Category Archives: June

Why is the Sacred Heart aflame?

“To Jesus Heart All Burning” traditional Catholic hymn


-by Stephen Beale, is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints.

“Images of the Sacred Heart meticulously recount key details of the crucifixion. The wounded heart itself, the crown of thorns, and the cross itself all appear. Some depictions even include the lance that pierced the side of Christ penetrating His heart.

But there’s one detail that seems out of place. There was no fire at the crucifixion, yet the Sacred Heart is often shown with flames. Why?

A burnt offering. Recall that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was mean to recapitulate and supersede all the sacrifices of the Old Testament. What was a common feature of these sacrifices? Fire. Think of the fire that devoured the sacrifices offered by Elijah and the fire that Abraham would have set had an angel not intervened (see 1 Kings 18 and Genesis 22). In ancient Israel, a burnt offering was the supreme form of sacrifice, it symbolized a total commitment to God—particularly the death of the victim animal and the all-consuming nature of the fire.  The burning Sacred Heart reminds us that this sacrifice too was incorporated into Christ’s supreme offering of Himself on the cross.

Symbol of divinity. Of course, fire is also a familiar Old Testament symbol of God. We encounter God’s fiery presence at Sinai and in the account of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 1). This symbolism carries over into the Old Testament, where the Holy Spirit descends upon the heads of the apostles as tongues of fire. Perhaps it’s especially fitting that the Sacred Heart is burning given that from it poured water and blood, symbols of the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharistic wine, both the work of the Holy Spirit.

Symbol of the divine Incarnate. The fire burns, but the Sacred Heart is not consumed. Does this sound familiar? It recalls Moses’ first encounter with God, in a bush that burned but was not consumed. This foreshadowed the Incarnation, in which God assumed human nature, without his divinity extinguishing the humanity that had been assumed: Christ was fully man and fully God. It is fitting that at this climactic moment of the Incarnation that its deepest reality is reaffirmed in such an acute way.

Jesus’ passion for us. In the context of the gospels, the Passion refers to the suffering of Christ. But, in our society, we usually use the word passion to refer to something or someone that drives our enthusiasm, interest, desires, and commitments. Is this meaning still valid for the Sacred Heart? I think so. There is evidence in the gospels that a burning heart signified intense emotions. One clear example of this is the two disciples who encountered Christ on the road to Emmaus and afterwards remarked that their hearts had been burning. (cf Luke 24)  So yes, the flames on the Sacred Heart are a true reminder of God’s burning love for us.

Light of the World. Fire does two things. First, it consumes that which it burns. Second, it gives off light. This second aspect is certainly relevant to the symbolism of the Sacred Heart, given that Christ is the true light of the world. Remember that during the crucifixion, darkness descended upon the land (see Mark 15:33). In the darkest hour, the Sacred Heart burned bright with hope.”

Love, may the divine furnace of His love consume us,
Matthew

The Gospel at a Pride Parade – to win souls, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become white as wool.” -Is 1:18


-by Trent Horn

“Last month I was going for a jog in Balboa Park here in downtown San Diego when I noticed the park was more crowded than usual. I headed toward the sounds of music and noticed more and more rainbow flags as I neared Cabrillo Bridge. “Maybe, just once,” I thought, “this will be a festival celebrating God’s covenant with Noah! (rainbow)”

Not so much.

It was San Diego’s 40th annual “Gay Pride Parade,” which this year boasted 300,000 participants who marched through San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood (known for its LGBT flair) to Balboa Park for a concert.

The participants were joyful and carefree—until they walked by a group of Christians protesting their event. The Christians, who I assume were conservative Evangelicals, held signs that said things like, “Jesus is the only way to salvation” and “Love is self-giving.”

They weren’t doing anything I considered offensive or outrageous, but I also thought their approach would not be very effective—and I was right.

An unexpected springboard

As the Christians preached through bullhorns, most of the LGBT festival-goers walked by laughing or saying things like, “You know you’re probably gay!” or “God is love!” They also said a lot of other things I can’t repeat without diving into indecency.

Others stopped to yell at the Christians or even just plead with them. One woman said, “There are real sinners down at the county jail. Why aren’t you there?” The Christian responded, “I go to the jail all the time. Lots of Christians do that, too. I’m here today to help you people.”

As the police stood warily nearby, I watched and observed alongside the festival attendees, getting a feel for the whole situation.

Suddenly I had a flashback.

Deja vu all over again

After college I used to travel the country with a pro-life group named Justice for All. We would setup exhibits with large pictures of unborn children before and after abortion and talk with college students about the pro-life worldview.

During those outreaches I would sometimes walk around and act like a student on campus. I wouldn’t lie about who I was, but I also wouldn’t immediately say who I was with, either. I would just ask students looking at the pictures, “So what do you think of this big ugly thing?” Pretty soon we were off to the races having great conversations.

So I wandered around the pride parade asking people who were staring at “the big, ugly Christians” a simple question: “What do you think of those guys over there?” I ended up having several conversations about the Bible, same-sex morality, and faith in general.

One young man, whom I’ll call Greg, was especially memorable.

What does the Church say?

