On April 18, 2010 in
Valladolid, Spain, Fr. Bernardo de Hoyos (1711-1735) was beatified. He is considered the first apostle of the
Sacred Heart in Spain. To recapture
who he was and what he contributed, I offer some biographical information
that should be understood in the religious and cultural context of the 18th
Bernardo de Hoyos was born in Torrelobatón, (Valladolid) on August 21,
1711. He studied in the Jesuit
Colleges of Medina del Campo and Villagarcía de Campos, and in 1726 he
entered the novitiate of the Society that was part of the latter college. Because of his young age (he was not yet
fifteen years old) and his frail constitution, he had to seek the permission
of his family and convince the Provincial before he could enter. While he was in the novitiate (1726-28),
Aloysius Gonzaga and Stanislaus Kostka were canonized. Both saints were proposed as models to
young Jesuits, but above all Bernardo was influenced by the example of Saint
John Berchmans, whose canonization process was well
During the novitiate years Bernardo was initiated into the mystical
life. Philosophy studies (Medina del
Campo, 1728-1731) were a time of interior purification tested by the dryness
of the dark night of the soul.
Bernardo studied theology (1731-35) at the College of Saint Ambrose of
Valladolid. This is where the process
of his spiritual life reached its culmination, making him a true mystic. In the extensive account of conscience he
gave to Father John de Loyola, his Spiritual Director, in October 1732 he
said: “I see that everything in my heart is moving towards God, drawn like
iron to a magnet. It desires only God,
searches only for God, and longs only for God….” Because of the clarity with which Bernardo
was able to perceive and describe his inner life, his Director insisted that
this young man was “far more advanced than a man of his age, with more
knowledge than he could have acquired from
References in the internal reports of the Society (Catálogos trienales)
speak of a strong temperament that he was always able to master, of his
brilliant intelligence, of his tenacity in overcoming difficulties, of his
capacity for cordial relationships, and of his qualifications for all
ministries, especially for preaching.
On May 3, 1733, when Bernardo was 22 years old, he experienced the Lord
giving him a mission that would become the only objective of his life: to
propagate devotion to the Sacred Heart as a means of personal sanctification and as an effective
means for accomplishing the apostolate.
When his friend, Fr. Agustín de Cardaveraz had to preach on the feast
of Corpus Christi in Bilbao, he asked Bernardo to send him some notes that
could be found in the community library in a book by Fr. José Gallifet: “De
Cultu Sacratissimi Cordis Dei Jesu.”
When Bernardo read the book, he said, “I felt in my spirit an
extraordinary motion—strong, gentle, not abrupt or impetuous. I then placed myself before the Blessed
Sacrament, offering myself to His Sacred Heart in order to cooperate as much
as possible… in propagating devotion to it.”
The first thing that Bernardo then did was to consecrate himself to the
Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 12, 1733, using the same formula written by St.
Claude La Colombière fifty years earlier.
However, this was not a grace received to be lived only
interiorly. Bernardo believed that God
was asking him to be an instrument communicating to others the riches of the
Heart of Christ.
Aware of the importance of the task and realizing that his main duty was to
pursue his theological studies seriously, Bernardo formed a group of
qualified companions who were fully engaged in pastoral activity. Among his collaborators were Fathers John
de Loyola and Agustín de Cardaveraz.
Father John was in charge of writing about “the essence and the
soundness of this devotion.” The
outline and the core of this book, entitled Hidden Treasure, belong to
Bernardo. After overcoming not a few
difficulties, it was finally published on October 21,
His apostolic approach would consist in distributing leaflets and prayer
cards everywhere, founding confraternities and associations in honor of the
Sacred Heart, asking that this theme be included in talks and preaching. He wrote to bishops and even to King Philip
V asking for support in requesting the Holy See’s approval of a special liturgical
feast of the Sacred Heart.
On January 2, 1735 Bernardo was ordained a priest in Valladolid and on the
6th of the same month he celebrated his first mass in the chapel of St.
Ignatius College. A few months later,
Bernardo began tertianship there, but he was unable to finish because he
contracted typhus and subsequently died on November, 29 1735.
