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Honoring Two Hearts In The Month Of June

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By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY

The Feast of the Sacred Heart falls on June 19, and June is the month which has been traditionally devoted to the Sacred Heart. The following day, June 20, is the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. So the two feast days are right next to each other, which is appropriate given the closeness of the Two Hearts of Jesus and Mary, both on Earth and in Heaven.
This theme of the Two Hearts was emphasized at Rue du Bac in Paris in 1830, when our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Labouré and showed her the design for the new Medal of the Immaculate Conception, which before long, due to the marvels associated with it, became known simply as the “Miraculous Medal.”
The front of the medal was to have an image of the Blessed Virgin with the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee,” while on the reverse there was to be a large “M” surmounted by a bar and cross, with two hearts beneath it, one crowned with thorns, the other pierced with a sword.
And when the Angel of Portugal, or of Peace, appeared to the children at Fatima in the spring of 1916, he also made a connection between the Two Hearts. After teaching them the Pardon prayer — “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you! I ask pardon of you for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you!” — he said, “Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to your supplications.”
This was also appropriate because Fatima was very much the Marian apparition most associated with the promotion of the devotion to our Lady’s Immaculate Heart.
But now we have passed out of May, the Marian month, to June, the month of the Sacred Heart, and so we are encouraged to develop this devotion in our own lives during this period in particular. In its modern form, this is due to St. Margaret Mary (1647-1690), who followed in the footsteps of St. John Eudes (1602-1680) who had previously promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart in France.
She was a religious of the Visitation Order, and Christ appeared to her on a number of occasions with revelations about the love of His Sacred Heart for mankind. The first of these took place on December 27, probably in 1673, while Margaret Mary was a nun in the Visitation convent at Paray-le-Monial in eastern France. He told her how much He loved mankind and sought a return for this love, and said that He wanted her to announce this love to the world.
The second apparition took place early in 1674, and during this St. Margaret Mary saw Jesus’ Sacred Heart on a throne of flames, transparent as crystal, surrounded by a crown of thorns signifying the sins of mankind, with a cross above it. Again Christ told her of His infinite love for mankind and His desire that He should be honored through the display of this image of His heart.
This is the origin of the traditional Sacred Heart picture which later became so well known as an expression of compliance with one of the promises made by Christ to the saint: “I will bless every place where a picture of my Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored.”
It is thought that the third apparition took place on July 2, 1674, as St. Margaret Mary was praying before the Blessed Sacrament. She had a vision of Christ in glory, with His five wounds shining like suns. Then He showed her His Heart on fire with love for mankind, a love that was so often ignored or treated with contempt. He asked her to make up for this coldness and ingratitude by receiving Holy Communion as often as she was allowed, and particularly on the first Friday of each month.
It is probable that the fourth, and most important, apparition took place on June 16, 1675, once again as St. Margaret Mary was praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Christ again showed her His heart, and once again complained about the coldness and ingratitude of mankind in general toward Him, but especially regarding those consecrated to Him. In atonement for this, He asked that the first Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi should be celebrated as a feast in honor of His Sacred Heart, and as a means for the faithful to receive Holy Communion in reparation.
St. Margaret Mary also related the “Great Promise” associated with this devotion that was given to her by Christ, who told her that He promised “in the excess of the mercy of My Heart, that Its all-powerful love will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the first Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under my displeasure nor without receiving the sacraments, My Divine Heart becoming their assured refuge at that last hour.”
This is the origin of the Nine First Fridays devotion, which was formerly so popular in the Church as well as being so spiritually beneficial to so many souls. It is a counterpart to the Fatima Five First Saturdays devotion and something that it is well worth undertaking, especially as none of us have any idea of how the circumstances of our death will unfold; and in addition, the promise of being able to definitely receive the last sacraments is an exceptional one.

In Accord With His Wishes

With regard to practicing the Devotion to the Sacred Heart in our daily lives, one book which can be warmly recommended is Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Fr. John Croiset, SJ, which has been described as the book for this devotion. It was written by the spiritual director of St Margaret Mary, and so comes from someone who was very familiar with all aspects of the revelations given by our Lord to her. It can thus be seen as crucial to understanding the importance and the centrality of devotion to the Sacred Heart in the life of the Church.
This book was actually commissioned by our Lord Himself through St. Margaret Mary, and as Fr. Croiset neared completion of it, he was told by the saint that Christ had said that it was so completely in accord with His wishes that it would never be necessary to alter it.
It was published soon after St. Margaret Mary’s death, and was an immediate success such that it was later translated into many other languages. Along with being a book on this devotion, Fr. Croiset’s work also reveals why so few people become great saints, why they fail to grow in the life of grace and make progress in the spiritual order, despite the fact that many good Catholics frequent the sacraments. For that reason alone, it is also well worth reading it.
In short, Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the best explanation of this most important devotion of the Catholic Church and a great encouragement for us all to increase our love for Christ and so live a much fuller spiritual life. And so, the month of the Sacred Heart is the perfect moment to make a new beginning to our Christian lives and will undoubtedly be a time of great graces for anyone who does this.

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(Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published next year — details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk.)

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