I asked him what he thought of the Christians, and we began to talk, along with his two male friends. All three of them identified as being gay, and they asked me what I was doing at the festival. I said that my wife was out of town and I decided to go on a jog through the park until . . .

“Until the gays showed up!” one of the young men interjected.

“Something like that,” I said.

I explained that I worked for an organization called Catholic Answers and that my job is to explain and defend the Catholic Faith. One of them then asked, “So what does the Church say about me being gay?”

I was nervous but also felt the Holy Spirit giving me the right words and tone.

“Well, the Church makes a distinction between someone’s desires and someone’s actions. We can’t control our desires, and so they shouldn’t be central to our identity. You also can’t say someone is sinning just because they have certain desires because, like I said, you can’t control them. I wouldn’t say that I’m straight or that you’re gay, but that you and I are men made in God’s image with different desires for sexual intimacy.”

Wrong even for straight people

They nodded, so I continued.

“So our desires don’t define us, and they don’t condemn us. But our actions do define us, and we can be held accountable for them. Or, as Batman would say (switch to guttural Batman voice), “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

We shared a laugh.

“It’s actions, not desires. This is important, because the Church teaches that we shouldn’t use sex for a purpose it wasn’t intended for. That means it’s wrong for anyone to engage in same-sex behavior, even if they’re straight.”

They raised their eyebrows at the unexpectedness of what I said, and I went on.

What is sex for?

“For example, if a straight guy has been in prison for a long time and he just wants sexual release, he might have sex with a man, even though he says he’s not gay. But that would be wrong, because sex isn’t just for satisfying your urges. For me, the big question I ask when I think about tough issues like same-sex attraction is: What is sex for?”

To my surprise, one of the young men said, “Procreation?”

My eyes lit up.

“Yes! I mean, that’s not the whole reason, but for me it makes sense to say that sex is ordered towards making babies and uniting men and women for their good and the good of any babies they might create. That’s also why as a Catholic I’m against contraception, because it goes against what sex is for.”

Rather than be offended, the three young men pondered what I said and seemed to appreciate the reasonableness of it, as well as the fact that I didn’t just quote a Bible verse and rest my case.

A pebble in the shoe

We talked a bit more, and then Greg and I talked one-on-one for a while. We discussed his religious background and his decision to leave the Mormon Church (which was motivated by his same-sex attraction but also by critical examination of the Book of Mormon).

As our conversation came to a close, I encouraged him to visit the website of Courage, which I described as a nonjudgmental ministry that helps Catholics who have same-sex attraction lead chaste lives. I said, “They really try to meet people where they’re at. They’re not about ‘praying the gay away.’” Greg said he was relieved they weren’t “like that” and said he’d check them out.

We parted ways, and I walked back to Balboa Park across the Cabrillo Bridge, remembering that conversion happens slowly, bit by bit. Sometimes the best we can do is plant a “pebble in their shoe” or a thought in the mind that will roll around until the person has an “epiphany moment.”

As I walked I also thought about how amazing it would be to take two dozen Catholics, well-formed in their Faith and trained to engage people in civil and compassionate dialogue, to an event like this. It would be a time to not try to win arguments but to win people and show that, even if we disagree about sexual ethics, we can still treat each other with respect and kindness.

Maybe next year . . .”

Love,
Matthew

Attributes of the Sacred Heart


-Catholic holy card depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus, circa 1880. Auguste Martin collection, University of Dayton Libraries, please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Stephen Beale, is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints.

“The Sacred Heart is among the most familiar and moving of Catholic devotional images. But its symbolism can also be strange. As we mark the Feast of the Sacred Heart, here is a look at the explanation behind some of the features of the Sacred Heart.

The flames

The Sacred Heart most obviously brings to mind the Passion of Christ on the cross. There is the crown of thorns, the cross, usually atop the heart, and the wound from the spear that pierced His side. But why is the Sacred Heart always shown as if it’s on fire? That certainly did not happen at the crucifixion.

There are three reasons behind this. First, we have to remember that Christ’s self-offering on the cross was the one-time perfect consummation of all the sacrifices of the Old Testament. This necessarily includes burnt offerings, which were the highest form of sacrifices in ancient Israel, according to The Jewish Encyclopedia. An early form of such sacrifices was what Abraham set out to do with Isaac, hence the wood he had his son collect beforehand.

Second, fire is always associated with the essence of divinity in the Old Testament. Think back to the burning bush that spoke to Moses, the cloud of fire that settled on Sinai, and the flames from above that consumed the sacrifice of Elijah. This explanation fits with the gospel account of the crucifixion, in which the piercing of Christ’s side revealed His heart at the same time that the curtain of the temple was torn, unveiling the holy of holies where God was present.

Finally, the image of fire associated with heart represents Christ’s passionate love for humankind. One 19th-century French devotional card has these words arched above the Sacred Heart—Voilà ce Cœur qui a tant aimé les hommes, which roughly translates to: “Here is the heart that loved men so much.” One traditional exclamation is, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning with love of us, inflame our hearts with love of Thee.” We see this actually happen in the gospels, where the disciples on the road to Emmaus realized that their hearts had been “burning” after their encounter with Jesus.

The rays of light

Look closer at the image of the Sacred Heart. There is something else framing it besides the flames. They are rays of light. In John 8:12, Christ declares that He is the “light of the world.” In Revelation 21:23, we are told that in the new Jerusalem at the end of times there will be no light from the sun or moon because the Lamb of God—that is, Jesus—will be its source of light. Light, like fire, is a symbol of divinity. Think of the Transfiguration and the blinding light that Paul experienced on the road to Damascus. As the light of the world, Christ is also the one who “enlightens” us, revealing God to us. The Sacred Heart constitutes the climax of divine self-revelation, showing us the depths of God’s love for us.

The arrows

The crown of thorns and the spear make sense. But sometimes the Sacred Heart is also depicted with arrows. Again, that’s not something we find in the gospels. One explanation is that the arrow represents sin. This is reportedly what our Lord Himself said in a private revelation to St. Mary of St. Peter.  The arrow could also draw upon an ancient Roman metaphor for love, which, according to ancient myth, occurred when the god Cupid shot an arrow through the hearts of lovers.

The crown of thorns

Unlike the arrows, the crown of thorns is reported in the gospels. But in traditional images it encircles the Sacred Heart, whereas in Scripture the crown was fixed to Jesus’ head. One traditional account offers this interpretation, describing those who are devoted to it: “They saw the crown transferred from His head to His heart; they felt that its sharp points had always pierced there; they understood that the Passion was the crucifixion of a heart” (The Heart of the Gospel: Traits of the Sacred Heart by Francis Patrick Donnelly, published in 1911 by the Apostleship of Prayer). In other words, wrapping the crown around the heart emphasizes the fact that Christ felt His wounds to the depths of His heart.

Moreover, after the resurrection, the crown of thorns becomes a crown of victory. Donnelly hints at this as well: “From the weapons of His enemy, from cross and crown and opened Heart, our conquering leader fashioned a trophy which was the best testimony of His love.” In ancient gladiatorial contests, the victor was crowned. In the Revelation 19:12, Christ wears “many crowns” and believers who are victorious over sin and Satan will receive the “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Finally, according to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the seventeenth French nun who helped start (continued the tradition) the devotion, the points of the thorns are the many individual sins of people, pricking the heart of Jesus. As she put it in a letter, recounting the personal vision she had received, “I saw this divine Heart as on a throne of flames, more brilliant than the sun and transparent as crystal. It had Its adorable wound and was encircled with a crown of thorns, which signified the pricks our sins caused Him.”

The cross

Like the thorns, the cross is both rooted in the gospels but also displayed in a way that does not follow them in every detail. There is almost an inversion of the crucifixion. In the gospels, Christ hung on the cross, His heart correspondingly dwarfed by its beams. But in images of the Sacred Heart, it is now enlarged and the cross has shrunk. Moreover, rather than the heart being nailed to the cross, the cross now seems ‘planted’ in the heart—as St. Margaret Mary Alacoque put it—if to say to us that the entire reality of the crucifixion derives its meaning from and—cannot be understood apart from—the heart of Jesus. As Donnelly wrote, “The Heart [is] … forever supporting the weight of a Cross.” Truly, it is the heart of Jesus that makes the cross meaningful for us today.”

His love,
Matthew

Sacred Heart: Hos 11:8-9 & Ezek 36:26

My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred.
I will not give vent to my blazing anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again;
For I am God and not a man,
the Holy One present among you;
I will not let the flames consume you.
—Hosea 11:8–9

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
—Ezekiel 36:26


Erin Cain

“The Heart of Jesus, pure and tender, feels all human emotions more intensely and yet is not ruled by them. His Sacred Heart is not hardened or cold like our own, and so the feelings He experiences are powerful and raw: love, anger, joy, pity, solace, grief.

When Jesus faced His crucifixion and brutal death, He knew that this was the Father’s will for the salvation of the world, but that doesn’t mean that He didn’t feel distressed or afraid or angry about what was to come—in fact, He felt all those things even more acutely than you or I would. His perfect Heart felt everything more distinctly, and yet He was able to feel those emotions without allowing them to dictate His actions. Jesus stayed the course and persevered for our sake, even as His Heart was filled with dread.

Sometimes, when our emotions distract us from carrying out our plans, we try to numb our hearts and stop feeling anything at all. But our hearts are a gift, to be nurtured and cherished, and if we lose touch with them we will find ourselves without meaning or purpose. So how can we persevere in God’s will as Jesus did without making ourselves numb to those inner cries of joy and anguish?

Only when we are connected to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will we perceive the immense graces that come from being in tune with our emotions and aware of how God formed our hearts. They are a compass for us as we discern His plans and seek to understand who He created us to be. We will see the beauty of our human emotions, even when they make it harder for us to do what is right. We will find the mysterious grace of sharing in Jesus’s sorrow, knowing that He walks alongside us in our pain. We will remember His Passion amidst our greatest joys and His Resurrection amid our deepest sorrows, and everything will be offered up to Him. Jesus will grant us the heavenly perspective that will allow us to press onward through all the ups and downs of this life, knowing that this is not the end.

