Reparation to the Sacred Heart
Fr. Raoul Plus, S. J.
Section III: The Practice of Reparation
2. Affective Reparation
THE spirit of reparation, if it is sincere and profound, will seek to manifest itself by a number of tangible proofs, by certain practices, which may be ranged under the following three heads: Affective reparation, effective reparation, and aiffictive reparation, according as the virtue especially exercised is love, self-sacrifice, or penance.
Sin and indifference deprive our Lord of love; therefore to make up for this we must give Him love. Hearts are turned away from God; then we must give Him ours. It is in prayer especially that the heart is given; and hence we have the practice of offering reparation by means of the Holy Hour. Our Lord is forgotten in His most Holy Sacrament. The object of this devotion is to give to our Lord not only one's own homage, but also the homage of those who deny His Real Presence, and so, according as one's duties permit, a certain time is spent in reparation before the Blessed Sacrament. These turns of prayer and watching before the Blessed Sacrament are organized and facilitated by certain Associations founded for the purpose.
Others may prefer to make a Novena of Reparation from the 1st to the 9th of each month. The purpose of this devotion is to console and compensate our Saviour for the insults He receives in the Blessed Sacrament. No exercises or set prayers are prescribed; you are advised to assist at Mass as often as possible, to receive Communion in reparation at least once, and to have a Mass said for the same intention at least once a year.
By reason of the fewness of vocations, in France alone 12,000 priests are lacking. This means that every day 12,000 Masses are not offered; there are 12,000 altars upon which the Precious Blood is not shed for the remission of sins, upon which Christ does not appear daily to restore the balance between Divine justice and man's iniquity. Why should there not be some souls who would take the place of these priests, souls devoted to the Passion and the Eucharistic sacrifice, filled with the spirit of redemption and love, who would try to make up, by the complete sacrifice of their hearts, for all these Masses that are lacking? The following method might be suggested: In the case of one who attends Mass daily, to offer the Mass for the said intention. If one is unable to attend Mass every day, to offer a particular half-hour of the day for that purpose, reciting the following or a similar prayer: "O Jesus, eternal Priest, deign to raise up numerous priests in whom Thou may fully livest Thy priestly life . . . Deign also to raise up many souls which by their detachment from the earth and their zeal for the salvation of souls will be coadjutors of the priesthood, and in a manner take the place of the priests that are lacking."
A practice taught by our Lord Himself is the devotion, in the spirit of reparation, of the First Friday. It is too well known to need much emphasis. Suffice it to quote two extracts from St. Margaret Mary's letters: "My Divine Saviour had bidden me to go to Communion on the first Friday of every month, to make reparation, so far as in me lies, for the insults that are offered to Him each month in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar." . . . "Let those who wish to honour the Sacred Heart of Jesus in a special way choose for this purpose the first Friday of each month, to offer Him homage according as their piety inspires them." (Ed. Paray, t. II, p. 72.)
Everyone knows the promises -----at first sight rather surprising-----which our Lord has attached to the faithful fulfilment of these practices. No wonder he speaks of the "exceeding mercy of His Divine Heart." Those who receive Holy Communion on the first Friday of nine consecutive months "will not die in My disfavour, nor without receiving the Sacraments, and my Heart will be their refuge at their last hour." And it must be admitted that it is partly in view of these wonderful promises that the devotion of the faithful to the Nine Fridays has increased so rapidly.
But it must be understood that these promises of our Lord are not to be set on the same footing as the words of the Gospels. Their value -----though it must not be minimized-----is simply such as attaches to a private revelation approved by the Church.
Moreover, it may be asked whether these words are to be taken absolutely, or are we to add the implicit condition: "Provided that he who has made the nine Fridays does not wilfully expose himself to the peril of damnation"? Authors are disagreed as to the answer. It seems to us that in this, as in the case of the sabbatine promise connected with the scapular of Mount Carmel, the second explanation is the better one.
Another practice popular among devotees of reparation, and recommended by our Lord, is that of Holy Communion offered in reparation. Really if everyone properly understood the doctrine of the Eucharist and the intention with which Christ instituted this Sacrament, no Communion would ever be received except in a sacrificial spirit. Our Lord instituted the Eucharist not so much to give us the benefit of His Presence as to associate us closely with His sacrifice. On the altar, as we have said above, He still has the intention of offering Himself absolutely to His Father for His glory and for the salvation of the world; and as by our Baptism we have become an integral part of His Person, He asks us as members of Christ to unite our sacrificial oblation to that of the Head. Thus, while the minimum disposition for the reception of the Eucharist is the state of grace, the disposition which is necessary in order to receive the fullest benefit from the Sacrament is the spirit of sacrifice.
