The Jesuits and the devotion to the Heart of Jesus

11 June 2021: Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a feast full of both historical and current significance for Jesuits and all members of the Ignatian family. The Director of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network explains why.

By Frédéric Fornos, SJ
International Director - Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network

Throughout their history, the Jesuits have deepened and disseminated the devotion to the Heart of Jesus. This will come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, which promote an interior knowledge of Christ culminating in the “Contemplation to Attain Love” and “loving and serving in all things”. Few are aware that the Society of Jesus has selected the Apostleship of Prayer - now the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network - as its instrument of choice to promote the devotion to the Heart of Christ.

A glimpse of history. In 1883 the members of the 23rd General Congregation approved Decree 46: “We declare that the Society of Jesus accepts and receives with a spirit overflowing with joy and gratitude, the gentle burden (according to the latin expression munus suavissimum) that our Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted to it, to practice, promote and propagate devotion to His most divine Heart”. In December 1871 Fr. Beckx, then Superior General of the Jesuits, consecrated the Society to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1896 Fr. Luis Martín SJ, Superior General at the time (1892-1906) accepted the position as Director General of the Apostleship of Prayer, as requested by the Sacred Congregation of Bishops. In 1915, the 26th General Congregation, in Decree 21, linked this specific mission - received by the Society of Jesus in 1883 - with the development of the Apostleship of Prayer. In 1972, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983, almost one hundred years after Fr. Beckx, consecrated the Society to the Heart of Christ.

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In 1986 Pope John Paul II confirmed the Society of Jesus in its mission received from Christ himself, of disseminating devotion to His Divine Heart, and also in the selection of the Apostleship of Prayer, as its instrument of choice to carry out this mission. Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General from 2008 to 2016, gave impetus to the recreation of the Apostleship of Prayer and thus updated its spiritual foundations, the devotion to the Heart of Christ.

In 2018, Pope Francis instituted the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer) as a Pontifical Work to highlight the universal character of this mission. And after ten years of this recreation, this Vatican Foundation proposes the devotion to the Heart of Christ in a renewed way, in accordance with the wishes of Saint John Paul II.

The Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, the renewed version of the Apostleship of Prayer, today enters the dynamics of the Heart of Jesus through its spiritual journey called “The Way of the Heart”. This itinerary is an updated version of the devotion to the Heart of Christ for today's times. It is a coherent presentation of the spiritual wealth of the Apostleship of Prayer in the light of the Spiritual Exercises. It leads our hearts as close as possible to the Heart of Christ, making us available to his mission, a mission of compassion for the world. In this month of June let us open our hearts to the One who loved the world so much.

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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 public relations.

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