Motives for the Devotion
THE MEANS WHICH GOD MADE USE OF TO PROPAGATE THIS DEVOTION TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, S.J., was among the persons selected by God to publish this devotion to the faithful. This great servant of God was illustrious both as Confessor of the Faith in England, and as Chaplain to the Duchess of York, afterwards Queen of England. He was celebrated for his works on religious subjects, but more celebrated for his sublime virtue. He was sent by providence to St. Margaret Mary to assist her in her mission of establishing the public worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Having examined the private revelations received by St. Margaret Mary, he came to the conclusion after careful inquiry that those revelations were genuine, and guided by Divine help he consecrated himself to the Sacred Heart. The devotion was for him the means of arriving at great perfection. Convinced by his inquiry and by the great favors which he himself received that the devotion was the work of God, he regarded himself under an obligation to do all in his power to make public the treasures of grace and mercy hidden in the Sacred Heart which hitherto had been revealed only to chosen souls. The following is what he wrote in his Journal of Spiritual Retreats which he composed in London and which was published after his death. [It is of great historic interest because it was the first explanation of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus addressed to the ordinary faithful]: "At the close of this retreat, full of confidence in the mercy of my God, I have made it a law for myself to procure by all means possible the execution of what I was ordered by my adorable Master concerning His most precious Body in the Blessed Sacrament, in which I believe Him to be truly and really present. Filled with sweetness which I have been able to taste and receive from the mercy of my God without being able to explain it . . . . I have come to recognize that God wishes that I serve Him by procuring the accomplishment of His desires concerning the devotion, which He has suggested to a person [St. Margaret Mary] to whom He has communicated Himself very intimately, and for whose benefit He has deigned to make use of my weakness. I have already preached this devotion to many people in England and have written about it in France, and have asked one of my friends to make it known in the place where he is. It will be very useful there. The great number of chosen souls which there are in this community makes me believe that the practice of it in this house will be very pleasing to God. Would that I could be everywhere, O my God, and could publish what Thou dost expect from Thy servants and friends!
"God having revealed Himself to this person [St. Margaret Mary] who, from the graces which she has received has, I believe, according to His Heart, informed me about the revelations which she received. I obliged her to write down for me what she had told me. I have gladly transcribed the account into my Journal of Retreats because the good God wishes to make use of my weakness for the execution of His designs.
"This Saintly soul says: 'Being one day before the Blessed Sacrament during the Octave of the Feast, I received from my God excessive graces of His love. When I was moved by the desire to make some return to Him and to render love for love, He said to me: 'You can give Me no greater return than by doing what I have so many times commanded you to do,' and revealing His Heart to me He said: 'Behold this Heart which has so loved men as to spare Itself nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, to testify to them Its love, and in return I receive nothing but ingratitude from the greater part of men by the contempt, irreverence, sacrileges, and coldness which they have for Me in this Sacrament of My love; but what is still more painful is that it is hearts consecrated to Me that treat Me thus. For this reason I ask that the First Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a particular feast to honor My Heart; I ask that reparation of honor be made to My Heart, that Communion be received on that day to repair the indignities which It has received during the time It has been exposed on the altars; and I promise you that My Heart will expand Itself and pour out in abundance the influences of Its love on those who will render It this honor.' "
"But my Lord, to whom dost Thou address Thyself?" said this person [St. Margaret Mary], "To a wretched slave, to a poor sinner who by her unworthiness would be capable of hindering Thy designs. Thou hast so many generous souls to execute Thy commands!" "Poor innocent that you are," said our Savior, "do you not know that I make use of the weak to confound the strong? that it is usually on the lowliest and the poor in spirit that I show My power with greatest effect, in order that they may attribute nothing to themselves:' "Give me then," said I [St. Margaret Mary], "the means to do what Thou dost command me to do." Then our Savior said, "Address yourself to My servant [Blessed Claude de la Colombiere] and tell him on My part, to do everything possible to establish this devotion and to give this pleasure to My Divine Heart; tell him not to be discouraged by the difficulties which he will meet because they will not be wanting; but he should be aware that he is all powerful who distrusts himself completely, in order to put all his confidence in Me."
Blessed Claude, who had the gift of discernment, was not a man to believe anything lightly; but he had too striking proofs of the high and solid virtue of this person [St. Margaret Mary] who spoke to him to dread any illusion. Therefore he applied himself immediately to the ministry that God had confided to him. But to acquit himself of it solidly and perfectly, he wished to begin by himself; he consecrated himself entirely to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; he offered to It all that he thought capable of honoring and pleasing It. The extraordinary graces which he received from this practice soon confirmed him in the idea that he already had of the importance and solidity of this devotion. He had no sooner considered the sentiments full of tenderness that Jesus Christ has for us in the Blessed Sacrament in which His Sacred Heart is always burning with love for men, always open to pour out on them all kinds of graces and blessings, that he could no longer think without grieving of the horrible outrages which Jesus Christ suffers at the hands of heretics and of the strange contempt with which even the generality of Catholics treat Jesus Christ in this august Sacrament. This neglect and contempt, and these outrages touched him sensibly and obliged him to consecrate himself anew by this beautiful prayer which he calls the offering to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and which will be found at the end of this chapter.
