotion to the Heart of Jesus, then, is not “just another devotion” in either sense of the word, like devotion to one of the saints. It is the devotion of devotions. It is the devotion to the love of Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God. It is devotion to the divine and human love of the Incarnate Word and to the love by which the heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit exercise their care over sinful men.
The dogma or doctrine which underlies this devotion:
Every devotional practice approved by the Church is based on a doctrine, a dogma. For instance, the devotion of the Rosary is based on the dogma of the divine Maternity: if Mary were not the Mother of God, we would not be saying the Rosary in her honor.
So also the practices of piety familiar to all devotees of the Sacred Heart (such as the First Friday Communions of Reparation, the Holy Hour, etc...) are based on a dogma, a revealed truth. What is that dogma? “GOD IS LOVE” (1 John 4:16).
Every practice of devotion toward the Heart of Jesus is nothing else than an expression of these truths: “God is love. Jesus is God. Therefore, Jesus is Love. He loves me. I want to love Him in return.”
Devotion to the Sacred Heart, then, is nothing else than love for the person of Jesus, whose infinite love is symbolized by His Heart. Yes, Jesus is a vast ocean of love. His Heart is the symbol of His tremendous love for us.
Every time we look at a picture or a statue of the Sacred Heart, we should be reminded of the “greatest story” ever told, the story of God’s love for men. We may think of this story as having a prologue, three chapters and a practical conclusion.
The prologue: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
Chapter I: The Incarnation. “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son... And the Word was made Flesh.”
Chapter II: The Passion and Death of Jesus. “God so loved the world... He was crucified and died.”
Chapter III: The Eucharist. “God so loved the world... Take and eat.”
Conclusion: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart.”
Yes, the Heart of Jesus symbolically “sums up” God’s love; it is also a reminder of what He has done for us in the past; what He is doing for us in Heaven, in the Eucharist and in our souls now.