Reparation to the Sacred Heart
Fr. Raoul Plus, S. J.
Section II: The Doctrine of Reparation
3. Our Part in Reparation
CHRIST offered Himself spontaneously and freely to His Passion and Death for our redemption. But we must not forget that this free consent of our Saviour does not lessen our responsibility for the Passion of Christ. He willed His Own death; but we willed it too; and if we have committed a mortal sin we have taken our part in crowning Him with thorns and in nailing Him to the Cross. The Roman soldiers were but the instruments of the Passion: the truly guilty one is myself. Every time that a sinner grievously offends God, he can and must say that he is one of those who crucified our Lord.
But how, it may be asked, can an act done at the present time have an effect in the past? Christ suffered long ago; now, since His glorious resurrection, He is impassible; my sin cannot harm Him now, at any rate in His Body; surely it is an exaggeration, a groundless metaphor, to say that sin crucifies our Lord. In like manner, how is it conceivable that our acts of reparation now can affect our Saviour and give Him consolation to compensate for His sufferings? And yet, if Christ cannot suffer now, why do we represent Him under the appearance of a victim, a prey to sufferings which are depicted as real? Why does our Saviour Himself, speaking of the sins of ingratitude committed against Him in the Eucharist, say: "See the state to which sinners have reduced Me," and of the sins of His chosen ones: "These give Me greater pain than anything that I suffered during My Passion? " Why does He sometimes manifest Himself, as certain holy souls relate, in the guise of the man of sorrows, as He did, for example, one Corpus Christi morning to the Blessed John of Avila. "How," exclaimed the latter in astonishment, " can You be sorrowful on such a day?" "I weep for the numerous offences committed on this very day," He replied.
The answer is that, although Christ does not suffer now, He did suffer in the past, during His Passion, for each single sin that men commit today. Because a sin is committed at a given moment it seems to us that it offends God only at that moment; immersed in time we think of everything as acting in time. But for God there is but an eternal present. "When our Lord," says P. Boubee, l "was overcome with blows, torn with the scourges, crowned with thorns, pierced with nails and finally crucified, He experienced in His Body sufferings which certainly will not be repeated. But He knew and saw quite well that these sufferings were caused by the definite sins of this or that individual. Not a blow of the scourges, not a thorn in His crown, not a drop of the Blood He shed, but with His Divine wisdom He could measure the exact share of responsibility that belonged to each one of us for each of our sins."
Therefore literally every sin is the actual and efficacious cause of the sufferings undergone by our Lord. In fact, "one mortal sin alone, whenever committed, would be the sufficient and efficient cause of the whole of the Passion of Christ; and can we yet look unmoved upon the sins of the world?"
The fact that our Lord is now impassible takes nothing from the hatefulness of sin. Is an insult any the less real for not being actually perceived by the person at whom it is aimed? If anyone ill-treated a portrait of my mother, could I look unmoved upon the insult offered to her memory, on the pretext that after all it is only a portrait? And does the fact that the Master can no longer suffer death make it any less impious to attempt to kill Him?
It may be noted, for the rest, that although at present our Lord cannot suffer, He can be consoled. Nothing, it is true, can add to His essential happiness, but in His accidental bliss our Lord can receive from us joys and consolations.
And even though our Lord cannot suffer now, does He not deserve to receive compensation for having suffered in the past? When we love a neighbour, do we cease to surround him with our sympathetic care as soon as he has ceased to suffer? Surely the memory of his past pain causes us to continue offering our consolation to one who has suffered.
Moreover, just as the sins of today are true causes of the past sufferings of the Passion, so the reparation that we offer today truly alleviates the bitterness of His past pains. When our poor Saviour was sorrowful unto death in the Garden of Gethsemani, when He was being betrayed by Judas, when Peter denied Him, when all His disciples deserted Him, our Lord was consoled to see close to Him Mary who loved Him, Veronica who wiped His brow, and all those souls that throughout the ages would bring Him the comfort of their consolation.
