The Sacred Heart of Jesus: an old Catholic devotion.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus: an old Catholic devotion.

Recently I have been cleansing my living space of all unnecessary clutter. After a few years, the clutter had built up to quite monstrous proportions. In many ways, this clutter was a reflection of my life, my state of mind, and perhaps even the state of my soul. For years I have been wanting to clean it out, throw it away, and return to a more simple existence.  I have wanted to get rid of all the excess junk that has been holding me down, both physically, mentally and spiritually. Yet I was unable to do so. Only after my heart attack last month have I found the strength to do so. Cleansing my life of all unnecessary or stressful items, renewing my life,  is now a top priority of mine.

In my cleaning, I came across a box of things (one of dozens of such boxes) and began to go through the material. What I found lying at the bottom was interesting: in image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Now, for those of you who are not Catholics, this is a very Catholic devotion. It can be traced back to the Middle Ages, if not before, but it since 1856 the Church has devoted a special Feast day to the Sacred Heart, nineteen days after Pentecost. A French nun, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a mystic, was in instrumental in elevating the Sacred Heart to a major devotion within the Church. It is also practiced, by the way, by some Anglicans and Lutherans.

For those who are not Catholic, this devotion might seem strange. What is it? Basically, to quote Wikipedia, “The devotion especially emphasizes the unmitigated love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity.”  The image of the Sacred Heart is usually represented in art work and statuary thus (again, from Wikipedia): “The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross and bleeding. Sometimes the image is shown shining within the bosom of Christ with his wounded hands pointing at the heart. The wounds and crown of thorns allude to the manner of Jesus’ death, while the fire represents the transformative power of divine love.” Below is a photo of what is perhaps the most famous building devoted to the Sacred Heart, Sacre Coeur, The Sacred Heart Basilica in Paris. It has a prominent place among all the beautiful buildings in that city.

Sacre Coeur, The Sacred Heart Basilica in Paris.

That sums up nicely the spiritual meaning behind this old devotion. For me, it was deeply moving to come across this image which I had laid aside years ago, perhaps decades ago, and totally forgotten about. It had lain unnoticed, totally covered with clutter, at the bottom of some box. Then, after my heart attack, and in cleaning up my life in response to that, I once again find this wonderful image. I do not think such things are coincidences. Now, as someone with heart disease, which will affect me for the rest of my life, I have rediscovered this ancient Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It has tremendous meaning for me. Those who are not Catholic would think it strange; even many Catholics might be turned off by this common devotion, but now I have found it, and I believe God wanted me to find it. I keep a photo of this close by me at all times now, that, and my rosary.

As a heart attack victim, as someone with a permanently damaged heart, I pray and hope my new found devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will allow me to draw closer to Christ, deepen my spiritual self, and lead a better life, filled with love and kindness and compassion towards others. I can only thank God for that.