“He sees all our weaknesses, and bears with incredible goodness all the miseries of those He loves.”
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To mark the month of June, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, this is the second of three extracts from Fr John Croiset SJ’s 1691 book Devotion to the Sacred Heart. This translation is from the 1863 edition.
Fr Croiset wrote this book almost in collaboration with St Margaret Mary, and published it the year after her death. The saint asked him to write this book, and assured him that Christ would give him special assistance. When it was nearly complete, she said that it was in accord with what Our Lord wanted and that no changes at all would be necessary.
Nonetheless she promised him many trials – which are, of course, the gifts which Christ bestows on those whom he loves.
Why We Should Love the Sacred Heart – Fr John Croiset SJ
How just and reasonable is the devotion to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ
Part I: His Heart and His Person
The reasons which enforce the love of Jesus Christ are above any mere sentiment. Souls relish them according to their progress in grace. It seems as though to wish to seek the motives that should lead us to love Jesus Christ is, either to forget what we are, or to believe that we do not know who He is.
It might then appear useless to bring forward here the motives which should incline us to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion is itself an exercise of the love we ought to have for Jesus Christ. But as all men are not always in the same dispositions, and grace is not always equal in all men, I have thought it well to make at least a few reflections on the three principal motives. They should be sufficient to convince any reasonable man.
We shall show in this chapter and the two following:
- How just and reasonable is the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
- How useful it is both for our salvation and perfection.
- What true sweetness there is in this devotion.
In fact, whether we consider the sensible object of this devotion, which is the sacred Heart of Jesus, or confine ourselves to the principal and spiritual object, which is the immense love of Jesus Christ for men, with what respect, gratitude, and love should we not be filled!
I. The excellence of the adorable Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Heart of Jesus is holy with the sanctity of God Himself. Hence it follows, that all the movements of His Heart, owing to the dignity of the Person from whom they proceed, are actions of infinite price and value. For they are the actions of God Incarnate. It is therefore just that the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ should be honoured with a peculiar worship. For in honouring It, we honour His Divine Person.
The veneration we bear the Saints renders their hearts so precious to us, that we look upon them as the most precious of their relics. What, then, must we think of the adorable Heart of Jesus Christ? Its claims to our love are not only higher in degree but different in kind. Where is the heart that was ever animated with dispositions so admirable, and so conformable to our true interests? Where shall we find one whose movements could be a source of so much good to us? It is in this divine Heart that all the designs of our salvation have been formed. It is through the love with which this Heart burns for us, that these same designs have been executed.
This sacred Heart, says a great servant of God, is the seat of all virtues, the source of all benedictions, the refuge of all holy souls. The virtues which may principally he honoured in It, are:
- First, a most ardent love for God His Father, joined to a most profound respect, and the greatest humility that has ever existed;
- In the second place, an infinite patience in sufferings, an excessive grief for the sins which He had taken upon Himself, the confidence of a most tender Son joined to the confusion of the greatest sinner;
- In the third place, a most lively compassion for our miseries, an immense love for us, notwithstanding these miseries, and with all these emotions, each of which was exercised in the highest degree possible, an unalterable equanimity, proceeding from so perfect a conformity to the will of God, that it could not be disturbed by any event, however contrary it might appear to His zeal, His humility, His love itself, and all the other dispositions He possessed.
This adorable Heart is still, as far as It can be, in the same sentiments. It is, above all, burning with love for man; always open to pour out on them every sort of grace and blessing; always full of compassion for our evils; always urged by the desire to make us partakers of Its treasures, and to give Itself to us; always ready to receive us, and to be to us a refuge, an habitation, a Paradise even in this life.
For all this, He finds nothing in the heart of man but hardness, forgetfulness, contempt, ingratitude. Are not these motives to induce Christians to honour this Sacred Heart, and to repair so many insults and outrages, by manifest proofs of their love?
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II. The amiable qualities which are found in the Person of Jesus Christ.
No one can apply himself to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, without finding in Him everything that is amiable in creatures, whether reasonable or devoid of reason. Every one has his own attraction to love. Some are drawn by great beauty, others by meekness. We see some who are drawn by the virtues in which they are themselves wanting, because they seem to them more admirable than those they possess. Others, again, have a greater liking for the qualities which agree with their own inclinations. Good qualities and true virtues command the love of all. But if there were on earth a person, says a great servant of God, in whom were united all motives for love, who could refuse to love him? Now, all agree that all these are to be found united, in a most excellent degree, in the adorable Person of Jesus Christ; and yet Jesus Christ is only loved by a very few.
