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Reflecting on June and the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Dear Students, Parents & Colleagues:

As we approach the end of the month of May when we spend some time recalling the testimony of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s role in salvation, we turn our attention to the month of June which for Catholics is dedicated to the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is an unfortunate development that so many Catholics have forgotten this beautiful and efficacious tradition preferring to dive straightaway into the holidays or engage in the many secular diversions of our times. We all enjoy the time to relax and recreate as it is important to do so for our own health and wellbeing. We do need though to be careful that the months of summer are not an excuse to forget the obligations of our faith or to practise good deeds. Time wasted can never be recovered. God does not neglect us in the months of June, July and August.

You may recall that His Eminence, Thomas Cardinal Collins, wrote last year to the faithful of the archdiocese and, in particular, Catholic educators to remind us to recall the tradition of the Sacred Heart in the month of June. The following are a few excerpts from Cardinal Collins’ letter:

"The traditional image of the Sacred Heart is surmounted by a cross, the primary symbol of Christian faith: it draws us to contemplate the generous and sacrificial love of Jesus, as he lays down his life for us on the cross. We are called to show that same generous and sacrificial love, as we take up our cross and follow him each day."

"Sometimes, Jesus points to the Sacred Heart, inviting us to come to him when we labour and are heavy laden; sometimes the arms of Jesus reach outward, welcoming everyone, as he calls us to do. The Sacred Heart is the sign of the love of Jesus, which is which we are invited to imitate. More than ever before, our world now needs to love symbolized by the Sacred Heart of Jesus."

"I am also writing to you, who are responsible for the Catholic schools in our archdiocese, because you are interested in a particular way with the sacred duty of caring for the young people of our community. Like all of us, they deserve, and they need life-giving spiritual nourishment, clear guidance in life, and the true compassionate love that Jesus teaches us in the Gospel, models for us, and challenges us to imitate. The symbol of the Sacred Heart is the sign of that love in our Catholic Christian tradition."

The first known Mass offered in honour of the Sacred Heart occurred around 1670. It is probable that young de La Salle heard of this emerging devotion. He certainly would have heard about the apparitions of Margaret Mary Alacoque. This mystic had a number of experiences of the heart of Jesus. Our Lord asked this saintly woman to encourage devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in reparation for the ingratitude of Christians for the sacrifice of Jesus who suffered and died to save us. 

She died in 1690 so it is most likely Father de La Salle followed with interest the importance of appreciating the humanity of Christ afforded by this devotion. It may have left some favourable impression on him as he believed this was significant enough to pass on to his growing society of religious lay teachers the unique community signal we use to this day. 

For those of us who have chosen to be members of a faith-based school community whose heritage originates from the life and work of Saint John Baptist de La Salle and who asked his followers to begin and end all we do with the invocation - Live Jesus in our hearts, we should hold in special reverence this call of conversion by making our hearts like the heart of Jesus. The tradition of the Sacred Heart has deep roots in the French spirituality of the time which served as a remedy to the trends of the period, which tended to the extremes of both rigidity and laxity. The Cross of the Lord provides a divine balance. The Cross helps us acknowledge that Jesus died for our sins and that the same Jesus calls us to share in his glory. Jesus welcomes all those who come to him but his receiving us with arms outstretched is not intended to leave us unchanged or unmoved. Quite the opposite; it is an invitation to repent and follow Christ more intimately and faithfully.

Today, the Feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated on the Friday following Corpus Christi Sunday. It is time for Catholics Christians to take more seriously the call to a more faithful conversion which entails ensuring that we and those to whom we have a responsibility to bring the Gospel seek in the Sacred Heart not an antiquated or irrelevant devotional practice but a strong and vibrant alternative to the many deceptions and distortions the world around us defines and proposes compassion and love of our neighbour.

The gentleness of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the genuine compassion it offers the world is the best remedy for its growing indifference and contorted anger. The answer to address the many crises in the world is not to be found in deconstructing our faith and deriding teaching which served to produce many men and women of faith and zeal. An honest attempt to consider the benefits of a stronger devotion to Jesus through His Sacred Heart may go a long way for us and our young people to be attentive to the gentle but strong voice of the Good Shepherd and not the wailing of the illusory oracles of our times.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts like yours.

Brother Domenic, fsc