Reading David Richo's book has been an excellent way to prepare to celebrate the solemnity of the Sacred Heart. He shows how the heart is such a powerful archetype which needs to be re-discovered for our present century - despite the fact that it is so overshadowed by some of the excesses of the popular devotion of the past. That said, the mass today was well-attended and one could not fail to be aware of how the devotion is still burning like an ember in the church. It is as if it needs a great wind to fan it back into glowing, and vibrant life. I was especially moved as we sang 'To Jesus', heart all burning' - words by Aloys Schlör (1885-52) which has long been popular in its English translation. (Listen HERE ) This hymn evoked deep memories of childhood for me, but it also fired up my belief that this devotion is not just a matter for spiritual nostalgia. The people at mass were not engaging in just sentimental nostalgia: their devotion was manifestly alive and active. Reflecting on this I turned to something which Blessed John Paul said about the relevance of the Sacred Heart for us in the present century. Speaking of the feast in 1994 in a general audience he argued:
( in C.J. Moell, (ed) Pope John Paul: Holy Father, Sacred Heart, Crossroads, New York.2004: pp187-8)
As we sang 'To Jesus, heart all burning' to celebrate this great feast I think that we all felt that John Paul's message - that 21st century men and women need the Sacred Heart to know God and to know themselves - is one which has a profound relevance for our times.
I believe that this is also is the message of David's book and is precisely what Teilhard was saying: the Sacred Heart is not just a sentimental devotion of which belongs in the past. We urgently need it today so as to know God and know ourselves. We need this powerful archetypal symbol to enable us to evolve spiritually as individuals and a species. We need it to build a civilisation of love. That is the message this very important feast. The Sacred Heart is the ultimate response to the despair and nihilism expressed by Friedrich Nietzsche and his ilk: it is the answer to the malaise which infects post-modern societies.
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