"Because He read the future, because His glance penetrated the ages to come, our Lord could see with wonderful clearness, as if they were really present to Him, all the good actions, all the transports of love, all the fervent and devout acts of reparation which in the course of history would be made to ally His torment. Although we had not yet poured it out upon Him, yet He already felt this balm of our compassion soothing His Wounds, because for Him it existed already as really as the oil and spices of the women of Galilee. All the acts of reparation that have been made for nineteen centuries, all those that will be made till the end of time, were before His eyes, and gave comfort to His soul."
These reflections will, I think, set at rest the doubts of those who wonder about the efficacy of their acts of reparation.
I can make reparation, therefore. But another difficulty presents itself. I am glad to offer this reparation, but what value has it? I am nothing, and the insult offered to God has something of the infinite. However loving, however whole-hearted my reparation may be, it will be as nothing in comparison with the magnitude of man's sin.
Here we must recall the great doctrine of our incorporation in Jesus Christ, of our identification with His Person.
Only one Person in the world can offer adequate reparation, and that is Christ, because of His Divine dignity. But what is Christ, the whole Christ? Not merely Jesus individually, the Son of Mary, the Son of the Eternal Father, but in addition to Him all His living members, all Christians in the state of grace. "I," says our Lord, "am the vine and you the branches." The whole vine is not merely the trunk, but the trunk together with the living branches that are united with it.
Christ could have made reparation alone; He had no need of our co-operation. But He has deigned t o ask our help, and He has joined us with His Person precisely in order to associate us with Him in His work of redemption. Just as in carrying His Cross our Lord deigned to ask the help of a man, the Cyrenean, and of a woman, Veronica, so in the application to souls of the spiritual benefits of His carrying the Cross, He vouchsafes to need our aid.
The participation of the members has indeed not the same efficacy as that of the Head. The redeeming merits of Christ are merits in strict justice, that is to say, there is perfect equivalence between His sacrifice and the salvation of souls. Our merits for others are only what theologians call merits de congruo, that is, they have their efficacy only because it has pleased our Lord that they should.
He might have done without our aid; but He has deigned to require our co-operation, in order to associate us with him in the incomparable work He has undertaken, the restoration to His Father of the glory that sin had taken from Him and the restoration to mankind of the Divine life which it had lost.
But though it is not of the same nature as that of our Lord Himself, our part is not for that reason without its efficacy. Far from it. If we fail to play our part as "other Christs," as the "complement" of the Saviour, there is some glory which will on that account not be given to God, the redemption of certain souls will not be accomplished. To be "another Christ" is not merely an honour, it is a mission. To fail in one's Christian vocation means not to play one's part as a "saviour," and thus to render oneself responsible for a part of the honour which is not rendered to God, for a part of the salvation of the world which is not brought about.
There are some who imagine that this call to reparation is one of supererogation. This is true only if reparation is made the exclusive, or at any rate the dominant idea of one's life; this is indeed more than is required of us. But without going to that extent, every Baptized person, by his baptismal incorporation in Christ, is bound to be associated with the Head of the Mystical Body in His work of Redemption and to reproduce in himself the fundamental disposition which made Christ what He was, namely, the Redeemer.
What, for our Divine Head, did it mean to be "the Christ"? It meant to offer to come on earth in order to do His Father's will, and thus to repair the effects of Original Sin. To this He was led by a double motive, first to give back to the Father the glory of which He had been deprived, and, secondly, to restore the Divine life to the human race. And so for each of the members of Christ to be a "Christ" will mean the same thing: to be ready to do the will of the Father in all things, for His glory and the salvation of souls.
Hence generosity will be required, in order to make the sacrifice; fidelity, to accomplish the will of the Father; and the desire to make reparation, that is, to give glory to God and salvation to the world.