The voyage of this servant of God to England, his imprisonment and his early death after his return to France, did not permit him to give further instruction on this devotion to the public. But God did not leave His work unfinished. He Himself made use of the mysterious influence of His grace to accomplish His designs. In former times He had made known to St. Gertrude that this devotion was reserved for these last ages as a means to arouse the faithful from their tepidity and cowardice; now He makes use of a humble sister [Sister Joly] to compose a little book which, though it had neither art nor design, was the means of winning over to the devotion those very persons who formerly had no relish for it, and who, without hardly knowing what it was about, had opposed it; and God made use of these very people to spread the devotion everywhere.
Thus, in less than a year we saw this devotion happily established. The most prudent directors, doctors and prelates have praised it; preachers have preached it with success, chapels have been built in honor of the Sacred Heart, images have been engraved and painted, altars have been erected in Its honor; the religious of the Visitation, who in this matter have been the zealous pioneers, have had the pleasure of hearing solemnly sung in their chapel at Dijon, which they had built for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Mass composed in Its honor. Their example has been followed with great fruit by many other religious. This solid devotion has been spread and established with marvelous success through almost the whole of France; it has passed into foreign countries; it has gone even across the seas to Quebec and Malta, and we have reason to believe that by means of missionaries it is already spread in Syria, in India, and even in China. Finally, the universal approbation which this devotion has received, and the esteem which people of recognized merit and virtue have for it, gives us ground for hope that Jesus Christ will henceforth be less forgotten, better served and much better loved.
Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, having learned by his own experience how powerfully devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus helps to inflame the heart with great love for Jesus Christ and to arrive in a short time at great perfection, composed the following offering which he was accustomed to renew several times each month with great devotion.
This offering is made to honor the Divine Heart of Jesus, the seat of all the virtues, the source of all blessings and the retreat of all holy souls. The principal virtues which we propose to honor in the Sacred Heart are: First, a most ardent love for God, joined with the most profound respect and the greatest humility that ever existed in any heart; second, infinite patience in suffering, and most perfect contrition and sorrow for the sins of the world which He was charged to expiate; the confidence of a tenderly-loved Son joined with the confusion of a great sinner; third, a most keenly felt compassion for our miseries and immense love for us in spite of these miseries, and notwithstanding these movements of the Sacred Heart, each of which was in the highest degree possible, unalterable calmness caused by perfect conformity with the will of God which could not be troubled by any event however contrary it might appear to Its zeal, Its humility, Its love, and all Its other dispositions.
This Heart of Jesus has still, as far as it is possible, these same sentiments, and especially, It is always burning with love for men, although in return It finds nothing in the hearts of men but unkindness, neglect, contempt and ingratitude. Jesus loves and He is not loved; His love is even unknown, because men refuse to receive the gifts by which He wishes to show His love, and to listen to the secret declarations of that love which He wishes to make to their hearts.
In reparation for so many outrages and such cruel ingratitude, O most adorable and amiable Heart of my amiable Jesus, and as far as is in my power, to avoid falling into such an evil, I offer Thee my heart with all the sentiments of which it is capable; I give myself entirely to Thee, and from this hour I protest most sincerely that I desire to forget myself and all that can have reference to myself, in order to remove the obstacles which might prevent me from entering into this Divine Heart which in Thy Divine goodness Thou openest to me, and where I desire to enter in order to live and die with Thy most faithful servants. Penetrated and inflamed with Thy love, I now offer to Thy Sacred Heart all the merit and satisfaction of all the Masses, of all the prayers, of all the acts of mortification, of all the religious practices, of all the acts of zeal, humility, obedience and all the other virtues which I shall practice until the last moments of my life; not only will all this be to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Its admirable dispositions, but in addition, I most humbly beseech Him to accept the entire donation which I make to Him of them, and to dispose of them in the manner which pleases Him, and in favor of whomsoever it pleases Him: and as I have already given to the Holy Souls in Purgatory all that is in my actions capable of satisfying Divine justice, I desire that it be distributed to them according to the good pleasure of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
This will not prevent me from acquitting myself of the obligation which I have of saying Mass and praying for certain intentions as prescribed by obedience, from offering Mass out of charity for poor people or for my brothers and friends who may ask for them. But as on such occasions, I make use of a good that does not belong to me, I intend, as is just, that the obedience, charity, and other virtues, which I shall practice on such occasions, be all for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From It I hope to receive the grace to practice these virtues which, consequently will belong to It without reserve.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, teach me to sacrifice myself completely, teach me what I must do to arrive at the purity of Thy love with the desire of which Thou hast inspired me. I feel in myself a great wish to please Thee and great powerlessness to succeed in doing so without great light and very special help which I can expect only from Thee. Do Thou accomplish Thy will in me; I know well that I am opposing it. But I eagerly wish, at least it seems so to me, not to oppose it. It is for Thee to do everything, O Divine Heart of Jesus, Thou alone wilt have all the glory of my sanctification if I become a Saint; that appears to me clearer than daylight, but it will be a great glory for Thee, and it is for that alone that I wish to attain perfection. Amen.