Jesus invites each of us into His Sacred Heart. He has sacrificed for our redemption and cleansed us through Baptism, that we might enter into His Love and not be destroyed by the flames. May we offer Him our whole heart, holding nothing back, so that He might transform it like unto His own.”

Love, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!,
Matthew

Sacred Heart – Returning love for love

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, You have loved me so much; enable me to repay Your love.

MEDITATION

In the Encyclical Annum Sacrum, Leo XIII declares, “The Sacred Heart is the symbol and image of the infinite charity of Jesus Christ, the charity which urges us to give Him love in return.” Indeed, nothing is more able to arouse love than love itself. “Love is repaid by love alone,” the saints have repeatedly said. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: “Whenever we think of Christ, we should remember with what love He has bestowed all these favors upon us … for love begets love. And though we may be only beginners … let us strive ever to bear this in mind and awaken our own love” (Book of Her Life, 22).

The Church offers us the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to stir up our love. After reminding us, in the Divine Office proper to this feast, of the measureless proofs of Christ’s love, this good Mother asks us anxiously, “Who would not love Him Who has loved us so much? Who among His redeemed would not love Him dearly?” (Roman Breviary). And in order to urge us more and more to repay love with love, she puts on the lips of Jesus the beautiful words of Holy Scripture: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee”; and again, “Fili, praebe mihi cor tuum,” Son, give Me thy heart (Roman Breviary). This, then, is the substance of true devotion to the Sacred Heart: to return love for love, “to repay love with love,” as St. Margaret Mary, the great disciple of the Sacred Heart, expresses it; “to return love unceasingly to Him who has so loved us,” in the words of St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus, the hidden but no less ardent disciple of the divine Heart.

COLLOQUY

“Awake, O my soul. How long will you remain asleep? Beyond the sky there is a King Who wishes to possess you; He loves you immeasurably, with all His Heart. He loves you with so much kindness and faithfulness that He left His kingdom and humbled Himself for you, permitting Himself to be bound like a malefactor in order to find you. He loves you so strongly and tenderly, He is so jealous of you and has given you so many proofs of this, that He willingly gave up His Body to death. He bathed you in His Blood and redeemed you by His death. How long will you wait to love Him in return? Make haste, then, to answer Him.

“Behold, O loving Jesus, I come to You. I come, drawn by Your meekness, Your mercy, Your charity; I come with my whole heart and soul, and all my strength. Who will give me to be entirely conformed to Your Heart, in order that You may find in me everything You desire?

“O Jesus, my King and my God, take me into the sweet shelter of Your divine Heart and there unite me to Yourself in such a way that I shall live totally for You. Permit me to submerge myself henceforth in that vast sea of Your mercy, abandoning myself entirely to Your goodness, plunging into the burning furnace of Your love, and remaining there forever ….

“But what am I, O my God, I, so unlike You, the outcast of all creatures? But You are my supreme confidence because in You can be found the supplement or rather, the abundance of all the favors I have lost. Enclose me, O Lord, in the sanctuary of Your Heart opened by the spear, establish me there, guarded by Your gentle glance, so that I may be confided to Your care forever: under the shadow of Your paternal love I shall find rest in the everlasting remembrance of Your most precious love” (St. Gertrude).

His love,
Matthew

Sacred Heart & Jn 19:34 – June is the month of the Sacred Heart


-by Rev. Dr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI, PhD

“The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was celebrated this past Friday, but the entire month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart. This devotion deserves much wider exposure because it gets to the core of the mystery of our redemption. The overflowing of God’s love through the humanity of Jesus Christ, represented by the sacred heart of Jesus, is a mystery – which by definition means a reality that exceeds our ability to explain – but that shines brightly in our faith.

In his encyclical “On Devotion to the Sacred Heart” (Haurietis aquas), Pope Pius XII pointed to the moment in Jesus’ life where He says: “If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and let him drink he who believes in Me. As the Scripture says: ‘Out of His heart there shall flow rivers of living waters.’ Now this He said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in Him.” (John 7:37-39) The pope specifically focused on the fact that Jesus describes himself as the source of living water, a symbol of the fountain of life that is the Holy Spirit.

This wondrous phenomenon has renewed importance just now because our current mood resembles the pessimistic and agitated mood in the 1950s during the Cold War when the encyclical was promulgated. The pandemic, the violent protests, and the social polarization are exerting pressure on us all. Yet in the midst of everything – even as many all over the world are dealing with serious illness and death – Christ stands as the infinite source of comfort, love, and peace.

The words that most touched me in the encyclical were Pius XII’s use of a passage from Saint Paul: “Now to Him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

In other words, in their devotion to the Sacred Heart, the faithful are not living merely within their own limitations. The prayer to the Sacred Heart calls upon the Spirit of God, which moves us in ways we would not discover solely on our own: “the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” (Romans 8:26)

So, whatever we are feeling because of what is happening around us, if we can gather ourselves enough to actually form a prayer in our hearts, God does the rest in His providential care. Or as Pius XII put it: “The Sacred Heart of Jesus shares in a most intimate way in the life of the Incarnate Word and has been thus assumed as a kind of instrument of the Divinity.”

