Motives for the Devotion
WHAT TRUE SWEETNESS AND CONSOLATION IS TO BE FOUND IN THE DEVOTION TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
Although all exercises of devotion can fill those who practice them with interior consolation, and although there are no good works that are not accompanied by the inexpressible pleasure and joy which are inseparable from the testimony of a good conscience, and which surpass all other pleasures, it is however certain that Jesus Christ has never conferred so many favors, even sensible favors, as in the practice of the devotion which tends to honor Him in the Blessed Sacrament. The lives of the Saints are filled with examples which demonstrate this truth.
When was it that St. Francis, St. Ignatius, St. Teresa, St. Philip Neri, St. Aloysius Gonzaga and a hundred others, have felt their hearts more than usually inflamed with love but when they approached this august Sacrament? How many loving sighs, how many sweet tears in the celebration or in the participation of this adorable mystery? With what consolation and with what torrents of delights have they not been filled? And, in truth, as there is no place where Jesus Christ is more liberal, so there is no place where He makes the sweetness of His presence and His gifts more felt. In the other mysteries He gives us His graces, but in this, the first grace which He gives us, is to give us Himself really and truly.
Joy is inseparable from a feast; Jesus Christ has made a feast every day for Christians in the adorable Sacrament of the Eucharist. Are we to be astonished that He treats His friends with so much sweetness and love at this Sacred Banquet?
Now as the devotion to the Sacred Heart makes us true and faithful adorers of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and as it consecrates us in a special way to this Mystery, it procures for us the greatest sweetness from it. One would say that Our Savior measures the special favors which He confers in this Sacrament by the number of insults which He has endured in it, and that, as there is no mystery in which He has received so many outrages, there is also no other mystery in which He fills with such sweet consolations those who do all in their power to make reparation for these outrages. As the motive of this holy practice is so pure and agreeable to Jesus Christ, we should not be surprised if the best and holiest of all masters shows such sweetness to His grateful and faithful servants, especially at a time when gratitude is rare, and when so little eagerness to serve Him and so little true love are found even in those who made profession of loving Him.
As it is impossible to have this devotion at heart without having great love for Jesus Christ, it would be difficult not to feel in its practice that sweetness and those interior consolations inseparable from the exercise of true love; and as the mere sight of the wounds of Jesus Christ inspires us with great confidence in His mercy, the mere sight of his Heart inspires us with sweetness and joy that can be distinctly felt, but which it is difficult to describe. In truth, it would be strange if one should approach Jesus Christ, be well received by Him, and not feel the same pleasure as is usually felt when one is well received by the great ones of this earth. If we do not experience this consolation ---- and this is a greater misfortune than some people think, it is because of our want of love for Jesus Christ, because of our great imperfections, our little faith and a hundred other faults. But we can say that as those who have true devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus have none of these faults, all these caresses, all these singular favors ought to be inseparable from the exercise of this devotion.
This has been the happy experience so far of all persons who have been known to be devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and this is still the experience every day of those who imitate them; this is proof that Jesus Christ cannot refuse His sweetest caresses to the friends of His Sacred Heart. It has always been remarked that the Saints who have had most devotion to the Sacred Heart have been filled with most signal favors, and those saints hardly ever speak of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus without using language that lets us see the extraordinary graces and interior sweetness with which they have been filled.
"O how good and sweet it is," says St. Bernard, "to make one's abode in this Sacred Heart. It is enough to bring to mind Thy Sacred Heart, O my amiable Jesus, to be filled with joy." It is by means of this devotion that St. Gertrude and St. Mechtilde received such great favors from Jesus Christ. St. Clare assures us that it was to the tender devotion which she had to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that she owed the extraordinary sweetness with which her soul was filled every time that she presented herself before the Blessed Sacrament; and St. Catherine of Siena felt herself all inflamed with the love of Jesus at the mere thought of this adorable Heart. Jesus Christ, having appeared to St. Mechtilde, addressed these beautiful words to her: "My daughter, if you wish to obtain pardon for all your negligence in My service, have a tender devotion to My Sacred Heart, for It is the treasury of all the graces which I confer on you unceasingly. It is Itself the source of all those interior consolations and of the ineffable sweetness which I lavish on My faithful friends."
Father Claude de la Colombiere expresses himself in a similar manner on this subject. Although for many years God had led him in the paths of the most sublime perfection, not by sensible consolations, but only by a lively faith and by rude trials, nevertheless, the Holy Spirit seems to have changed His method as soon as He had inspired him with the practice of this devotion. The following quotation with reference to this subject is taken from his Book of Retreats: "My heart expands and feels sweetness which I can state, and which I receive from the mercy of God, without being able to explain it. How good Thou art, my God, to communicate Thyself with such liberality to the most ungrateful of creatures and to the most unworthy of Thy servants! Mayest Thou be praised and blessed eternally for it! I have recognized that God wishes that I should serve Him, by procuring the accomplishment of His desires concerning the devotion [to the Sacred Heart] which He has suggested to a person [St. Margaret Mary] to whom He communicates Himself very confidently. Would that I could be everywhere, O my God, and publish what Thou dost expect from Thy servants and friends!" And in another place he says: "Cease, my Sovereign, to fill me with Thy favors, I recognize how unworthy I am of them; . . . can I merit these ineffable graces and consolations which Thou dost shower on me without any deserving on my part? No, no, my God, it is Thou alone who by Thy sufferings hast obtained for me all these favors from Thy Eternal Father; mayest Thou be eternally blessed, and mayest Thou fill me with evils and miseries to give me some share in Thine; I cannot believe that Thou dost love me unless Thou grant me many long sufferings."
It is thus that this holy man expresses himself in the excess of the sweetness and interior consolations which he felt in the exercise of a tender devotion towards the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ.