In 1675, Our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque in Paray le Monial, France in a convent. He said, "Behold this heart which has so loved men. Establish in the world a devotion to My Sacred Heart." To those who receive Holy Communion on 9 consecutive First Fridays in honor of His Sacred Heart, Jesus promises the following:(1.) I will give them all the graces necessary for their state in life.
(2.) I will establish peace in their families.
(3.) I will console them in all their pains and trials.
(4.) I will be their assured refuge in life and especially at the hour of death.
(5.) I will shed abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
(6.) Sinners shall find in My Heart a fountain and boundless ocean of mercy.
(7.) Lukewarm souls will become fervent.
(8.) Fervent souls shall rise to greater perfection.
(9.) I will bless those homes where an image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored.
(10.) I will give to Priests the gift of moving the hardest of hearts.
(11.) Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names inscribed on My Heart, never to be blotted out.
(12.) I promise thee, in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that My all-powerful love will grant to all who communicate on the first Friday of the month for nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My displeasure nor without the Sacraments: My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart
by Raymond Cardinal Burke
through First Friday Communion
St. Louis Review June 10, 2005
IntroductionDevotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which the Church fosters, in a special way, during the month of June, is rich in its forms. There are four principal forms of the devotion, all of which are strictly related to each other: 1) the First Friday Mass and Communion of Reparation; 2) the Holy Hour on the Thursday before First Friday to commemorate the Agony in the Garden; 3) the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrated annually on the Friday after the Second Sunday after Pentecost or the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, if it is celebrated on Sunday; and 4) the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Enthronement of the image of the Sacred Heart.
The forms of the devotion have been very much influenced by the visions of our Lord Jesus Christ, received by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, nun of the Visitation Monastery at Paray-le-Monial in France, from Dec. 27, 1673, to June of 1675. All of the visions were directed to instructing St. Margaret Mary for her service in spreading the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Church throughout the world. The visions received by St. Margaret Mary were, in a true sense, for the universal Church. The image of the Sacred Heart, revealed to St. Margaret Mary, symbolizes the message of the ever-faithful and total love of God for us in Jesus Christ, God the Son Incarnate. The image was given to the universal Church through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
Twelve promises of our Lord have been drawn from the writings of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, in which she describes the visions which she received from our Lord. Pope Leo XIII gave his blessing to the list of the promises in 1899. Although some have expressed surprise at the promises, they are, in fact, a true reflection of the Word of God, contained in the Holy Scriptures, in which our heavenly Father makes certain promises connected with our salvation. One thinks, for instance, of the promises made by God, through the Archangel Gabriel, to the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation. Our whole Christian life, in fact, is founded upon trust in God’s promises to us. It is our trust in God’s promises which gives us enthusiasm and energy to live in Christ. The theological virtue of hope, a special gift of God’s grace to us, is directed to strengthening our trust that God will do what He has promised us.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is our model of hope, of trust in God’s promises. When the Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she was to become the Mother of God, Mary trusted, even though it was difficult for her to imagine how what the Angel said could come to pass.
She responded with complete trust: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me [fiat] according to your word" (Luke 1:38). At the Visitation, St. Elizabeth, referring to Mary, proclaimed: "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Luke 1:45).
The Last Promise
The novena is an especially efficacious way for us to seek God’s grace in our lives. It has its origin in the first novena in the Church, which was made by the Apostles after our Lord’s Ascension. When our Lord had ascended to the right hand of the Father, the Apostles, faithful to our Lord’s instruction, prayed for nine days to God the Father, asking for a second outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. At the completion of their novena, on the 10th day or Pentecost Sunday, God the Father poured forth a second gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and, through the Apostles, upon the whole Church. The novena of prayer between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday has inspired in the Church the practice of making a novena of prayer when we are in need of a special grace.
The novena of First Fridays is integral to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is centered upon the total outpouring of Christ’s life for us on Calvary, on Good Friday, which He makes always present for us through the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is centered upon the Cross and the Holy Eucharist, is centered upon the events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday, that is, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.
Every Friday reminds us that God has loved us so much that His only-begotten Son died on the Cross for us. By keeping a novena of First Fridays, we accompany our Lord in His suffering and dying. In a particular way, we offer reparation for the indifference and coldness with which the gift of His total love in the Holy Eucharist is received by many. Our novena of First Fridays is, in fact, a prayer to know more fully the mystery of God’s love for us and to return our love for His love. In other words, our novena is approaching the Heart of Jesus, pierced at His death on the cross, from which there flows unending grace for us, and placing our poor and often anxious hearts within His glorious pierced Heart to find there our lasting joy and peace.