This is not just some pious thought or theological abstraction. The pope hearkens back to another specific moment in Jesus’ life: “What is here written of the side of Christ, opened by the wound from the soldier, should also be said of the heart which was certainly reached by the stab of the lance, since the soldier pierced it precisely to make certain that Jesus Christ crucified was really dead.”

What are the effects of the wounding of Jesus’ sacred heart? It fired up the apostles and the martyrs to witness to their faith right to the end. It inspired the doctors of the Church with tireless zeal to teach the faith. It drove the “confessors” to develop virtues both for themselves and as an example to others. It motivated virgins “to a free and joyful withdrawal from the pleasures of the senses and to the complete dedication of themselves to the love of their heavenly Spouse.”

The marvelous focus of our adoration on the Sacred Heart shows it to be the source of divine love but also the example of all of the virtues. He is the living presence of our salvation radiating from the heart of the Church, which after all is His Body. (Romans 12:5)

That was the main point of the encyclical: because the wounded Sacred Heart achieves so much as its divine charity overflows into the world, it should be paid due honor. It is something far beyond anything that we can imagine: “The Heart of Christ is overflowing with love both human and divine and rich with the treasure of all graces which our Redeemer acquired by His life, sufferings, and death, it is, therefore, the enduring source of that charity which His Spirit pours forth on all the members of His Mystical Body.”

As a result, we may be confident that there will be more apostles, martyrs, doctors, confessors, and virgins. This glorious tradition will continue until the end of time. Perhaps some of us may even be inspired to join their ranks.”

Love, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!! (favorite McCormick family prayer)
Matthew

Explaining the Sacred Heart to Protestants

“Catholisplain”? 🙂 LOL


-by Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers

“As the Easter season comes to a close and Ordinary Time opens, we encounter a slew of feast days during the liturgical “transition” period—Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, and finally the feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Church usually celebrates the feasts of the Two Hearts on the Friday (today) and Saturday following the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).

Both feasts have theological roots and expressions of popular devotion that go back to the earliest centuries, but the feasts themselves were established more recently in Church history. The feast of the Sacred Heart was placed on the universal calendar of the Latin Church in 1856; the Immaculate Heart became a universal feast in 1944.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart focuses on God’s self-sacrificial love for humankind. For God the Son so loved the world that he allowed a spear to pierce his human heart, from which flowed blood and water for the salvation of the world (John 3:16, 19:34). The popular devotions to the Sacred Heart that are commonly practiced today were inspired by the visions of Christ reported by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a seventeenth-century nun. Among other things, Christ asked for reception of Communion on First Fridays and for holy hours before the Blessed Sacrament.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary devotion focuses on the love of the Blessed Virgin Mary for God, and on how our own imperfect love for God, though marred by sin, can become perfected when offered to God in union with Mary’s perfect human love for him. Popular devotions associated with the Immaculate Heart are the Miraculous Medal, which was inspired by visions of the Blessed Virgin given in the nineteenth century to St. Catherine Labouré, and the reparations made for sin on First Saturdays. Interestingly, the Church initially was reluctant to establish a feast day for the Immaculate Heart, rejecting early efforts by St. John Eudes in the seventeenth century to gain approval for the feast.

Protestants sometimes object to Catholic devotions like the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, and not only out of discomfort with Marian veneration. They also tend to see such devotions as accretions that mar the original purity of the Christian faith. They not only ask where such observances can be found in the Bible—they ask why the early Christians didn’t seem to know anything about them. Given the later origins of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts devotions, this objection might seem to have merit.

Sometimes Catholic apologists can get so caught up in trying to demonstrate that non-apostolic traditions—the lower-case “t” traditions that are not part of the deposit of the faith—are in harmony with Scripture and the practices of the early Church that we neglect to challenge the Protestant assumption that later developments in Christian piety are, by that fact, necessarily to be rejected.

One way to demonstrate to Protestants that the development of pious practices throughout Christian history can be acceptable, so long as those practices don’t contradict Christian dogma, is to point out modern Protestant pieties that were unknown in the early centuries of the Church (and that, we may note to ourselves, can appear to be improvised substitutions for lost sacraments). Let’s look at a few of them.

  • Infant baptism is one of the theological issues on which Fundamentalist Christians disagree with Catholics. They believe that baptism is only for adults, or at least for those who have reached the age of reason and are able to make “a decision for Christ.” But there seems to be a universal human need for ceremonies that welcome newborns into human society (especially spiritual society) , and thus many Fundamentalist churches offer dedication ceremonies in which new parents present their baby to the Christian community and pledge to raise the child for Christ.
  • Altar calls are a staple in many Evangelical churches. At some point during Sunday services, the preacher will invite anyone present who hasn’t yet made a personal commitment to Jesus to come forward to the altar and accept Jesus into his life as his “personal Lord and Savior.” Evangelicals consider this commitment central to the Christian life, to the point that a person’s eternal salvation is in doubt if he does not experience this moment of conversion. For Catholics, the central action of Sunday services is the Mass, and the place for a declaration of a personal need for Christ’s saving power is in the confessional.
  • At a Catholic nuptial Mass, the Eucharist is a symbol not just of the congregation’s communion in Christ but also of the newly married couple’s union in Christ. Although many Protestant communities no longer consider marriage or the Eucharist to be sacraments—calling them instead “ordinances,” things that Christ ordained to be done but that don’t actually impart grace to believers—they still feel a need to insert a ritual into the ceremony that symbolizes the couple’s unity. That’s one reason why the unity candle, in which the newly-married couple lights a candle together, has become ubiquitous in Protestant weddings (and, unfortunately, has been imported into many Catholic weddings as well).
  • Perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of Catholicism for Protestants to appreciate is that it is a layered religion that has grown and developed over centuries. Protestant apologists argue that such growth obscures the original purity of Christianity, that the development of pious customs such as devotion to the hearts of our Lord and our Lady are like barnacles on the barque of Peter—something to be scraped away.  [Ed. see St John Henry Newman‘s Essay on the Development of Doctrine]

