Devotion to the Heart of Jesus, a long history and many Jesuits

[19 June 2020 - Feast of the Sacred Heart]

Devotion to the Heart of Jesus has a long history. From the “pierced heart of Jesus” in the Gospel of St. John - interpreted in medieval mysticism as a wound that manifests the deepness of His love - moving through the revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century and the later devotion to the Sacred Heart in the 19th century, with its insertion in an apostolic dynamic with the Apostleship of Prayer, arriving at devotion to the Divine Mercy with St. Faustina Kowalska at the beginning of the 20th century. Pope Pius XII even wrote an encyclical about the Sacred Heart, Haurietis aquas (1956). Throughout history, there have been various inculturations of this devotion, with various forms and terminology, but always as a means for the Father to reveal the mystery of His Love to us in all its depth, through a privileged symbol: the living heart of His Risen Son. After all, “the Heart of Christ is the center of mercy,” says Pope Francis.

We celebrate this year the centenary of the canonization of Margaret Mary Alacoque, who was canonized on 13 May 1920, by Pope Benedict XV. It was with the help of Fr. Claude de la Colombière, a Jesuit, that she made known the message that the Risen Lord had revealed to her regarding the depth of His Mercy. In 1688, six years after de la Colombière’s death, Sister Margaret had a final vision in which, through Mary, the Lord entrusted to the Sisters of the Visitation and to the priests of the Society of Jesus the task of transmitting to the world the experience and understanding of the Sacred Heart.Two hundred years later, the Society of Jesus officially accepted this “most agreeable task” (munus suavissimum) with decree 46 of the 23rd General Congregation (1883) and entrusted it to the Apostleship of Prayer.

Starting in 1861, Father Henri Ramière SJ, the director of the Apostleship of Prayer, initiated the publication of the “Messenger of the Heart of Jesus” and animated a network of more than 13 million members. This Apostolate, initiated by the Jesuits, today known as the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, finds its mission in the dynamic of the Heart of Jesus, in a perspective of apostolic availability. Fr. Adolfo Nicolás SJ launched the process of recreation of this ecclesial service in 2009, which led to a deepening of the spiritual tradition of the Apostleship of Prayer and an updating of the devotion to the Heart of Jesus for today. The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network has its own way of entering into the dynamic of the Heart of Jesus called “The Way of the Heart.” As Pope Francis said, on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the movement, it is the foundation of its mission, a mission of compassion for the world.

The disciple whom Jesus loved most, the one who best knew the Heart of Jesus, who lay his head on his breast (Jn 13:23,) was also the first to recognize the Risen Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Jn 21:7.) The closer we are to the Heart of Jesus, the more we perceive His joys and how He suffers for the men, women and children of this world; and we recognize that He is present today as He was in the past, working in the world. The closer we are to the Heart of Jesus, the less indifferent we are to those around us, desiring to commit ourselves with Jesus in this world, at the service of His mission of compassion. Fr. Pedro Arrupe saw the essence of the devotion to the Heart of Jesus in the union of love with God and neighbor, and that is what he wanted to live: “Our way of acting is your way of acting.”

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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