The Devotion to the Sacred Heart
Fr. John Croiset, S. J.
Originally published in1691;
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1959
TAN Books and Publishers
If Jesus Christ has performed so many prodigies to induce us to love Him, what favors will He not confer on those whom He sees eager to testify to Him their gratitude and their ardent love? He has loved us tenderly, says St. Bernard, and He has lavished His blessings on us when we did not love Him, even when we did not wish Him to love us. What gifts and graces will He not pour out on those who love Him and who are grieved at seeing Him so little loved?
It is sufficiently evident that the devotion to the Sacred Heart is a proof, or to express it more accurately, a continual exercise of ardent love of Jesus Christ. Besides the fact that it consists in the practice of the most holy exercise of our Religion, it has a something so strong and so tender about it that it obtains everything from God; and in truth, if Jesus Christ confers such great favors on those who have devotion to the instruments of His Passion, and to His Wounds, what favors will He not confer on those who have a tender devotion to His Sacred Heart?
In the preface to this book we have given reasons why prudent men should not refuse to give credence to the revelations of St. Mechtilde. This saint gives the following account of a revelation which she received about this devotion:
"One day I saw the Son of God, holding in His Hand His own Heart, which appeared more brilliant than the sun and which was casting rays of light on every side; then, this amiable Savior gave me to understand that all the graces which God unceasingly pours forth on men, according to the capacity of each, come from the plenitude of the Divine Heart."
And this same Saint, a short time before her death, declared that having one day earnestly asked Our Lord for some great favor for a person who had asked her to do so, Jesus Christ said to her: "My child, tell that person for whom you are praying to Me, to seek in My Heart all that she desires; tell her to have a great devotion to My Sacred Heart, and to ask for everything in this same Heart, like a child asking its father for everything it wants, knowing no other artifice but what love suggests to it." [Liber Specialis Gratiae, Pt. IV. Chap. 28].
God, having revealed to this person [St. Margaret Mary], mentioned in the second chapter, for whom Blessed Claude de la Colombiere had such veneration, the great graces which He had attached to the practice of this devotion, told her that it was by a last effort of His love for men that He had resolved to reveal to them the treasures of His Sacred Heart and to give them this devotion which would enkindle the fire of His love in the hearts of the most unfeeling, and inflame the hearts of the least fervent with ardent love.
"Publish this devotion everywhere," said our loving Savior. "propagate it, recommend it to people of the world as a sure and easy means to obtain from Me a true love of God; to ecclesiastics and religious, as an efficacious means to arrive at the perfection of their state; to those who work for the salvation of their neighbor, as an assured means to touch the most hardened hearts; and finally to all the faithful, as a most solid devotion, and one most proper to obtain victory over the strongest passions, to establish union and peace in the most divided families; to get rid of the most long-standing imperfections; to obtain a most ardent and tender love for Me; in fine, to arrive in little time and in a very easy manner, at the most sublime perfection."
St. Bernard [1091-1153], full of these sentiments, always spoke of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as an inexhaustible source of all blessings:
"O most sweet Jesus;' he cries out, "what riches Thou hast contained in Thy Sacred Heart, and how easy it is for us to enrich ourselves, when we possess in the Blessed Eucharist this infinite treasure."
"It is in this adorable Heart," says Cardinal Peter Damien, "that we find all the weapons necessary for our defense; all the remedies proper for the cure of our evils, all the most powerful aids against the assaults of our enemies, all the sweetest consolations to solace our sufferings, all the purest delights to fill our souls with joy. Are you afflicted? Do your enemies persecute you? Does the remembrance of your past sins trouble you? Do you feel your heart agitated by uneasiness, fear or passion? Go and prostrate yourself at the foot of the altar; throw yourself, so to speak, into the arms of Jesus Christ. Enter into His Sacred Heart. It is a sanctuary, a retreat for holy souls, a place of refuge where our souls are in perfect safety."