But these pious customs are natural growth, as healthy for Christ’s mystical body as height, weight, and new muscles are for a human being who is maturing from infancy to adulthood. Christ told His apostles that his Church would grow in this way, although He used the image of the mustard seed that grows from a seed to a tree, in which “the birds of the air made nests in its branches” (Luke 13:19).

The devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at least in their modern forms, may not have begun during apostolic times, but they are a couple of the “nests” of piety in which Catholics have been spiritually nourished for centuries.”

Love, “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!!” (said at grace for dinner at McCormick household since childhood)
Matthew

WWJD – LGBTQ+ Pride

Jesus Christ crucifixion and gay pride flags view, Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria

Jesus would attend a Pride parade in June. He would eat and drink with sinners. Even as He does each and every Sunday with us. Jesus’ love was made manifest in His public ministry by His desire to seek out the lost and not abandon them to sin.


-by Trent Horn

“Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), and He didn’t sugarcoat His message about the sins of which people needed to repent. For example, He publicly called the religious leaders of His day “fools,” “blind guides,” and “hypocrites” who were like “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27).

When the Pharisees criticized Jesus’ decision to dine with notorious sinners such as prostitutes, Jesus did not chastise these religious leaders for being “judgmental.” Their error was not in caring too much about sin but in not caring enough about sinners. Jesus reminded them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mark 2:17). According to New Testament professor Robert Gagnon:

“What was distinctive about Jesus’ ministry was not that He refused to make judgments about the conduct of others, or even that He lowered his moral standards. On the contrary, in many areas He elevated those standards. What was distinctive was His incredibly generous spirit even toward those who had lived in gross disobedience to God for years. He expended enormous effort and exhibited great compassion in the search for the lost. Jesus did not wait for the lost to come to Him. He went looking for them (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 212).”

There’s no reason to think Jesus wouldn’t look for the lost in a place like a pride parade. I attended San Diego’s LGBT Pride parade several years ago and engaged in peaceful evangelism with three men who described themselves as gay. But Jesus would never encourage people to celebrate any sin, especially grave sins that separate us from the love of God.

Some people claim that Jesus “never said anything about homosexuality,” but the self-professed gay Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson admits, “One cannot extrapolate affirmation of such relationships from that silence.” Robinson instead claims that all “we can safely and responsibly conclude from Jesus’ silence is that he was silent on the issue” (God Believes in Love, 83-84).

I wonder if Robinson would likewise say, “All we can safely and responsibly conclude from Jesus’ silence on idolatry, incest, bestiality, and child sacrifice is that He was silent on those issues.”

He likely wouldn’t, because Jesus’ affirmation of the Old Testament’s prohibitions on, for example, murder, show He would never have supported child sacrifice. To claim otherwise would be absurd. Likewise, Jesus’ affirmation of the Old Testament’s prohibitions on sexual immorality show He would never have supported sexual activity between people of the same sex or any kind of behavior that violated the universal moral law.

Jesus’ sexual ethics weren’t based on the modern idea that consent is the only ethical norm for sexual acts and relationships. Jesus grounded His teaching in what God had revealed to humanity from the very beginning of Creation. After citing Genesis’s description of how “God made them male and female” and “the two shall become one,” Jesus bluntly declared, “whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12).

If Jesus would not approve of divorce because it violated the permanence of God’s design for marriage, then He would never have approved of same-sex relationships that violate the sexual complementarity of God’s design for marriage.

Some people try to diffuse the force of Jesus’ teaching by saying that He was trying to be ironic, since wives weren’t allowed to divorce their husbands. But although wife-initiated divorce was rare in the ancient near East, it was not unheard of. Exodus 21:10–11 describes how a slave married to her master can leave him without paying any sort of penalty if he fails to provide for her needs, including “marital rights.” A second-century divorce certificate (in Hebrew, a get) addressed to a husband from his wife was discovered in the Judean desert in 1951. According to David Instone-Brewer in his study on divorce and remarriage in the Bible:

“Normally women would not write a divorce certificate such as this one, but they would ask a court to persuade their husbands to write one. Perhaps this nonrabbinic practice was influenced by the Greco-Roman world where women could initiate divorce, as wealthy Jewish women in the first century are known to have done” (Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, 88).”

