The Devotion to the Sacred Heart
Fr. John Croiset, S. J.

Originally published in1691;
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1959
TAN Books and Publishers

Part Two:
Means of Acquiring this Devotion


Chapter 4

- First Means -

Beside the obstacles which we must avoid, and the dispositions we must have in order to acquire perfect love of Jesus Christ and a tender devotion to His Sacred Heart, it is fitting that we should suggest here the means which are most proper for this end.

The first means is prayer. There is nothing to which Jesus Christ has so often solemnly pledged Himself as to hear our prayers; but of all prayers there is none so agreeable to him as that by which we ask for His love. He has bound Himself strictly to grant this love to all those who ask for it, but even if He had not bound Himself to grant it, this request for it would bind Him to grant it.

Jesus Christ has done all that we can imagine, even more than we can imagine, to induce us to love Him. It rests with him to grant us this love; dare we think that He will refuse it to us if we ask it of Him? But it must be that this love is little esteemed, since it is asked for so little. You are astonished that you do not love Jesus Christ ardently, since this love is so just and so conformable to reason; but you should be still more astonished if you loved him without praying for this love, since it is the greatest of all God's gifts.

Of all the means for obtaining the love of Jesus Christ, there is none more efficacious than prayer, and there is non easier. nevertheless, this means is very much neglected. We seem to fear that God just might hear our prayers too soon. The reason we receive so little from God is that we ask with insufficient rigor and constancy. We obtain too little because we ask too little. Since Christ has promised so solemnly not to refuse us anything that we ask, we may be sure that he will not fail to keep His promise.

It often happens that we do not know what we ask for. We can do wrong to Jesus Christ if we do not trust Him, especially if we ask insincerity, how can we doubt that we will be heard?

- Second Means -

The second means to acquire this perfect love is the frequent reception of the Sacraments, that is to say, frequent Holy Communion. It is sufficient to know what is meant by receiving Holy Communion, to understand that there is no surer means to be in a short time inflamed with love for Jesus Christ than to receive Holy Communion frequently. It is not possible to carry fire in one's bosom and not be inflamed by it. Divine fire has lit a great furnace on our altars in the adorable Sacrament of the Eucharist, and it is by approaching this Sacred Fire that all the Saints have been inflamed by a most ardent and tender love for Jesus Christ. The love by which they burned on receiving Holy Communion appeared even on their faces. At such times, the very name, the very image of Jesus would be enough to make them go into ecstasies.

Those who with proper dispositions receive Holy Communion daily or frequently, experience the admirable effects of frequent Communion. They love Jesus Christ ever more and more.

All the other Sacraments are the effects of the love of Jesus Christ for men, but the Sacrament of the Altar is the love of loves. It is the effect of the greatest of all the loves which Jesus Christ has for men. He gives them His Body and Blood in order to gain their hearts, expressly to gain possession of their hearts.

You have been hearing Mass daily for years, you have received the adorable Body and the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ thousands of times, and yet, you are still fighting against an imagination, a trifle that prevents you from belonging completely to God and from tasting the peace and sweetness that is found in His service; perhaps you have even less love for Jesus Christ every day.

But if this misfortune does happen; if we see that while receiving Holy Communion frequently, even daily, we seem to draw no fruit from this Sacrament, that we do not mend our faults, that we abuse the privilege of Holy Communion, that we do not love Jesus Christ more for it, that we feel always the same tepidity, the same weakness, should we leave off Holy Communion? No, but we should regulate our lives, and rid ourselves of our vices and faults which prevent us from profiting by our Communions and Masses. The fault comes from improper preparation.

The little fruit which a great number of people, especially priests, draw from frequent Communion makes us wonder whether it is proper to receive so often. No better reply could be given on this subject than the reply of St. Francis de Sales, based on the writings of  St. Augustine and St. Catherine of Siena, which is as follows [in abbreviated form]:

Tell them that two classes of people ought to receive Communion frequently: the perfect, because, being well-disposed, they would be very wrong not to approach the Source and Fountain of perfection; the strong in order that they may not become weak. And the weak, in order that they may become strong; the sick in order that they might be cured. [Provided that mortal sin does not attach.]

Receive Holy Communion often as possible, relying on the advice of your spiritual director. This is the advice that St. Francis de Sales gives to all those who have a real horror of mortal sin, and an ardent desire for salvation. There is no need to advise persons steeped in vice, because they no longer desire Holy Communion.