Therefore the idea of reparation enters into the very definition of the Christian; the thought of reparation is essential to the Christian psychology. It may be more or less accentuated; it cannot be entirely eliminated. The Christian is a man of sacrifice, a man of loyalty is a man of reparation. Sacrifice is the flame, loyalty is the material of the sacrifice, reparation is the intention.
The Christian is a man of sacrifice; and his sacrifice will be the Mass, in which Christ the Head, together with all His members united with Him, offers to God the sacrifice of reparation par excellence. Loyalty: the Christian always strives to submit his own will to the will or the good pleasure of God. If the will of God is manifested in a serious matter, to contravene it will be a mortal sin; if in a slight matter, it will be a venial sin; if it is not a question of God's will, but simply of his desire, to oppose it will be an imperfection. He who never opposes either the will or the desire of God is a Saint. The Christian who as completely as possible directs his life of loyal self-sacrifice as Christ did, to the glory of the Father for the reparation of sin and the salvation of the world, is a "Christ" to the fullest extent of his power.
If, in addition to the sacrifice which he must necessarily undertake in order to love God and souls, he is able and willing to accept the cross for its own sake, because of its exceptional redemptive value, then such a Christian realizes to the utmost his vocation of "another Christ."
Thus it is clear what place in the doctrine of Reparation is taken by the sacrifice of Calvary and by the Mass which is its re-enactment, and also by that sorrow for sin which desires to associate itself for purposes of reparation with the redemptive Cross of the Divine Master. It is not without reason, therefore, that souls desirous of making reparation love to make the Eucharistic sacrifice the centre of their lives, and to live the whole of their lives in a spirit of sacrifice. And in doing this they are not being eccentric Catholics-----I use the word in its literal sense-----on the contrary they are in line with all that is essential in Catholicism, Christ is the great Redeemer; Baptism makes us other Christs; therefore we must make reparation too; and we can make reparation only by the means used by our Head.
It is a fact that the more we understand Christianity, the more we understand our incorporation in Christ which took place on the day of our Baptism, the better we come to understand reparation. E. Leseur writes: "It is enough to have received choice graces from God to understand what a deep appeal, what a mysterious attraction suffering has. Consecrated souls, whether in the cloister or outside it, have the same task: that of suffering, and by suffering to make reparation for sinners." 2
The following words of a Protestant, Adele Kamm, are curiously at variance with her Protestantism: 3 " I consider life as being subject entirely to suffering by reason of sin, not personal sin, but general sin, a human taint, which would ruin us all, were it not for the great love of God for us and the sacrifice of Christ,"-----" I believe that suffering accepted with resignation may become a great blessing for us; but I believe that we can do more, and that by accepting our cross willingly and by uniting it with that of Christ, we can contribute, even though only imperceptibly, to the advancement of the final triumph of good over evil."
Is this anything other than pure Catholic doctrine? And here too is the doctrine of vicarious merit, so vehemently denied by the Reformers: "Moreover there is a solidarity in our suffering; we make expiation for one another. We all suffer; but some suffer doubly for those who are spared much; innocent children suffer for criminals, people of delicate conscience for debauchees. . . . We are on a small scale what Christ was, Christ the holy and just Man Who consented to suffer and to become the Son of Man, in order to become one with us, and to make expiation for His brethren and to save them. . . . Shall not we all, human beings, brethren one of another, all sinners, consent willingly and joyously to unite our efforts and suffer for one another? When evil has been exterminated and good has triumphed, when Christ has given us the victory through Him, when His glorious coming has been realized, what joy there will be for those who have voluntarily suffered for this end, uniting their efforts with those of Christ. This is the belief that gives me strength to go ahead, and makes me happier in my great trial than used to be in my earlier life. I am thankful to suffer for a great cause, and to be able to be useful, even though only a little, to humanity." 4
Here is another statement of the doctrine, this time from an English pen. Mgr. Benson writes (Christ in the Church, pp. 186 ff.): "Here is St. Paul first, crying in an ecstasy of love: 'I die daily'; 'As dying, yet behold we live'; 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me'; and above all, that phrase: 'I fill up . . . what is lacking of the sufferings of Christ.'