First Friday Communion
There is for us no more fitting or complete way to make reparation than to prepare ourselves to express our love of Christ by participating in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and receiving Holy Communion. There is no better way for us to express sorrow for sins and make reparation for any indifference or coldness shown to Christ, really present in the Blessed Sacrament. Participation in the Holy Mass and the reception of Holy Communion in reparation fulfill, at one and the same time, the twofold dimension of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Communion of reparation is an expression of deepest love of God in response to His immeasurable love of us. It is also reparation for any neglect or contempt, on our part, before the great mystery of faith.
For many the practice of the novena of First Fridays leads to the devout observance of every First Friday, a continuous novena. The continuous observance of the First Friday helps the faithful to establish the mystery of the Cross as the pattern of our daily living, striving daily to pour out our lives, with Christ, in love of God and our neighbor. When we observe how much the life of Christ with us in the Church is treated with indifference or even hostility, we are led to make a Communion of Reparation on all of the First Fridays of the year, asking God to pardon those who so offend Him and expressing, on their behalf, sorrow for sin and an ardent love of Christ.
Holy Hour on Thursday
It is best to make the Holy Hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, that is, in prayer, before the tabernacle in the church or, even better, before the Sacred Host exposed in the monstrance. If obligations at home or other justifiable reasons keep a person from making the Holy Hour before the tabernacle in the parish church or local chapel, the Holy Hour may be made at home. The Holy Hour on the Thursday before First Friday is the model for the practice of making a daily or weekly holy hour. Through the Holy Hour, the faithful have time alone with our Lord to look upon His Holy Face and to seek His grace, the fuller union of our hearts with His Heart. Sacramentally present in the Sacred Host, our Lord speaks to the hearts of those making the Holy Hour, granting to them His joy and peace.
We are blessed in the Archdiocese of St. Louis to have many parishes with extended periods of eucharistic adoration or continuous adoration of the Holy Eucharist exposed in the monstrance. I ask that every parish in the archdiocese, if possible, have an extended time of eucharistic adoration on the Thursday before the First Friday, so that many of the faithful will be able to make the Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament.
The practice of observing the First Friday of each month by receiving Holy Communion in reparation for sins committed against the love of God, especially the Blessed Sacrament, is not some mechanical way of guaranteeing one’s eternal salvation. Rather, it is a response of ardent love to Him Who has first loved us and gave up His life for us. The faithful who seek to place their hearts in the all-merciful and all-loving Heart of Jesus are, first and foremost, deeply conscious of their own unworthiness of God’s love. They approach the Heart of Jesus not out of some pretense of manipulating God’s love for them but at the invitation of Jesus Who invites us who are poor and burdened to find in His Heart rest and refreshment (Matthew 11:28).
Christ invites the spiritually thirsty to come to His Heart from which there never cease to flow the cleansing and life-giving water and blood, which first flowed from His pierced Heart on Calvary (John 7:35).
Consecration and First Fridays
In writing about the consecration and enthronement, I noted that the Act of Consecration and the enthronement are not just single acts, that is an isolated prayer or the appending of a sacred image on the wall. Rather, they symbolize a way of life. They represent a way of living which seeks to keep company with Christ at all times, which seeks to extend communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist into every dimension of one’s life. The First Friday Communion of Reparation is an essential part of a life consecrated to the Sacred Heart, of a heart in which Christ the King is enthroned. If Christ is our constant companion, if our way of life is the Way of Christ, the Way of the Cross, then we will not fail to observe the Thursday of His Agony in the Garden and the Friday of His death with special prayer and with participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
Teaching the Devotion
Last year, on March 25, 2004, the Feast of the Annunciation, I blessed images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for every Catholic school and parish school of religion during the solemn celebration of the Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. As I travel throughout the archdiocese, I see the image of the Sacred Heart enthroned in our churches and schools. In order that the enthronement and consecration remain for our children and young people a way of life, it is important that we teach them to observe the novena of First Fridays and the Holy Hour on the Thursday before the First Friday. How wonderful it would be, if all of our children would have the opportunity to make the Communion of Reparation on the First Friday of each month!
I am asking our Office of Sacred Worship to put together a simple guide on the First Friday Communion of Reparation and the Holy Hour on the Thursday before the First Friday for our children and young people. The guide will explain the devotion and the spiritual fruit which it bears in our daily living. The guide will also provide prayers to help the children to accompany the Lord in His suffering and dying, and so one day to share in His Resurrection.