- Third Means -

The third means to acquire this perfect love of God is to visit the Blessed Sacrament often. Friendship is preserved and increased among men by frequent visits and conversations; it is by this means that we shall gain and increase the friendship of Jesus Christ. As His object in remaining on our altars is to be continually with us, judge what must be His sentiments of affection for those whom He sees often with Him. there is nothing which gains the Heart of Jesus more than frequent visits and frequent acts of adoration in His presence; it is usually at this time that he pours out His graces in greatest abundance, and it may be said that, of all His gifts and favors which He gives at these visits, the most usual is the incomparable grace of His love.

There are visits of courtesy, there are visits of pure love; the first is a fault; the second is the occasion that singular favors are conferred, inflaming his visitors with Divine love. There is no more infallible means of obtaining in a short time this great love of Jesus Christ, than to visit Him often in churches, especially those hours of the day when He is honored so little.

[Today our churches are generally locked outside of the scheduled Masses. The authors and the works from which our presentation is based, wrote in a time when this was not the case. Thus, many of us must substitute frequent acts of love at home and work, little ejaculations to the Sacred Heart, Spiritual Holy Communions and the like.  We must ask, and keep asking, for more Holy Hours in those parishes where a valid Mass is still said. ---- CT  WEB MASTER]

- Fourth Means -

To obtain this perfect love we must depend chiefly on perseverance and exactness in carrying out perfectly those practices. This fidelity is what is usually most agreeable to God because it is always the surest mark of love. Our work for Christ may be very little in greatness, but it is no little thing to pay heed to our disposition in fidelity. To be always constant, whether sad or in good humor, whether tired or energetic, whether in peace or troubled, and to carry out towards Jesus Christ certain little duties imposed on us by our love and gratitude for Him, is to be truly faithful to Him, is truly to love Jesus Christ.

- Fifth Means -

The fifth means by which we may in a short time become inflamed with ardent love for Jesus Christ, is to have a tender love for the Blessed Virgin who has such absolute power over the Sacred Heart of her Divine Son. There is no doubt but that the Blessed Virgin is, of all creatures, the one who has loved Jesus Christ most, who has been most loved by Him and who desires most ardently that He be perfectly loved. She is the Mother of perfect love and it is to her that we should address ourselves in order to be inflamed with that love. The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary are too comformable and too closely united to each other to allow us entry into one without having the entry into the other; with this difference, that the Heart of Jesus suffers only souls extremely pure to enter into that Sanctuary, while the Heart of Mary purifies, by means of the graces she obtains, those souls that are not pure, and puts them in a state to be received into the Heart of Jesus.

Although all the other means of obtaining this ardent love of Jesus Christ are easy and efficacious, the latter means appears to many to be the easiest. Few people have the dispositions necessary to be inflamed with Divine love, but there are few who cannot obtain these dispositions through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. Even sinners should not despair. Mary is the home of sinners, the refuge of all unfortunates, the resource of everyone. Jesus Christ grants to her easily what we, of ourselves, are unworthy to receive. St. Bernard says: "Because you were unworthy to receive the gift, it was given to Mary that you might receive through her whatever you wish to have." Almighty God has established her as the dispenser of His graces; according to St. Bernard, He has resolved to grant none which do not pass through her hands. If we have a tender love for Mary, we shall be soon inflamed with an ardent love for her Son. It is a sign that one does not really desire the love of the Son, when he does not feel a tender love for the Mother; and without a very tender love for the Blessed Virgin, one need never expect to get entrance into the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

Thus, it has been remarked that there was never found anyone who had indifference for the Blessed Virgin, who had not at the same time aversion for Jesus Christ. It is even from this aversion for Jesus Christ that indifference and aversion for the Blessed Virgin comes. Jesus Christ said: "He that hateth me, hateth the father also" [Jn. 15:23], and, for the same reason, might we not say that there has never been a heretic in the world who has not been an enemy of the Blessed Virgin, because there has never been one who has not hated Jesus Christ. All the works which these heretics have composed tend equally to extinguish the love for the Mother and the Son. Has there ever been one of these hidden enemies of Jesus Christ, bent as they are on destroying the most proper means of loving Jesus Christ, who has preached devotion to the Blessed Virgin ---- or rather who has not tried by all possible means to destroy this solid devotion in the hearts of the faithful?