"As we regard the Church, then, as the Body in which Jesus Christ leads a mystical life, a thousand difficulties are explained: What is that strange passion by which men and women-----even boys and girls-----in the very height of vitality and strength, think that the one thing worth doing is to immure themselves in a cell, in order to suffer? What is the mysterious instinct that makes the Carmelite hang an empty cross in her cell, to remind herself that she must take the place of the absent figure upon it-----and yet keeps the Carmelite the most radiantly happy of all women? . . . The thing is simply inexplicable except on one hypothesis-----that that unique thirst of Jesus on the Cross is communicated to His members, that His ambition to suffer is perpetuated continually in that mystical Body in which lie re-enacts the history of His Passion-----that these are the cells of that Body, which like His hands and feet, are more especially pierced by nails, and who rejoice to know that they are called to this august vocation, by which the Redemption wrought on Calvary is perpetually re-enacted on earth; who 'fill up what is wanting of the sufferings of Christ,' who are lambs of God whose blood mingles with the Blood on Calvary, victims whose sacrifice is accepted as united with His."
One last explanation: Reparation as understood by our Lord, and Reparation as it is understood by the majority of Christian souls, do not seem to have exactly the same object.
For our Lord what was in question were the rights of His Father which had been violated. What he intends by His redemptive offering, is to re-establish His Father in His glory, and, as if by recoil, to reinstate mankind in his former supernatural state. For him, then, the object of reparation is the Father, souls.
But for the majority of Christians it is Christ that stands in the foreground. The mind of the Christian does not ascend directly to God whose majesty has been outraged,; it goes first to the sacrifice of Christ, which has apparently been so wasted; such a sumptuous and generous offering on the part of the Son of God, yet so little appreciated by those to whom His sacrifice has given all.
This is perfectly true. Yet the two points of view, though different, are far from being opposed. On the contrary; in this as in all else our Lord is the way by which we go to the Father and ascend to the Holy Trinity. The reparation which has Him in view does not stop at Him, but rises still higher. Moreover, is not Christ God as well as man? If as man Christ is the means, as God He is the end, in the same degree and by the same title as the other two Persons.
Nothing is easier, then, than to pass from this first stage of the Humanity of Christ to the second, that is to the Divinity which lies hidden beneath it, to the rights of that Divinity, its love, its infinite excellence. From the thought of the pain caused or the consolation brought to the human heart of our good Master it is but a step to the thought of the insult offered or the compensation paid to Almighty God. Hence in the great Saint of Reparation. St. Margaret Mary, we find always side by side with the thought of the sanctity of love that of the sanctity of justice.
Here then are the three objects of Reparation arranged according to their respective values.
Our Lord came to make reparation for the outraged rights of the Father, and our dignity as Christians obliges us to associate ourselves with this work.
Our Lord most emphatically asked Margaret Mary to make reparation for the unrequited love of the Son, seeing that man is so ungrateful for His love, especially in the Eucharist.
We must make reparation for the injury done to souls by the sins which they commit. All brethren in Christ, we are joined in a solidarity. As loving children we must offer a double portion of love to make up for the indifference of infidels. Perhaps, nay surely, this work of supererogation will touch the hearts of these misguided ones.
Love of God, Whom we suffer to see so ill served; love of the Saviour, Whom we suffer to see so ill repaid; love of souls, whom we suffer to see so lamentably lost. This is the love that inspires Reparation.
1. Les offices vers le Sacré Cœur, p. 134.
2. Lettres sur la souffrance, p, 267.
3. She founded a union of prayer and resignation for the sick: she died at the age of twenty-five, after a long agony.
4. P. de Lescure: Une "Sainte" protestante, "Revue de la jeunesse," t. X, 1913-14, p. 321.
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