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Article: The Sacred Heart and the Eucharistic Revival

This article, by Seton chaplain Father Roger Landry, appeared in the National Catholic Register.

The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is always a jubilant occasion, but this year, there are two reasons to celebrate it with greater attention, prayer, joy and resolve. 

The first is because we are now six months into the 18-month 350th anniversary of Jesus’ apparitions in Paray-le-Monial, France, to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, which began on Dec. 27, 1673, and continued through June 16, 1675: Jesus poured out the depths of his Sacred Heart to her and, through her, to the world. 

The second reason is because the solemnity — within the entire Month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus — is taking place during the heart of the Eucharistic Revival in the Church in the United States, 21 days into the 65-day National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, 40 days from the first National Eucharistic Congress in 83 years, and during the Eucharistic Revival’s parish phrase geared toward reinvigorating the worship of Christ at Mass, augmenting personal encounter with him in Eucharistic adoration, more robustly learning and passing with fervor and precision the Church’s Eucharistic faith and love, and going out on mission to invite others to human life’s greatest and most important feast. 

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus focuses on more than his sacred humanity and the human and divine love that still beats in his pierced but risen heart. By Jesus’ own self-revelation three and a half centuries ago, love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is intensely Eucharistic. Not only did three of his major apparitions to the French Visitation nun take place in explicit connection to the Holy Eucharist — twice in Eucharistic adoration and once while she was preparing to receive Holy Communion — but the fundamental content of what he revealed focused on how to respond to him in his Eucharistic presence. 

In his last revelation to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus pointed to his mystically visible heart, aflame and crowned with thorns, and said, “Behold the Heart that has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even exhausting and consuming itself in testimony of its love; and in return, I receive from most only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this Sacrament of Love. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts that are consecrated to me that treat me in this way.” 

Jesus links the “Heart that has so loved men” with our response to him in his “Sacrament of Love,” which is the way he refers to his presence in the Holy Eucharist, which is the efficacious sign he instituted to confer what it signifies, the full outpouring of his love, as he gives his Body and Blood for our salvation, sanctification and spiritual nourishment. Pope Benedict would adopt those words — Sacramentum Caritatis — as the title for his 2007 apostolic exhortation on the Holy Eucharist. 

Jesus’ message to the French nun has not lost its relevance. Indeed, the enduring validity of his words is one of the reasons why a Eucharistic Revival is much needed. 

Jesus forthrightly laments that his self-giving love, for the most part, goes unrequited. He spared nothing, exhausting and consuming himself to show us how much he loved us, taking on our nature, putting up patiently with us as his creatures, even allowing us to persecute, mock, torture and crucify him, and then going so far as to give us himself under the appearance of bread and wine as our spiritual food. 

In response, he says, he receives from most — those consecrated to him in baptism, not to mention religious who live a “more intimate form” of baptismal consecration and priests whose humanity is linked to Christ’s action in the consecration of the altar — only ingratitude, irreverence, sacrilege, coldness and scorn.

Such words, which should pierce anyone who truly loves the Lord, also provide a path of reparation. What Jesus bemoans indicates, when we flip them positively, what he wishes to find. Each of these actions and attitudes should become, therefore, a touchstone for the Eucharistic Revival. 

In response to “most” treating him in the “Sacrament of Love” with ingratitude, we ought to approach the Eucharistic Jesus with unceasing thanks. 

In contrast with those who treat him with irreverence, who regard him just as a “piece of bread,” who go through the motions of genuflections or who attend Mass as if it barely matters, he wants us to treat him with deep piety. 

In answer to the multitudes treating him sacrilegiously, receiving him in a state of sin or even blaspheming against the Blessed Sacrament, he wants us to receive him with souls fully intent on holiness and cleansed of sin. 

Counter to all who relate to him with coldness and lack of enthusiasm, who approach him at Mass or in tabernacles as bored and distracted spectators rather than ardent participants, he wants us more passionate about him at the Mass than the most fanatical basketball fans are during the NBA Finals. 

In contradistinction to so many treating him with disdain, he hopes that we relate to him with praise, blessing and, indeed, love. 

This is what is being attempted in the Eucharistic Revival, which is meant to help us treat the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament with fitting gratitude, piety, purity, passion and praise. 

The upcoming National Eucharistic Congress, to be held July 17-21 in Indianapolis, is an opportunity for all who love the Lord to come together to celebrate the great gift that God-with-us is still very much with us. 

The Eucharistic Pilgrimage now ongoing — a continuous Eucharistic procession from east, west, north and south, all converging in Indianapolis — is an unprecedented, some might even say lavish and crazy, manifestation of Eucharist faith and love, as young people, together with chaplains, walk with Jesus, giving witness to the Church’s faith that the same Jesus who once traversed Judea, Jerusalem and Jericho now is journeying — in a modern Emmaus walk — through the United States, even if many who encounter him might not yet recognize him.  

The number of parishes holding extended or exceptional periods of Eucharistic adoration, arranging Eucharistic processions, emphasizing the Eucharist more in religious-education classes for children and adults, organizing “invite one back” initiatives to encourage fallen-away Catholics to return, and putting more into the reverential and joyous celebration of Sunday and daily Mass are all important witnesses to treating Jesus as he deserves and desires. 

In his apparitions to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus asked for the institution of a feast of his Sacred Heart immediately after the celebration of the octave of Corpus Christi, then held universally on the second Thursday after Pentecost, to manifest the clear connection between his Sacred Heart and the Eucharist. 

The Church has been faithful to that desire. Pope Clement XIII approved it for specific dioceses in 1765, Blessed Pius IX extended it to the whole Church in 1856, and in 1899 — 125 years ago this May — Pope Leo XIII consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart. They have declared June the Month of the Sacred Heart and promoted the devotion of First Fridays of the month, when priests are encouraged to celebrate votive Masses of the Sacred Heart when possible and faithful are encouraged to attend Mass. 

These are all acts of Eucharistic reparation — for the ingratitude, irreverence, sacrilege, coldness and scorn Jesus receives in the Most Blessed Sacrament — and of Eucharistic love. They are a means to intensify and perpetuate the fruits of the Eucharistic Revival. 

As the Church celebrates an especially significant Solemnity of the Sacred Heart during the heart of the Eucharistic Revival, let us strive to do so in a way Jesus has suggested will please him most keenly: to spare nothing as we exhaust and consume ourselves to show our thanks, reverence, holiness, ardor and praise. 

This solemnity is an opportunity for the Church to pray, mean and live what we proclaim at the end of the reparative Litany of Divine Praises after Eucharistic Benediction: “May the heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time. Amen!”


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