In a letter of December 6, 1735 informing the communities of the Castile
Province of Bernardo’s death, Fr. Manuel de Prado (Bernardo’s Rector who had
also been his Novice Master) emphasized: “his perfection was more than
ordinary, a very special gift of prayer through which during these last years
God revealed to him the most hidden mysteries of the divinity and a tender
and particular devotion to the Sacred Heart of
His reputation for holiness spread immediately after his death. However, because of the difficult situation
in which the Society found itself opposed by the Jansenists, the cause for
beatification was not introduced at that time. Later the suppression of the Society would
leave many projects unfinished.
When the Society was restored in 1814 by Pope Pius VII, a strong devotion
to the Sacred Heart emerged in the whole Church. In accord with the religious sensibilities
of the time, the reborn Society dedicated itself to the spread and
propagation of this devotion with significant
In 1965 the 31st General Congregation insisted on the appropriateness of
conducting serious theological studies regarding the foundations of this
devotion with special attention to pastoral ways for proposing it, taking
into consideration the diversity of times and places as well as the
undeniable symbolic values included in this devotion. Decree 15, no. 2, reads: “Devotion to the Sacred
Heart, as proposed by the Church, pays tribute to ‘that love which God has
shown us through Jesus, and is also the exercise of the love we have for God
and for our fellow-men’ (Haurietis Aquas, 1956), effecting that interpersonal
exchange of love which is the essence of Christian and religious
This impetus for renewal was very present in the teaching of Fr. Pedro
Arrupe, as he expressed it in his numerous articles, talks, homilies, and in
the new text of the Consecration of the Society to the Heart of Jesus, which
he personally composed during a day of prayer in the chapel of La
Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach showed the same interest. In a conference in Paray-le-Monial (July 2,
1988), he reminded us that “the entire problem with the indispensable
figurative representation of the Heart of Jesus is well summarized” in number
26 of decree 4 of GC32: “We must find a new language, a new set of symbols,
that will enable us to leave our fallen idols behind us and rediscover the
true God: the God who, in Jesus Christ, chose to share our human pilgrimage
and make our human destiny irrevocably His own. To live our lives ‘in memory of Him’
requires of us this creative effort of
Years ago Karl Rahner wrote that there are some basic terms in theology
and spirituality, which are suggestive, creative, and open to change “if one
does not want to fall into the arrogance of a-historicity.” Today symbols multiply; they complement,
correct, and substitute for each other with significant speed, without any
one of them claiming to impose itself as having permanent and universal
The spiritual heritage proper to the devotion of the Sacred Heart, rooted
in the faith of the Church, retains full validity today within the manifold
images present in each culture and tradition.
This devotion expresses the boundless richness of the love of God,
manifested in Christ. It is in harmony
with a theology based on the Scriptures, a theology that continually gives
light to the message of the merciful and compassionate Father of the Gospels,
richly expressed and made visible using the heart as a living symbol in which
the mystery of humanity becomes the mystery of God.
Bernardo de Hoyos’s passion for the Heart of Jesus faithfully corresponds
to the devotion that Saint Ignatius felt for Jesus poor and humble, before
whom he asks that our affections be moved in order to accompany Him in each
step of His life: “As companions with him on mission, his way is our way”
(GC35, D. 2, nº 14), so that “in what we do in the world there must always be
a transparency to God (GC35, D. 2, nº 10).
On the occasion of this beatification, I invite the whole Society, together
with our collaborators, to renew our personal love of Jesus Christ and to
open ourselves to the grace of identifying ourselves with Him, so that in
Nadal’s words, “we might understand with His understanding; will with His
will; remember with His memory; and that our entire being, living, and doing
be not centered in us, but in Christ” (MHSI vol 90. p.122; GC35, D. 2, nº14),
as the cornerstone of the particular
vocation to which each of us has been called.
Bernardo de Hoyos was a man of God, an apostle with ideas and strategies
for planning. He was enthusiastic
about “companionship with others” (GC 34, D. 26), a faithful son of the Church
to which he tried to transmit the fire of his ardent fervor. Dead at the age of 24, along with the other
young Jesuit saints, he shows us that from early on in life and from our
first years in the Society we can and should allow Christ to dwell in our
hearts, take root in us, and build us up in His love.
May the Father who has “hidden these things from the wise and the learned
and has revealed them to the childlike,” (Mt 11, 25) through the intercession
of Blessed Bernardo de Hoyos, grant the Society the grace of accomplishing
its mission of being in the Church a loving response to Him who was pierced
by the pain and the aggressive injustice of a world in need of forgiveness
From the letter of Adolfo Nicolás, S.J.
To the Whole Society
Rome, 12 April 2010.