Jesus did not teach that what mattered most is finding happiness through our bodily desires. After saying lust was itself a kind of adultery, Jesus advised His hearers, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:30). Jesus’ hyperbole is not a recommendation of mutilation but of mortification: the disciplined subjection of our bodily desires so that they serve our heavenly destiny.

Our bodily desires are strong, but the grace of God is stronger, so anyone who struggles with disordered sexual attractions (no matter their object) should not give into despair and hopelessness. We all feel the “war in our bodies” (Rom. 7:23) tempting us to reject God’s will for us, and so we should look to Christ, not as a heartless judge but as a compassionate savior Who allowed His body to be abused and killed so that our bodily desires would not condemn our eternal souls.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Jun 26 – Sts Marie-Madeleine Fontaine, DC, Marie-Francoise Lanel, DC, Therese Fantou, DC, Jeanne Gerard, DC, from the House of Charity in Arras, (d. 1794), Religious & Martyrs

The House of Charity in Arras was a beehive of activity. Seven Sisters cared for the sick, visited poor families and educated young children. The service was very well appreciated by the population.

Like everywhere, the Revolution questioned each one’s fidelity to Jesus Christ and to the Church. Quickly, Sister Coutacheaux decided to return to her family. The superior was worried about the two youngest Sisters. What fate did the revolutionaries have for them? She invited them to find refuge in Belgium. Sister Rose Michau and Sister Jeanne Fabre did not want to leave, but once the Terror came to Arras they followed the advice and went into exile. They rejoined the Company of the Daughters of Charity when it was reestablished. At the end of 1793 there were four Sisters, then, who remained working in the House of Charity.

Sister Marie Madeleine Fontaine, originally from Etrapigny (Eure), entered the Company in 1748 at the age of 25. As Superior of the community, her wisdom and competence were greatly appreciated. Sister Marie Françoise Lanel was born in 1745 in Eu (Seine Maritime). She entered the Daughters of Charity at the age of 19. Sister Thérèse Fantou was born in Miniac Morvan (Ille et Vilaine) in 1747. She became a Daughter of Charity at the age of 24. Sister Jeanne Gérardest was born in Cumières (Meuse) in 1752 and entered the Company of the Daughters of Charity in 1776.

The arrival in Arras of a new District leader, Joseph Lebon, brought a climate of violence and fear to the city. The House of Charity became the “House of Humanity” for which a new director was installed who surveyed the activities of the Sisters. The humiliations intensified and the false testimonies multiplied. On February 14 1794 the Sisters were arrested and taken to Saint-Vaast Abbey. The Sisters brought compassion to the prisoners who were distraught about their future. The Sisters underwent their first interrogation on the 4th of April. They again refused to take the oath, intended to subjugate the Catholic Church in France to the new French Government instead of the Pope, since it was against their conscience.

Then, suddenly, on the night of June 25, the order was given to quickly transfer these four Sisters of Charity to Cambrai. The cart left at one in the morning and arrived in Cambrai at eight thirty. The Sisters were locked in the chapel of the old Seminary. In this place of prayer they meditated.

Then came a new court appearance and immediate condemnation to death. Waiting for the cart to take them to the guillotine the Sisters prayed their chapelet. The guards took their “good luck charms,” and, not knowing what to do, put them on their heads like a crown. Thus it was that they went through the city, singing the Ave Maris Stella. (What do Catholic martyrs do? THEY SING!!!) At the foot of the scaffold Sister Marie-Madeleine Fontaine repeated the prediction already made to those condemned, “We are the last victims.” That extraordinary prediction came true. The fall of Robespierre on July 27 1794 marked the end of the Revolution of Terror.


-the four martyr saints holding the palms of victory in Heaven, Rev 7:9-17

Since the North Star guides sailors home to safe port, Mary is the Star of the Sea. She guides us safe home to Jesus.

Ave Maris Stella, 8th century AD

Ave, Maris Stella,
Dei Mater alma,
Atque semper virgo,
Felix coeli porta.

Sumens illud Ave
Gabrielis ore,
Funda nos in pace,
Mutans Evae nomen.

Solve vincia reis
Profer lumen caecis,
Mala nostra pelle,
Bona cuncta posce.

Monstra te esse Matrem,
Sumat per te preces
Qui pro nobis natus,
Tulit esse tuus.

Virgo singularis,
Inter omnes mitis,
Nos culpis solutos
Mites fac et castos.

Vitam praesta puram,
Iter para tutum;
Ut videntes Jesum
Semper collaetemur.

Sit laus Deo Patri,
Summo Christo decus,
Spiritui Sancto,
Tribus honor unus. Amen.

Hail Star of the Sea

Hail, thou Star of ocean,
Portal of the sky !
Ever Virgin Mother
Of the Lord most high !

Oh ! by Gabriel’s Ave,
Uttered long ago,
Eva’s name reversing,
Stablish peace below.

Break the captive’s fetters ;
Light on blindness pour ;
All our ills expelling,
Every bliss implore.

Show thyself a Mother ;
Offer Him our sighs,
Who for us Incarnate
Did not thee despise.

Virgin of all virgins !
To thy shelter take us :
Gentlest of the gentle !
Chaste and gentle make us.

