Throughout my years working in the African missions I have come across many families who have a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. To my surprise, as poor as these families were, they would somehow have a picture of the Sacred Heart in their homes. Although they were without food, drink, furniture, clothing, they were not without a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
During one of our prayer sessions, I had asked about their strong devotion to the Sacred Heart. As one woman explained to me, “In my home, His Heart is exposed, not hidden. The flame that engulfs His Heart is the flame of divine love. It is a flame that strengthens us during our sufferings, which are many. It is a reminder that one day our suffering here on earth will end and that we will have eternal life with God."
Each year, in June, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (this year on Friday, June 19) and draw near to the tender mercy and forgiveness of the Lord. Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) received several revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and encouraged devotion whose chief features are reception of Holy Communion on the first Friday of each month, Eucharistic adoration during a "Holy Hour" on Thursdays, and the celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart.
When our Lord appeared to Sister Margaret Mary, among the words spoken to her, she heard Jesus make 12 promises to those who would respond to the pleading of His Heart and make an effort to return His love.
- I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
- I will establish peace in their homes.
- I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
- I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
- I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
- Sinners will find in My Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
- Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
- Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
- I will bless every place in which an image of My Heart is exposed and honored.
- I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
- Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart.
- I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in My disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
The day of our last prayer group, the same African woman who shared her devotion approached me. In this woman’s hand was a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She wanted me to take it to my home and asked me to always have it exposed. “Never hide it,” she said. She wanted it to be a reminder that I should pray for her and her children. Although I didn’t want to take something of such value, she did reassure me that she would be receiving another picture of the Sacred Heart to have in its place. It would be coming from a missionary priest who frequently visited her.
To this very day, when I look at that picture of His Sacred Heart in my home, my heart flutters and a prayer is sent to the Lord for that dear woman and her children, and for all in the Missions who in that moment need the Lord's love and mercy. I pray also that I always remember the promises of His loving heart.
“Hol(l)y Headlines!” ~ a bit of a play on words ~ is an "Extra! Extra! Read All About It" call to build missionary momentum as part of our ongoing effort to educate and motivate the next generation of the Catholic Church's missionaries. The blog's author, Holly Benner, is National Coordinator for the Missionary Childhood Association. She's also the mission education coordinator in her home Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania. She has a passion for the missions and experience in making mission real at the diocesan level. For 10 years, Holly traveled frequently to Africa as president of a faith-based non-profit that she founded, one focused on developing sustainable water resources among poor communities.
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