Since, however, many of those who go to Communion are far from having this comprehensive, and yet only truly exact, idea of the Eucharist, also because it is permissible to each individual to emphasize more or less the reparative aspect of Holy Communion, we can understand why our Lord should have recommended in a particular way the offering of Masses and the reception of Holy Communion in reparation for the insults offered to the Blessed Sacrament.
In accordance with this desire of our Lord an Association was founded in I854 -----and erected canonically at Paray in I865-----with the special object of "consoling our Lord by the frequent reception of Holy Communion, of turning away from us the scourge of His anger and His chastisements, and of making reparation and expiation in a certain measure for the continual blasphemies committed against the Divine Majesty and the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar." These are Pius Xl's own words.
This offering of oneself in reparation is specially recommended at Mass and Communion. But it may profitably be renewed at other moments during the day. Our Lord had suggested to St. Margaret Mary that she should offer a prayer or an act of reparation thirty-three times during the day in honour of the thirty-three years of His life on earth. The practice is a praiseworthy one, as long as too much stress is not laid on the mathematical aspect of the devotion. Others will prefer to make an offering to God for the sake of reparation at the thought that at this very minute our Lord is offering Himself to the Father in a Mass which is now being celebrated. Given the number of priests in the world it may be calculated that about four consecrations take place every second; hence it is certain that at whatever moment we may make the oblation of ourselves, our Lord is offering Himself too. In any case is not our Lord in the constant act of offering Himself, since in our tabernacles He remains always in the state of perpetual victimhood?
It is significant that in the Memoirs of St. Margaret Mary we find this request of our Lord: "Every time that I tell you of the ill-treatment which I receive from this soul, I want you, after receiving Me in Holy Communion, to prostrate yourself at My feet, to make amends to My love, offering to My eternal Father the bloody sacrifice of the Cross for this intention, and offering your whole being to give homage to Mine, and to make reparation for the indignities that are put upon Me by this soul. Setting Me on the throne of your heart, you will adore Me prostrate at My feet. You will offer yourself to My eternal Father to appease His just anger, and to urge His mercy to forgive them." (Ed. Paray, t. II, p. 147.)
More efficacious for reparation, because free from any defect whatever, are the acts of homage and reparation of our Lord Himself. It is true that we are called upon to fill up what is wanting of the sufferings of Christ, but however generous we may be, our offering will never be more than a mere drop in the wine of the chalice. Our Lord, fortunately, supplies all our deficiencies. Let us, then, offer our drop of water, but still more let us offer the Precious Blood of the Divine Head. The offering of that Blood is the great act of reparation, and by reason of my Baptismal vocation whereby I am one with Christ, I can take my humble part in it.
To give God a moment of the day in reparation is an excellent thing. But what if one could give Him the entire day? "I don't like sleeping," said a little girl once to her mother; "I don't like going to bed; so much time given to sleeping is so much time lost to loving." And what she said of sleep may be said too of external occupations. As a matter of fact, as we have explained elsewhere, both our sleep and our external occupations, although they are not explicit acts of prayer, may be transformed by us into a state of prayer through our intention. So that the child is not quite right, when it is a matter of the love of God.
Nevertheless, supposing that we were able to make every moment of our day an explicit act of prayer, what a harvest there would be! But what is not possible for one individual may become possible where there is a group; and this is the principle of the "Guard of Honour." In a celebrated vision to St. Margaret Mary the Angels offered to make an alliance with her, undertaking to adore the Blessed Sacrament in her place while she was busy with her domestic occupations (Ed. Paray, t. II, p. 108), and to make reparation "for all the daily acts of irreverence committed before the face of God."
The Saint thereupon desired that this idea should become widely known. In the year 1863 the practical formula was invented at the Visitation Convent at Bourg. Each member of the Guard of Honour chooses an hour of the day, undertaking during that time to think more than usual of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to offer to him at least one sacrifice and an act of love. No special practice of piety is prescribed; nothing more than the duty of the moment.