Still, as on we journey,
Help our weak endeavor ;
Till with thee and Jesus
We rejoice forever.

Through the highest heaven,
To the Almighty Three,
Father, Son, and Spirit,
One same glory be. Amen.

The parish just over where I grew up near the seashore was named Maris Stella.

Love,
Matthew

Cease!! The Heart of Jesus is with me!!!

“I say to myself, I will not mention His name, I will speak in His name no more. But then, it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones, I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” -Jeremiah 20:7-10

It’s a difficult time to be Catholic.  The McCormick family has a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  In it we find inexpressible joy and peace, no matter what is occurring to us, or in  the world around us.  A little spooky we wound up at a parish named Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary!! My mother had a badge of the Sacred Heart on a small length of “ball and chain” ring of 3, maybe four inches. She kept her religious medals on this ring. I still have it today.

“You woo me…
with birdsong in the morning
daffodils in the garden
gentle waves on the shore
gifts of glass from the sea
a warm breeze in the evening
a playful, loving family
friends who listen and share
the kiss of Eucharist on my tongue
daily, intimate, hour-long conversations in a silent church
drawing me ever more deeply into the fire burning
within Your Sacred Heart, allowing me to feel the pain of sin
that consumes you, letting me experience
Your intense suffering for love of me and all of Your children,
sharing Your sorrow
with the one You love,
this little nobody
that You woo
so expertly,
so divinely,
so sweetly

I can’t resist Your desire for me

I am wooed into Your eternal embrace
so tender and loving….

Never let go
I am Yours forever…”
Anne Bender, “Wooed by His Sacred Heart”

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, deign to take me into Your Sacred Heart. Grant that it may be the sanctuary where I may be recollected, sheltered, and find my rest.

MEDITATION

The liturgy of the Feast of the Sacred Heart presents to us the Heart of Jesus as the ark of salvation, our shelter and our refuge. “O Heart of Jesus, ark … of grace, pardon and mercy, O Heart, inviolable sanctuary of the New Law, Temple more sacred than the ancient ark!… Who would not want an eternal home in this Heart?” Sacred Heart our refuge(Roman Breviary). “Close to these blessed wounds in the Heart of Christ,” exclaims St. Peter Canisius, “I shall find refuge; in them I shall build my nest in full security.” This has always been the hope of contemplative souls, of interior souls: to take refuge in the Heart of Christ as in their chosen asylum. St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus wrote in her last resolutions: “My God, I wish to enclose myself now and forever in Your most loving Heart as in a desert, to live there in You, with You, and for You, a hidden life of love and sacrifice” (-Spirituality of St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus). The soul who wishes to sound the depths of the mysteries of Christ and to understand something of His infinite love, will find no better way than to enter within His Heart or, as St. John of the Cross says, “to hide itself in the breast of its Beloved, for to these clefts He invites it in the Canticle of Canticles saying: ‘Arise, and make haste, my love, my fair one, and come into the clefts of the rock, and into the cavern of the enclosure” (Spiritual Canticle 31,5). Let us take refuge then, in the Heart of Christ and contemplate His mysteries and His love, but seek there, too, a shelter for our interior life. This is a place of retreat which is always at our disposal and we can retire there even in the midst of occupations and duties. When rumors, curiosity, gossip, and the vanities of the world threaten to overwhelm us, let us quickly retire by a swift interior movement to the Heart of Jesus; there we shall always find recollection and peace.

COLLOQUY

“O most sweet Jesus, the treachery of my sins would forbid my entering Your Heart. But since an inconceivable charity enlarged Your Heart, and since You, who alone are holy, can purify what is defiled, cleanse me from my faults, O good Jesus, and deliver me from my sins. When I am purified by You, I can approach You, O purest One, and enter and abide in Your Heart all the days of my life, to know and to do what You wish me to do.” (St. Bonaventure)

“Truly, where is there sure and lasting safety and rest for one who is weak if not in Your wounds, O my Savior? I dwell there all the more securely as You are powerful and can save me.

The world rages around me, the body weighs upon me, the devil lays snares for me, but I do not fall because I am founded on You, the firm rock…. If then, O Christ, the thought of Your wounds comes to my mind, if I recall such a powerful and efficacious remedy, I can no longer be terrified by the fear that any harm may befall me. Filled with confidence, I shall take what I need from Your Heart, O Lord, for mercies abound there, and Your wounds are open to permit these mercies to flow forth. They pierced Your hands and Your feet, they opened Your side with a spear; and through these clefts I am able … to taste and see how sweet You are, O Lord!…

The blade pierced Your soul and reached Your Heart so that You might know compassion for my infirmities. Through the wounds in Your Body, the secret of Your Heart, that great mystery of love, was revealed; the inmost heart of Your mercy was opened, through which You came to us from the heights of heaven. Where then can we see more clearly than in Your wounds, O Lord, that You are sweet, gentle and full of mercy? No one indeed shows greater mercy than He who gives His life for the condemned, for those sentenced to death. Hence, all my hope lies in Your mercy, O Lord, and I shall never be deprived of it so long as You are merciful.” (-St. Bernard)

Love,
Matthew