The devout Lanspergius says: "Not only is the Sacred Heart the seat of all the virtues, but it is also the source of the graces by aid of which we acquire and preserve these virtues. Have devotion to the Sacred Heart all full of love and mercy; through It, demand all that you wish to obtain, by It, offer all your actions because the Sacred Heart is the treasury of all supernatural gifts. It is, so to speak, the way by which we unite ourselves more closely with God and through which God communicates Himself most lovingly to us. Draw at will from this Sacred Heart, all the graces, all the virtues of which you have need, and do not fear that you will exhaust this infinite treasure; have recourse to It in all your necessities; be faithful in the exercise of so reasonable and so useful a devotion and you will soon feel its effects." [Lanspergius, Pharetra divini amoris].
We find still another illustrious example of all this in the life of St. Mechtilde. The Son of God, having appeared to her, commanded her to love Him ardently, and to honor His Sacred Heart in the Blessed Sacrament as much as possible. He gave her His Sacred Heart as a pledge of His love, as a place of refuge during her life and as her consolation at the hour of her death. From this time this saint was penetrated with an extraordinary devotion for the Sacred Heart, and she received such great graces from It that she was accustomed to say that if she had to write down all the favors and all the blessings which she had received by means of this devotion, a large book would not contain them. [Liber Specialis Gratiae]. Those who practice devotion to the Sacred Heart in our own times receive also great graces and experience great consolation and thus confirm by their own experience the truth of the statements of those cherished servants of God.
The author of the Interior Christian writes: "I am resolved to depend henceforth on providence alone without seeking either consolation or support in creatures; I ought to be like a child that, without uneasiness or fear, reposes sweetly in the arms of its mother from whom it receives a thousand caresses, a thousand endearments. I confess that Our Lord treats me in this manner; for without seeking elsewhere nourishment and riches for my soul, I find in His Sacred Heart, all the helps and blessings of which I have need; and I find these blessings in such great abundance, and I am so liberally enriched by them that I am sometimes astonished, and fear that there may be negligence on my part because I receive such great graces while making so little effort."
But even though we could not adduce either authority, or examples, or particular revelations in favor of this devotion; even if Jesus Christ Himself had not explained it so frequently, should a Christian have need of elaborate reasoning to see there is nothing more solid or more advantageous for our salvation and our perfection than a devotion that has as motive, the most pure love of Jesus Christ; which has an end, to make reparation as far as possible for all the indignities which Jesus Christ suffers in the adorable Sacrament of the Eucharist; and of which all the practices tend solely to honor Jesus Christ and to make Him ardently loved?
Can this admirable Savior who has done so much to gain the hearts of men, refuse anything to those who themselves ask of Him a place in His Heart? If Jesus Christ allows Himself to be given to those who do not love Him, if He allows Himself to be brought at the hour of death to people who have scarcely ever deigned to visit Him during their lives, people who have been insensible both to the striking proofs of love which He gives them and to the cruel outrages which He receives in the adorable Sacrament of the Eucharist, people even who have perhaps themselves treated Him with indignity, what will He not do for those faithful servants who, sensibly touched at seeing their good Master so little loved, so rarely visited and so cruelly outraged, frequently make reparation to Him for all the contempt which he suffers and leave nothing undone to repair the outrages offered to Him by their frequent visits, by their adoration and homage, and especially by their ardent love? It is therefore clear that there is nothing more reasonable, nothing more useful than the practice of this devotion, and will it then be necessary to give lengthy reasons to Christians to persuade them to take up the practice of it?
[The precious advantages attached to the practice of devotion to the Sacred Heart which Father Croiset has just pointed out had been announced long before his time by the great contemplative, St. Gertrude of Saxony (1256-1302).]
What St. Gertrude has written on this subject has been frequently quoted; a few words will suffice to recall it. Her historian relates that the beloved Disciple, St. John, appeared to her on one occasion, and that she asked her Heavenly visitor how it was that he, whose head had reposed on the breast of the Savior at the Last Supper, kept complete silence about the throbbing of the adorable Heart of his Master; and she expressed regret to him that he had said nothing about it for our instruction. The saint replied to her: "My mission was to write for the Church, still in its infancy, something about the uncreated Word of God the Father, something which of itself alone would give exercise to every human intellect to the end of time, something that no one would ever succeed in fully understanding. As for the language of these blessed beats of the Heart of Jesus, it is reserved for the last ages when the world, grown old and become cold in the love of God, will need to be warmed again by the revelation of these mysteries." [Lanspergius, Legatus Divinae Pietatis, Lib. IV, Cap. IV].