Sunday, 23 June 2013

Music and the Sacred Heart

I have been meaning for some time to write about the music associated with the Sacred Heart, and recently Monsignor Philip Whitmore gave a interesting talk on Vatican Radio on the subject.  It is well-worth listening to. Go here.  It is a good starting point for thinking about the hymns associated with the Sacred Heart.  What a pity that one rarely gets an opportunity to sing them nowadays! Fr. Whitmore discusses a few of the most famous ones, but the hymns which focus on the Heart of Jesus and the spirituality of the heart are really quite extensive. Listening to the programme makes me think that I ought to post something on these songs of the heart.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Pope Francis's Angelus message on the Sacred Heart

Today, at the Sunday Angelus prayers, Pope Francis emphasised the importance of the devotion.  The Sacred Heart, he says, ' is the highest human expression of divine love' and the 'ultimate symbol of God's mercy'.  It is a symbol, but also a 'real symbol'.  He tells us  that we should not be afraid to approach Jesus for : ' He has a merciful heart!'  As he shows us his wounds, Francis reminds us that the Lord  asks us to show our wounds, since: ' If we show our inner wounds, our sins, He always forgives us. He is pure mercy! Let us never forget this: He is pure mercy! Let us go to Jesus! '. 

The text of his message.

"The month of June is traditionally dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the highest human expression of divine love. Just this past Friday, in fact, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: the feast that sets the tone for the whole month. Popular piety highly prizes symbols, and the Heart of Jesus is the ultimate symbol of God's mercy but it is not an imaginary symbol, it is a real symbol, which represents the center, the source from which salvation for all humanity gushed forth.

In the Gospels we find several references to the Heart of Jesus, for example, in the passage where Christ says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart. (Mt 11:28-29)” Then there is the key story of the death of Christ according to John. This evangelist in fact testifies to what he saw on Calvary: that a soldier, when Jesus was already dead, pierced his side with a spear, and from the wound flowed blood and water (cf. Jn 19.33-34). John recognized in that – apparently random – sign, the fulfillment of prophecies: from the heart of Jesus, the Lamb slain on the cross, flow forgiveness and life for all men.

But the mercy of Jesus is not just sentiment: indeed it is a force that gives life, that raises man up! [This Sunday]’s Gospel tells us this as well, in the episode of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17). Jesus, with his disciples, is just arrived in Nain, a village in Galilee, at the very moment in which a funeral is taking place. a boy is buried, the only son of a widow. Jesus’ gaze immediately fixes itself on the weeping mother. The evangelist Luke says: “Seeing her, the Lord was moved with great compassion for her (v. 13).” This “compassion” is the love of God for man, it is mercy, i.e. the attitude of God in contact with human misery, with our poverty, our suffering, our anguish. The biblical term “compassion” recalls the maternal viscera: a mother, in fact, experiences a reaction all her own, to the pain of her children. In this way does God love us, the Scripture says.

And what is the fruit of this love? It is life! Jesus said to the widow of Nain, “Do not weep,” and then called the dead boy and awoke him as from a sleep (cf. vv. 13-15). The mercy of God gives life to man, it raises him from the dead. The Lord is always watching us with mercy, [always] awaits us with mercy. Let us be not afraid to approach him! He has a merciful heart! If we show our inner wounds, our sins, He always forgives us. He is pure mercy! Let us never forget this: He is pure mercy! Let us go to Jesus! 

Let us turn to the Virgin Mary: her immaculate heart – a mother’s heart – has shared the “compassion” of God to the full, especially at the hour of the passion and death of Jesus. May Mary help us to be meek, humble and compassionate with our brethren." 

Read Text HERE

Friday, 7 June 2013

First Friday, Feast of the Sacred Heart

We have noted elsewhere on this blog that Pope Francis is a Pope of the Heart of Christ. So it is good to note that Pope Francis referred to the solemnity of the Sacred Heart this morning as “the feast of love” of a “heart that loved so much”. As a Jesuit it was not surprising that he should refer to  St. Ignatius who observed that  Jesus's love  "manifests itself more in deeds than in words" and  "more [in] giving than receiving." These these 'two criteria are like the pillars of true love" and the Good Shepherd above all else represents the love of God. He knows His sheep by name, "because His is not an abstract or general love: it is love towards everyone ".

"A God who draws near out of love, walks with His people, and this walk comes to an unimaginable point. We could never have imagined that the same Lord would become one of us and walk with us, be present with us, present in His Church, present in the Eucharist, present in His Word, present in the poor, He is present, walking with us. And this is closeness: the shepherd close to his flock, close to his sheep, whom he knows, one by one. "

His homily, focusing on the reading from Ezekiel (34: 11-16),  highlighted another aspect of God's love: caring for the lost, the wounded and the sick sheep:

"Tenderness! But the Lord loves us tenderly. The Lord knows that beautiful science of caresses, the tenderness of God. He does not love us with words. He comes close - closeness - and gives us His love with tenderness. Closeness and tenderness! The Lord loves us in these two ways, He draws near and gives all His love even in the smallest things: with tenderness. And this is a powerful love, because closeness and tenderness reveal the strength of God’s love”.