The most celebrated beauty, says the Prophet, is nothing but a withered flower in comparison with that of our divine Saviour. It appeared to me, says St. Teresa, that the sun cast upon the earth but a pale light, after I had seen in an ecstasy, some rays of the beauty of Jesus Christ. The most perfect creatures in this world are those which have the fewest defects. The most splendid qualities in men are accompanied by so many imperfections, that whilst we are attracted on one side, we are repelled on the other. Jesus Christ alone is sovereignly perfect. Everything in Him is equally amiable.
There is nothing in Him, but what ought to win all hearts to Him. In Him, we find united all the advantages of nature, all the riches of grace and of glory, all the perfections of the Divinity. We discover abysses, a boundless space as it were, and an infinite extent of greatness. In a word, this God Incarnate who loves us so tenderly, and whom men love so little, is the object of the love, the homage, the adorations and the praises of the whole Court of heaven. It is He who has supreme authority to judge men and angels. The destiny and the eternal happiness of all creatures is in His hands; His dominion extends over all nature. All spirits tremble in His presence. They are obliged to adore Him, either by a voluntary submission of love, or by the forced endurance of the effects of His justice. He reigns absolutely in the order of grace and in glory. The whole world, visible and invisible, is under His feet. Is He not, then, an object worthy of the homage of mankind? Does not this Man-God, with all His titles and all the glory He possesses, and loving us as He does, deserve that we should love Him?
But what still more powerfully attracts our love in our Divine Saviour, is, that He unites all these rare qualities, these magnificent titles, this eminent sovereignty, with so great a meekness, and tenderness for us, that it is carried even to excess. His meekness is so amiable, that He charmed even His mortal enemies. He was led, says the Prophet (Isaiah liii. 9), as a sheep to the slaughter: and He was dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he did not open His mouth. He compares Himself sometimes to a father, who cannot contain his joy at the return of a prodigal son (St Luke xv. 11); sometimes to a shepherd, who, having found his sheep that was lost, puts it upon his shoulders, and calls together his friends and neighbours, that they may rejoice because he has found it (St. Luke xv. 5). Hath no man condemned thee? He says to the adulterous woman; Neither will I condemn thee: go and now sin no more (St. John viii. 10). He exercises no less meekness towards us every day. It is extraordinary what precautions it is necessary to take in the world, to avoid offending a friend. Men are so sensitive, that often a single expression of ill-humour is enough to make them forget twenty, thirty, forty years of service. A single word, spoken unseasonably, sometimes breaks the strongest friendship.
It is not so with Jesus Christ. It seems incredible, but nevertheless it is beyond dispute, that we cannot possibly have a friend more grateful than He is. We must not imagine that He is capable of breaking friendship with us for a slight ingratitude. He sees all our weaknesses, and bears with incredible goodness all the miseries of those He loves. He forgets them, and appears not to perceive them. His compassion goes so far as to give comfort to those souls who are too much afflicted at them. He does not desire that our fear of displeasing Him should go so far as to disturb us and torment our minds. He would have us avoid the smallest faults; but He does not even wish that we should be disquieted at great ones: He desires that joy, liberty and peace of heart should be the eternal portion of those that truly love Him.
The least of these qualities, in one of the great ones of the world, would be enough to win the hearts of all those under him. The mere account of any of these virtues in a prince whom we have never seen, and are never likely to see, makes an impression on our hearts, and makes him beloved, even by strangers. Jesus Christ is the only one in whom all these splendid qualities, all these virtues, and whatever we can picture to ourselves as great, excellent and amiable, are to be. found united. How is it, then, that so many motives for inspiring love do not succeed in making us truly love Jesus Christ? It often requires so little in the world to gain our hearts. We give away our heart, and are prodigal of it for ever so little. Shalt Thou alone, oh my God, have no part in it? Can we reflect a little on these things, and not feel an ardent love of Jesus Christ?
Can we fail to have at least a lively grief at loving Him so little? We owe Him our hearts, by so many titles. Can we refuse Him, then, this heart, if we add to all these titles the immense benefits with which He has presented us, and the ardour and excessive tenderness with which He has loved and does love us still, never ceasing to give us daily manifest proofs of the immense love He has for us?
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – Have Mercy on us!
Why We Should Love the Sacred Heart – Fr John Croiset SJ
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