This post is a bit special to me, as I am going to write about a devotion topic that I have participated in and has since held a place in my prayer life: The Sacred Heart of Jesus. More specifically, this post will be devoted to the practice of the First Fridays. This post is even more relevant, as Friday June 7, 2013 is the feast day devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Form liturgical calendars.
I will begin with some introduction and some history behind the devotion, and then will go through what is necessary to do the devotion and the indulgences/promises attached to the devotion.
Introduction: The Sacred Heart of Jesus and History behind the Devotion
What is the Sacred Heart of Jesus? It is commonly depicted as Jesus' literal heart, however it has the addition of two key components: The crown of thorns that is around the top perimeter of his heart, as well as a cross, the one he was crucified on, atop his heart. (This is not to be confused with the Immaculate Heart of Mary which usually has flowers around it and seven swords in it, representing the Seven Sorrows of Mary.) Flames often surround the cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and some depictions also include a diagonal laceration, from being impaled by the spear of the Roman soldier ``Longinus?``, where out came blood and water from the wound. Here's an example:
While yes it is depicted as his literal heart of his incarnate body, it has more meaning than being his circulatory organ.
Christ himself in the Gospel of John 7:37-39 says this: "And on the last and great day of the festivity, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and let him drink that believeth in Me. As the Scripture saith: Out of his heart there shall flow rivers of living waters.' Now this He said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in Him."(3). This was made all the more prominent and came true literally when the Roman soldier ("Longinus"???) pierced the side of Christ with his spear, and out poured out blood and water from the wound. Whether it pierced Jesus' actual organ of the heart, it is uncertain.
As is commonly used in literature and poetry, the heart is the organ associated with the deepest of emotions, especially that of love. In the pre-Vatican II encyclical, Haurietas Aquas, by Pius XII, which is devoted to the Sacred Heart, he describes to us more deeply what the Sacred Heart of Jesus is about and why veneration and devotion is to be rightly given:
" .... Holy Writ declares that between divine charity, which must burn in the souls of Christians, and the Holy Spirit, Who is certainly Love Itself, there exists the closest bond, which clearly shows all of us, venerable brethren, the intimate nature of that worship which must be paid to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. If we consider its special nature it is beyond question that this devotion is an act of religion of high order; it demands of us a complete and unreserved determination to devote and consecrate ourselves to the love of the divine Redeemer, Whose wounded Heart is its living token and symbol. It is equally clear, but at a higher level, that this same devotion provides us with a most powerful means of repaying the divine Lord by our own. (6, H.A.) ...."
".... The other reason which refers in a particular manner to the Heart of the divine Redeemer, and likewise demands in a special way that the highest form of worship be paid to it, arises from the fact that His Heart, more than all the other members of His body, is the natural sign and symbol of His boundless love for the human race. "There is in the Sacred Heart," as Our predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII, pointed out, "the symbol and express image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love in return ...."(16)"
And so, the Sacred Heart of Jesus ...
" .... 55. is a symbol of that divine love which He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit but which He, the Word made flesh, alone manifests through a weak and perishable body, since "in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily."(52) 56. It is, besides, the symbol of that burning love which, infused into His soul, enriches the human will of Christ and enlightens and governs its acts by the most perfect knowledge derived both from the beatific vision and that which is directly infused.(53) 57. And finally - and this in a more natural and direct way - it is the symbol also of sensible love, since the body of Jesus Christ, formed by the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, possesses full powers of feelings and perception, in fact, more so than any other human body (54) .... " (55-57, H.A.)
The actual devotion of the Sacred heart that is practiced, originates with Saint Mary Margaret Alacoque in the late 1600's. From 1673-1675, the saint received a series of visions of our Lord, revealing to her his Sacred Heart. Jesus asked her in these visions to spread devotion of his Heart throughout the whole church, as reparation for sins and offenses against our Lord. (8, First Fridays and First Saturdays)
At the center of the revelations are twelve promises, made to her by Jesus. For those who consecrate themselves and make reparation to His Sacred Heart:
1. He will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
2. He will establish peace in their homes.
3. He will comfort them in all their afflictions.
4. He will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
5. He will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
6. Sinners will find in His Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
9. He will bless every place in which an image of His Heart is exposed and honoured. (I have provided one above, though there are paper, gold-painted cross cards that seem to be popular for this purpose.)
10. He will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in His Heart.
12. In the excessive mercy of His heart, that His all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in His disgrace, nor without receiving the sacraments. His divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
Of course, these promises are also bestowed onto the faithful who engage in this practice, not just St. Mary.
The Devotion of the Sacred Heart
1. The actual devotion of the sacred heart consists of going to Mass on the First Friday of the month for nine consecutive months, and receiving the Eucharist in the state of sanctifying grace. You MUST do this consecutively for nine months, without any break in the practice. I have found no document, be it in Church Law, Catechism, Papal/Vatican writings, nor writings from trusted Catholic sources that allow for such an interruption other wise, even for valid and legitimate reasons. Not even a priests' dispensation can allow for a valid break.Communion MUST be received on this particular day of the Month. The practice cannot be delegated to another day.
2. They must be done in honour of His Sacred Heart, and thus one must practice devotion to the Heart and have a great love for Christ.
3. Note: This devotion will not dispense you from obligations or from exercising vigilance necessary for leading a good life and overcoming temptation. You will however be bestowed graced to carry out obligations and persevere to the end.
In addition, associated with the devotion is Eucharistic Adoration before or after the Mass. Unfortunately, when it is done after, those parishes that do this tend to schedule confession then, not before the Mass, which deprives people from the ability to receive the Eucharist in the state of grace and perform the devotion. You absolutely cannot receive the Eucharist in the state of Mortal Sin, so you deprive the faithful of the ability to do this practice. Any clergy reading my blog, PLEASE do confession before the Mass, be it with or without Adoration!