"But do you love each other as I have loved you?" Pope Francis asked this question of those present, emphasizing how love is "being close to others”, is "like that of the Good Samaritan" and in particular , in the sign of "closeness and tenderness". He also asked: How can we return all this love to the Lord? By "loving", by being "closer to Him," by being "tender with Him”, but this alone, he said, “is not enough”:

"This may sound like heresy, but it is the greatest truth! It is more difficult to let God love us, than to love Him! The best way to love Him in return is to open our hearts and let Him love us. Let Him draw close to us and feel Him close to us. This is really very difficult: letting ourselves be loved by Him. And that is perhaps what we need to ask today in the Mass: 'Lord, I want to love You, but teach me the difficult science, the difficult habit of let ting myself be loved by You, to feel You close and feel Your tenderness ! May the Lord give us this grace. "

Text from  the Vatican Radio website HERE

Monday, 3 June 2013

The development of the litany of the Sacred Heart.

Pope Leo XIII approved this Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1899 for public use.  Before this date  a variety of personal or more local litanies had been in use.  Pope Leo, however, considered that it was about time a more universal form should be composed and used world-wide. The litany was therefore the product of a kind of evolutionary process.   However, there are three main sources.  The Jesuit priest Father Croiset composed a litany in 1691 from which 17 invocations were used by Venerable Anne Madeleine Remuzat in 1718 at Marseille. She joined an additional 10 invocations to those of Father Croiset, for a total of 27 invocations.

Henri Pinta's depiction of Anne Madeleine and Mgr Belsunce. 
Fr. Croiset  was spiritual director to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. After her death Fr. Croiset published  an account of her revelations.  The book also included her prayers. The book, published in Devotion to the Sacred Heart - which was  published in 1691 – although it was not actually approved for two hundred years! In due course the book was rediscovered and was given the Sacred Congregation ‘s seal of approval and removed from the Index of banned books.  Venerable Anne Madeleine Remuzat (1696-1730) was to play an important role in the spread on the devotion in Provence, Lyons, Rouen, Constantinople, Cairo, Spain, Louisiana, Persia, Syria and the Indian subcontinent.  She was very influential on Mgr de Belsunce in Marseilles and this led to the institution of a feast of the Sacred Heart in 1720. During this period in which the devotion to the Sacred Heart was growing in France  six more invocations were composed  written by the Visantine Sister Madeleine Joly of Dijon in 1686 – these were based on her correspondence with St. Margaret Mary.     In 1899 these were added to the 27 of Croiset and Ven Anne Madeleine by the Sacred Congregation for Rites when it was approved for public use - thus  making a  total of 33 invocations ( one for each year of life of our Lord Jesus Christ).

As Fr. John Hardon put it : ‘Each invocation reflects an aspect of God's love symbolized by the physical Heart of Christ, the Son of God who became man and died out of love for sinful mankind.' ( Here  )

The litany provides us, therefore, with 33 facets of  the mystery of God’s Love. Each one is a kind of icon of the love of God.  Each one is a window into the mystery of the Trinity.  Each one is a window into Holy Scripture. Each one is a window into our own hearts.  Each one is an opportunity for dialogue.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Corpus Christi

The feast of Corpus Christi - when Catholics celebrate the real presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist begins the week which includes (on Friday) the Feast of the Sacred Heart.  That is, of course,  very appropriate. The Sacred Heart has long been closely associated with the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.  It is significant, for example, that the revelations to St Margaret Mary occurred before the Blessed Sacrament.  Fr. John Hardon S.J. nicely sums up the relationship between the Sacred Heart and the Eucharist in these words:

Since Christ Our Lord is present in the Eucharist not only as God but as man; not only with His human soul but also with His body; not only in the substance of His body but with all its physical components and parts — it follows that the Blessed Sacrament contains the living Heart of Christ: the same that was formed by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, that was moved to compassion over the sins of Mary Magdalen and the sorrow of the widow of Naim, that was pierced on the Cross for our salvation and abides, in a glorified state, at the right hand of His heavenly Father. ( Read HERE )

Today was a very special Corpus Christi in that Pope Francis invited the world to join him in an act of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament @ 4.00 pm GMT.  Truly a  historic event  and one that is such a good idea!! ( It was well attended in my parish!)  I could think of no better a way to begin this month of devotion to the Sacred Heart.  Same time, same place next year?  More of this kind of thing, please. We are a universal Church, after all, 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

June: the month of the Sacred Heart

This month I will try and reflect on each of the invocations of the Litany of the Sacred Heart.  In this month the Church asks us – as Blessed John Paul  once observed - to focus on the mystery of the Heart of Jesus.  These great mysteries, he argued are expressed in a ‘penetrating way’ in the Litany. (in Moell, ed., John Paul II , Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Prayer and Service, October – December 1990: 280)

The month of June is especially dedicated to the veneration of the Divine Heart.  Not just one day – the liturgical feast that usually falls in June – but every day.  Connected with it is the devout practice of daily reciting or singing the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is a marvelous prayer, totally concentrated on the interior mystery of Christ, the God-Man.  The Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus draws abundantly from biblical sources, and at the same time reflects the deepest experiences of human hearts.  It is also a prayer of veneration and authentic dialogue.. This prayer, recited and meditated, becomes a true school of the interior life, the school of the Christian…..In reciting the Litany – and in venerating the divine Heart – we learn the mystery of redemption in all its divine and human depth. At the same time, we become sensitive to the need for reparation.  Christ opens his Heart to us that we may join him in his reparation for the salvation of the world.  The language of the pierced Heart speaks the whole truth about his gospel and about Easter. Let us try to understand this language even better.  Let us learn it.’ (in  Moell, ed., John Paul II , Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Payer and Service, October – December 1990: 292)

So, let us try and learn this language – with the help of the icon.