In his first epistle, Saint John tells us, "The man without love has known nothing of God, for God is love." In 1984, on the feast of the Sacred Heart, Blessed John Paul II said, "In the Sacred Heart every treasure of wisdom and knowledge is hidden. In that Divine Heart beats God's infinite love for everyone, for each one of us individually."
Blessed Basil Moreau, the venerable founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, chose the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the patronal feast for the priests of the Congregation of Holy Cross. This year we celebrate this great feast this Friday, June 15.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus gives us clear human insights into the love of God. As we contemplate Jesus' passion, death, and Resurrection, we see His infinite patience, His consummate compassion, His unending forgiveness, His deep caring mercy for all of us and for each of us individually. Blessed Basil Moreau speaks of "that love of which the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the burning center."
We who have been called to religious life and priesthood in Holy Cross find in the Sacred Heart the perfect paradigm for our priestly lives, a calling not only to give ourselves totally to the mission of Jesus through His human and divine love for us, but to allow ourselves to be transformed by that same Heart as we experience His all-encompassing love through His forgiveness, His compassion, His mercy and His unlocking of our burning love of Him deeply embedded within us.
I feel that it is only in that unlocking of His love for us and our love for Him, embedded within us, that we can truly function as His priests, sharing a love that is purifying, a love that leads to an intimate knowledge that truly identifies us as His and allows us to become His consecrated messengers to the women and men to whom we are privileged to minister.
In my religious and priestly life, that unlocking of His love has been an ongoing process, albeit often painful, as I have experienced the forgiveness, mercy, caring, and compassion of the Sacred Heart overcoming my sinfulness, weakness, pride and fear. This process involves a constant emptying of self, focusing on His heart pierced by a lance from which flowed the blood and water. Pope Pius XII called it in his encyclical Haurietis Aquas "the fountain of living water." That is the source of life for my priestly ministry.
A few years ago, I was the superior of Holy Cross House, our religious house for assisted living and skilled care where most of our elder brothers and priests, in need of medical and daily living assistance live. I accepted the appointment with trepidation. As time went on, I realized that it was the love, compassion, forgiveness and caring I had personally experienced through the love of the Sacred Heart in my own life that opened and unlocked my heart to be able to share with my brothers in Holy Cross the same sensitivity shown to me. I quickly learned that the only measure of love is to love without measure.
Ultimately, for us who have been so humbled yet so privileged to be consecrated to Jesus through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the ultimate love of Jesus flowing through His Sacred Heart is found in the Eucharist, in our calling to offer sacrifice in the name of and in union with all of God's chosen children. The Eucharist is the ultimate gift of love from the Sacred Heart, and we have been called by our vocation to the priesthood to call all to the "breaking of the bread" at the altar. To make it possible for us priests to fulfill this awesome obligation, Jesus has first opened the treasure of His infinite love within us, His love to be shared without measure.
As Pope Pius XII stated in the encyclical mentioned above: "But who can worthily depict those beatings of the divine Heart, the signs of His infinite love, of those moments when He granted men His greatest gifts: Himself in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, His most holy Mother, and the office of the priesthood shared with us?"
And so we celebrate this great feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with humility and gratitude that He has chosen to give us His unconditional love shown through His passion, death and Resurrection and continued each day principally through the Holy Eucharist. In Holy Cross, we priests celebrate our patronal feast with a renewed sense of joy and commitment, knowing that only in allowing Jesus to live and minister through us – freeing both His love for us and our love for him burning intimately within us – can we truly be fountains of the living water flowing from His Pierced Heart.
Fr. Charlie Kohlerman, C.S.C., was ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in June 1963! Over his YEARS of priestly ministry, he has served in many different ministries, including teaching high school and leading retreats. Currently, he serves as Superior of Our Lady of Fatima House, a residence for Holy Cross religious at Notre Dame, as well as a member of the formation staff at Moreau Seminary. Learn more about the three patrons given by Blessed Basil Moreau to Holy Cross, as well as about our rich spirituality.