Regardless, the beauty of having Eucharistic Adoration attached to this devotion, is that one can receive additional indulgences, which when obtained, remit the temporal effects of sins. A half hour of Eucharistic Adoration minimum, qualifies for the indulgent act. Better yet if one removes themselves from sin completely, the indulgence is plenary, or full.
Indulgences are obtained when one receives confession and communion within 8 days of the indulgent act, prays for the intentions of the Holy Father (which can be at minimum one of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be), and removes oneself from attachment to all sin. An analogy I use is that sin is like a sticky snail. When we go to confession, we take the snail from his shell and boot him off your skin. However, that shell is taking up space on you. Think of that shell is the time in purgatory one will need to spend to become purified in such a state to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Indulgences remove the temporal effects of sin, that is, that shell is now removed from your body, and thus the complete effects of sin are removed from you, though how many and how much time is reduced is unknown.
Finally, while this is not a mandatory part of the devotion, there are also associated with the Sacred Heart of Jesus the Acts of Consecration and Reparation to the Sacred Heart. They are as follows:.
Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, to Thee I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials, and sufferings, that my entire being may henceforth only be employed in loving, honoring and glorifying Thee. This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to Thee, and to do all for Thy love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease Thee.
I take Thee, O Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my frailty and inconstancy, the reparation for all the defects of my life, and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Be Thou, O Most Merciful Heart, my justification before God Thy Father, and screen me from His anger which I have so justly merited. I fear all from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in Thee, O Heart of Love, I hope all from Thine infinite Goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or resist Thee. Imprint Thy pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget Thee or be separated from Thee.
I beseech Thee, through Thine infinite Goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon Thy Heart, for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of Thy devoted servants.
O sweet Jesus, Whose overflowing charity for me is requited by so much forgetfulness, negligence and contempt, behold us prostrate before Your alter (in Your presence) eager to repair by a special act of homage the cruel indifference and injuries, to which Your loving Heart is everywhere subject.
Mindful alas! that we ourselves have had a share in such great indignities, which we now deplore from the depths of our hearts, we humbly ask Your pardon and declare our readiness to atone by voluntary expiation not only for our own personal offenses, but also for the sins of those, who, straying for from the path of salvation, refuse in their obstinate infidelity to follow You, their Shepherd and Leader, or, renouncing the vows of their baptism, have cast off the sweet yoke of Your Law. We are now resolved to expiate each and every deplorable outrage committed against You; we are determined to make amends for the manifold offenses against Christian modesty in unbecoming dress and behavior, for all the foul seductions laid to ensnare the feet of the innocent, for the frequent violations of Sundays and holidays, and the shocking blasphemies uttered against You and Your Saints. We wish also to make amends for the insults to which Your Vicar on earth and Your priest are subjected, for the profanation, by conscious neglect or terrible acts of sacrilege, of the very Sacrament of Your Divine Love; and lastly for the public crimes of nations who resist the rights and teaching authority of the Church which You have founded. Would, O divine Jesus, we were able to wash away such abominations with our blood. We now offer, in reparation for these violations of Your divine honor, the satisfaction You once made to Your eternal Father on the cross and which You continue to renews daily on our altars; we offer it in union with the acts of atonement of Your Virgin Mother and all the Saints and of the pious faithful on earth; and we sincerely promise to make recompense, as far as we can with the help of Your grace, for all neglect of Your great love and for the sins we and others have committed in the past. Henceforth we will live a life of unwavering faith, of purity of conduct, of perfect observance of the precepts of the gospel and especially that of charity. We promise to the best of our power to prevent other from offending You and to bring as many as possible to follow You.
O loving Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our model in reparation, deign to receive the voluntary offering we make of this act of expiation; and by the crowing gift of perseverance keep us faithful unto death in our duty and the allegiance we owe to You, so that we may one day come to that happy home, where You with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, God, world without end. Amen.
Therefore, to do this devotion to the Sacred Heart, you must do the following:
1. Be in the state of Sanctifying grace to receive the Eucharist worthily on First Friday. So go to confession, especially if you have one or more Mortal Sins on your soul. Without true repentance and ceasing of the situation, you will obviously not be able to receive the Eucharist in certain situations (e.g. co-habitation, 2nd marriage if 1st was not annulled, masturbation with/without pornography ...)
2. You must attend Mass on First Friday and receive the Eucharist in the state of sanctifying grace, for 9 consecutive months, with no break in between occasions.
3. For the promises to be fulfilled, you must be promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart, whether it be by taking about the devotion, generally why you love the Sacred Heart of the lord, prayer to the Sacred Heart, etc.
In addition to these conditions,
3. You may also attend , and should, the Eucharistic Adoration that comes before and after the Mass. Under the usual conditions of Confession, Communion, and prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father (at minimum 1x Our Father, 1x Hail Mary, and 1x Glory be, or a specific prayer for His intentions), PLUS a minimum of 1/2 hour of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, you will gain an indulgence aside from the usual benefits and graces.
4. While it is not absolutely necessary according to numerous sources, some recommend the addition of the Act of Reparation and Consecration to the Sacred Heart to be said during those First Friday sessions. I say, do it.
Pax Tibi Christi, Julian Barkin.
Pius XII. Encyclical of Pope Pius XII Haurietas Aquas On the Devotion to the Sacred Heart. May 15, 1956. [http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_15051956_haurietis-aquas_en.html]. Retrieved 2013 May 28.
Catholic Truth Society. First Fridays and First Saturdays The Devotions Explained. Catholic Truth Society: London, UK. 2008.