This truth has been very forcibly expressed by one of the greatest and most zealous prelates of his time, the illustrious Archbishop of Malines, in a Lenten pastoral which our Holy Father, Pope Innocent XII, praised very highly in a letter which he wrote to him. This pastoral letter, which is full of the spirit and zeal which animated Saints like St. Charles Borromeo and St. Francis de Sales, might pass today for a masterpiece of this kind of writing, whether we consider it from the point of view of the beautiful instruction which it contains and the sound moral lessons which it inculcates, or of the solidity of the doctrine enunciated. The following is how this great prelate expresses himself with reference to the false zeal of those who, far from urging all the faithful to practice devotion to the Blessed Virgin, endeavor to decry it:

"Catholics are very much scandalized to see how some people endeavor in an underhand way to throw discredit on devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Catholics have imbibed this devotion with their mothers' milk; their teachers have explained and recommended it to them; pence they are scandalized at seeing disrespect shown to images of Our Lady, at pilgrimages being derided, at hearing people use the worn-out anti-Christian witticisms which Erasmus made on this subject; at people in private conversations, and even in anonymous publications, attacking sodalities established in honor of the Blessed Virgin. However, they are edified by the conduct of those who stand up in defense of these pious and holy practices which they have received from their ancestors, and they are determined that, today, as in the time of their ancestors, devotion to Our Lady be the distinguishing mark by which a Catholic is recognized from a heretic.

"We earnestly recommend devotion to the Blessed Virgin to everybody; we wish that you exert all your energy to make this devotion better known and more widely practiced; that people go and pay homage to shrines of the Blessed Virgin, especially at those where miracles have taken place; that her images be carried in processions, that candles be lighted before them and hymns and litanies and prayers be recited; that people speak with respect of congregations and confraternities erected in her honor, as well as of the privileges and immunities granted by popes to them; and that people be urged to enter these confraternities where they exist; that they be established in places where there are none, and that they be reestablished wherever they have been abolished. Let all know that to show disrespect for any of these practices, much more, to condemn them or seek to abolish them, is to wound us in the apple of our eye.

"We inherit these tender sentiments of piety for the Blessed Virgin from our ancestors, and we have preserved them in spite of the rage of the heretics who surround us. I desire with all my heart that they take root more and more in the hearts of the faithful. We feel ourselves urged on by the advice and example of several holy men, whom it is not necessary to mention by name, because it can be said that, in every age, all those who have been remarkable for extraordinary sanctity, have given striking proofs of their devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

"The faithful should not be misled by the hollow arguments given by heretics and other enemies of devotion to Mary; these allege that honor paid to the Mother will interfere with the right of the Son. The faithful are not so poorly instructed as not to know what they owe to the Son, and that it is only out of respect for Him that they pay honor to His Mother. All Catholics are agreed that it is for love of the Son that they honor the Mother, or rather that in the Mother they honor this Divine Son who will rigorously avenge every insult to His Mother. The Saints tell us so frequently, and the "deplorable fall of many Christians makes us see this truth with our very eyes. When people relax their devotion to the Mother, insensibly, devotion to the Son diminishes, and often becomes extinguished.

"The zeal of St. Charles Borromeo to propagate devotion to the Blessed Virgin can be seen in the accounts of the various Councils held under his authority at Milan; for, both his addresses at these Councils and the statutes drawn up, are so many enduring monuments showing forth his ardent devotion to the Queen of Heaven.

"The books of the Saintly Bishop of Geneva are full of the same sentiments, and the example of his life is also a testimony in favor of this devotion. He makes it his glory to belong to the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, of which nearly all the people of the town were members. St. Anselm, St. Bernard, St. Norbert and a host of others were equally remarkable for their devotion to Mary. Let the pastors then listen to these Saints, let them make them models to be imitated by themselves and their flocks."

Truly, it is rare to find Catholics without a tender love for Mary, and without some special devotion to her. We can say that in our days devotion to the Blessed Virgin is universal, and it will always remain true that devotion towards the Mother will be condemned only by the enemies of her Son. Let us who desire to obtain ardent love for the Son, use all our endeavors to love the Mother tenderly, and let us be persuaded that it will be by means of the Mother, we shall find easiest access to Jesus Christ and that we shall be received into His Heart.

For the same reason, we should have a singular devotion to the Holy Family, because Our Lady and St. Joseph, who loved Jesus Christ more ardently and tenderly than all others, can help to obtain for us this tender love and to procure an entrance into the Sacred Heart over which they have such influence.