"There is in the Sacred Heart a symbol of the infinite love of Jesus Christ.... it moves us to love in return." – Pope Leo XIII
My grandmother Rentenbach had a big statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the dresser in her bedroom. On the table next to her bed was her well worn book of devotional prayers to the Sacred Heart. It's fair to say that she introduced me to this symbol of love.
When we were students at St. Patrick's parish school the Benedictine nuns encouraged devotion to the Sacred Heart with the promise of chocolate milk and donuts after receiving communion at Mass on each of the nine consecutive first Fridays during the school year. Looking back, what better sign, at least for Catholic kids in grade school, of the abundant blessings promised to those devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A fond memory of a potentially mechanical devotion.
Not wanting to trivialize the infinite love God has for us, this symbol of divine love calls us to move beyond such childhood memories.
For sure, His is not a cozy, sentimental Valentine's Day heart from Hallmark. His is a heart on fire, wounded, crowned with thorns, bleeding. It's a symbol that speaks without words of love that endures the cross. It stirs within us a grateful heart for the passion of His love for every human being.
In the sadness of our own broken hearts, this wounded heart speaks of consolation and compassion from the One who knows suffering. This sign of heartfelt love calls each of us to love others in the same way. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends..." (John 15:13).
During this month of June, as friends of Jesus, we Priests of Holy Cross celebrate our Titular Feast. It is no small thing that we do. The celebration rings true when we allow the grace of God to transform our stony hearts into His, not just on one day but on every day.
Our founder, Blessed Basil Moreau, who placed us as Holy Cross priests under the patronage of the Sacred Heart, meditated frequently on the Heart of Jesus and wrote much about his devotion to it. Among his reflections are these words that he offers to us: "In human language the heart is the synonym and symbol of love. To give one's heart is to give love. Jesus speaks our language when He holds out to us His heart, which of itself tells the story of His love. The primary purpose of the devotion to the Sacred Heart is to return love for love" (Meditations).
Fr. Tom Zurcher, C.S.C., is the Superior of the Congregation's House of Formation in Guadalupe, Nuevo León, México. He professed Final Vows in the Congregation on April 16, 1971, and was ordained a priest on April 29, 1972!