On 25th August 1856, Blessed Pope Pius 1X inscribed the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in the Calendar of the Catholic Church, directing that it be celebrated on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) each year.
He was responding to a formal request made by Jesus Himself almost two centuries earlier in 1675 to a French Visitation nun, Margaret Mary Alacoque. This saintly woman was later to be canonised on May 13th, 1920, just five days before the birth of Blessed Pope John Paul II, who, towards the end of his great Pontificate would nominate the Feast of the Sacred Heart a special Day of Prayer for Priests.
Jesus expressed His wish that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be a day of reparation, not for sins in general, but specifically for sins against the Eucharist which St Albert the Great considered the first gift of the Sacred Heart. This great teacher of St Thomas Aquinas marvelled at how the Eucharist was a source of great joy to the Sacred Heart; “His Heart overflowed with love at being completely one with us and filling our hearts with joy and jubilation”.
In her autobiography, written reluctantly under obedience, St Margaret Mary tells us in some detail what exactly happened on that day in June 1675:
“Being before the Blessed Sacrament one day of Its octave, I received from my God signal tokens of His love, and felt urged with the desire of making Him some return, and of rendering Him love for love.
“ Thou canst not make Me a greater return of love, “He said, “than by doing what I have so often asked of thee.” Then, discovering to me His Divine Heart, He said
“Behold this Heart, Which has loved men so much, that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify to them Its love; and in return I receive from the greater number nothing but ingratitude by reason of their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt which they show Me in this Sacrament of Love. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts which are consecrated to Me, that treat Me thus. Therefore I ask of thee that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special day to honour My Heart, by communicating on that day and making reparation to It by a solemn act, in order to make amends for the indignities which It has received during the time It has been exposed on the altars. I promise thee that My Heart shall expand Itself to shed in abundance the influence of Its divine love upon those who shall thus honour It, and cause It to be honoured.”
And when I replied that I knew not how to accomplish what He had so long desired of me, He told me to address myself to His servant, whom He had sent me for the accomplishment of this design. Having done this, he (the Jesuit priest, Saint Claude la Colombiere, canonised on 31st May, 1992 by Blessed Pope John Paul II) ordered me to commit to writing all that I had made known to him concerning the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as well as several other things which referred to It for the great glory of God.”
This message of the Sacred Heart to St Margaret Mary is both consoling and challenging. It reminds us all of the endlessness of the Love of Jesus for each one of us. But it also challenges us, especially our priests who are consecrated in such a special way to the Lord. We ask for your prayers that we follow ever more faithfully in the footsteps of the High Priest of us all and give fitting honour to His Sacred Heart. The Feast of the Sacred Heart is normally celebrated on a date in June.
Since the Feast of the Sacred Heart always falls 19 days after Pentecost Sunday, it is almost always celebrated in June, which is why June is known as the Month of the Sacred Heart. It can also fall in July, however–the Month of the Precious Blood of Jesus. These two months, and the feast they share, should lead us to meditate on the connection between Christ’s Precious Blood, the instrument of our salvation through His Sacrifice on the Cross, and His Sacred Heart, which represents His mercy toward mankind.
Bernard J McGuckian S.J
St Francis Xavier’s Church
May 2nd 2011
reproduced from www.worldpriestday.com/feast-of-the-sacred-heart