The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a Solemnity in the Catholic Church. A solemnity is the highest ranking feast day in the liturgical calendar, commemorating an event in the life of Jesus, his mother Mary, or an important saint.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes back at least to the 11th century. It remained a private devotion up to the 16th century. The first feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated on August 31, 1670, in Rennes, France, through the efforts of Fr Jean Eudes (1602-1680). From Rennes, the devotion spread, but it took the visions of St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) for the devotion to become universal.
In all of these visions, in which Jesus appeared to St Margaret Mary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus played a central role. The “great apparition”, which took place on June 16, 1675, during the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi, is the source of the modern Feast of the Sacred Heart. In that vision, Christ asked St Margaret Mary to request that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be celebrated on the Friday after the octave (or eighth day) of the Feast of Corpus Christi, in reparation for the ingratitude of humanity for the sacrifice that Christ had made for them. The Sacred Heart of Jesus represents not simply His physical heart but His love for all humankind.
The devotion became quite popular after St Margaret Mary’s death in 1690. It was not until 1765 that the feast was celebrated officially in France. Almost 100 years later, in 1856, Pope Pius IX, at the request of the French bishops, extended the feast to the universal Church.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which represents Christ’s love for humankind is very widespread in our Church. There are many prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. One that may not be so wee known is the Prayer of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus composed by Pope Leo XIII. It was included in the 1899 encyclical Annum Sacrum (Encyclical on Consecration to the Sacred Heart) issued by Leo XIII as he consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (Source Wikipedia encyclopedia).
As our Archdiocese forges to revitalise Catholic culture and identity let us meditate on the words of this prayer as we consecrate ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us, humbly prostrate before Your altar. We are Yours and Yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with You, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Your most Sacred Heart. Many, indeed, have never known You; many too, despising Your precepts, have rejected You. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Your Sacred Heart. Be You King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken You, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned You; grant that they may quickly return to Your Father’s house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be You King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbour of truth and unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one shepherd. Grant, O Lord, to Your Church, assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the Earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honour forever. Amen. – Rosana Gonzales, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office