But sin abounds during the night as well as during the day. So some have adopted the pious custom of devoting an hour to prayer during the night from Thursday to Friday to commemorate the terrible night which Christ passed during His Agony. How can we think of the horrors of Gethsemane without wishing to offer to our Lord the homage of our adoration and reparation? Every devout soul must feel inclined to say with the young girl who was later to be Sister Claire of Jesus: "When you have meditated on the Passion of Christ how is it possible to lie down in bed, when you think that it is the hour in which our Lord suffered His Agony in the Garden! Can I think of Christ bowed under that weight of suffering and yet not seek with my tears, my prayers, my sacrifices and my love, to console my Divine Master and give Him a word of comfort?"
"The darkness of night seemed to open," so writes Huysmans of the Agony in the Garden, "and as in a frame of sombre shadows there appeared pictures lit up by a mysterious light. On a background that glowed with menacing radiance the centuries passed in procession, pushing before them sins of idolatry and incest, sacrileges and murders, all the ancient crimes that had been committed since the fall of Adam; and the cheers of wicked Angels greeted them as they passed. Jesus, overcome with grief, lowered His eyes. When He raised them again, these phantoms of past generations had disappeared; but there before Him now were the crimes of the Jews to whom He was preaching the Gospel, drawn up in menacing array. He saw Judas, He saw Caiphas, He saw Pilate . . . He saw Peter. He saw the brutes who would strike Him on the face, who would encircle His brow with the crown of thorns. Gaunt against the sinister sky rose the Cross, and groans were heard from the nether regions. He rose to His feet, and dizzy and tottering, reached out for a supporting arm. He was alone.
"He dragged Himself as far as the spot where He had left His disciples; and there they were asleep in the peaceful night. He aroused them. They looked at Him agape, filled with fright, wondering whether this man with the distraught gestures and strained eyes was indeed the same Jesus Whom they had seen transfigured before them on Mount Thabor, with radiant face and garment of snow. Our Lord could not but give them a pitying smile. He only reproached them with not having kept awake, and twice more He went back to suffer in his corner of the Garden.
"He knelt to pray, and this time it was no longer the past and the present, but still more terrible, the future that unfolded itself before His eyes; the centuries to come followed one after another, showing changing countries and changing towns; even the seas and the continents changed their form before His eyes; only men remained the same, though their costumes altered from age to age; they continued to steal and to kill, they persisted in crucifying their Saviour, to sate their greed for luxury and gain. Amidst the changing civilization of the ages, the Golden Calf stood there immovable, ruler of mankind. Then it was that, overcome with sorrow, Jesus sweated Blood and cried: 'Father, if it be possible let this chalice pass from Me. . . . But Thy will be done.' "
Jesus Himself has asked for souls generous enough to share and thus console Him in His Agony: "Every Thursday night," He said to St. Margaret Mary, "I will make you share in the mortal sorrow that I suffered in the Garden of Olives, a sorrow which will give you an agony harder to bear even than death. And to keep Me company in the humble prayer which I then offered to the Father, you will prostrate yourself on your face, to appease the Divine justice, asking mercy for sinners." (Ed. Paray, t. II, p. 126.)
Compare this request with those sad words related in the Gospels: "Could you not watch one hour with Me?" (Mark xiv:38), and ask yourself whether you would not do well to adopt this beautiful devotion of the Holy Hour. Since it is not always possible or desirable for all to get up in the middle of the night, the Church permits that the Holy Hour should begin at any time after four, or even from two o'clock onwards during the shorter days of the year. Evidently, where it is possible, eleven o'clock at night is the hour indicated, because this is approximately the hour at which our Lord was in the Garden; this was the hour chosen by St. Margaret Mary; and moreover prayer at that time has an additional merit from the sacrifice of one's sleep. Plenty of pretexts may be found for refusing this act of devotion. A little generosity is needed. Why is it that a person who does not hesitate to sacrifice his or her night for some social function or to listen to the wireless, finds that it would be injurious to health to pray for an hour during the night once a week or once a month? Let us confess that we are weak; but let us not add hypocrisy to our weakness.
A very practical form of the Holy Hour is that invented by P ère Mateo; it is called "Night Watching in the Home." Seven persons, either in the same house or in different houses, undertake once a month to make an hour's adoration before the picture of the Sacred Heart, between ten o'clock in the evening and five in the morning. By December, 1928-----that is, within eighteen months from its inception-----this devotion had rallied 21,766 adherents, thus ensuring 2723 nights of adoration, or an average of 900 adorers every night, or 110 a minute. This movement has received the august approval of the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, all the archbishops and bishops of Portugal, eleven bishops of France, and several other prelates of Spain, Belgium, Uruguay and Venezuela.
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