There is an increasingly popular catch-phrase on Facebook. Usually used by moms describing something adorable their child has done, they will say “Oh, my heart.”
This indicates (I think) that the mother’s heart is bursting with love for her son or daughter, filled with gratitude for the gift that is their child. You can just picture the mom, hand over her heart, overcome with emotion.
Now, think about that same phrase as if it was Jesus saying it to us. Picture our loving Lord gazing upon us, the creatures for whom he willingly died and for whom he opened up the gates of heaven. He’s lovingly watching us in our good moments, our bad moments, in our wholeness and our brokenness. Sometimes our actions are cause for joy and sometimes, when we fail, they are cause for pain. And there’s Jesus, down on one knee, one holy hand over his chest. He whispers, “Oh, my heart. Oh, my Sacred Heart.”
Since Jesus is God and man, free of all stain of original sin, his heart has a perfect capacity to love, greater than any human who has ever lived. His love, and therefore his heart, is purer than any love that we are capable of as parents. But as parents, we get a glimpse of the kind of love Jesus has for us when we look at our children and think, “Oh, my heart.” If we think our hearts are full to capacity, know without a doubt that Jesus’ heart is fuller when he looks at us.
Jesus made this clear when he appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque over the course of 18 months starting in 1673. The young French woman promised to spend her life as a Visitation nun after she was miraculously healed as a child following four years of paralysis. Before she entered religious life, she received visions of the crucified Jesus and assumed that this was normal and that others had experienced the same.
Only a few years into her life in the convent, during which she struggled to fit in and was persecuted because of her visions, she began to receive revelations from Jesus, who implored her to promote a devotion to his Sacred Heart. He told her of his ardent desire for the love of his people. He asked her to pray a holy hour every Thursday night in remembrance of his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and to tell people to receive Holy Communion frequently and especially on the first Friday of the month in reparation to his Sacred Heart.
Jesus himself asked that the Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi (June 28 this year) be observed as the solemnity of his Sacred Heart, which the Church instituted universally in 1856. In 1969, Pope Paul VI moved the feast of the Immaculate Heart to the day after the solemnity of the Sacred Heart. (This year the feast of the Immaculate Heart falls on June 29, coinciding with the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, which takes precedence.)
In her book The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life, Kendra Tierney says, “While a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is one of gratitude for Jesus’ love for us, a devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary indicates a desire to emulate the way in which Mary loves Jesus.”
Tierney reminds her readers that a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, is available to those who say the Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus publicly, including as a family. She also notes that it’s a good day to throw some steaks on the barbecue and celebrate, especially if your family usually observes abstinence from meat on Fridays. Solemnities require celebration through prayer and feasting, not fasting.
A great way to prepare your family for this important celebration requested by Jesus is to pray together the Novena to the Sacred Heart. Some good options are available through praymorenovenas.com or at ewtn.com. Pick a special intention together as a family, and make it a really important one, because this novena, which goes straight to the heart of our Saviour, is powerful. This year you will want to start your novena on June 19 in order to finish on the eve of the solemnity.
The Catholic school our children attend often tries to end the school year on this great solemnity. It won’t happen this year since the day falls so late in June, but our family will still celebrate with the usual chocolate cakes baked in two heart-shaped pans and decorated to look like the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts (images of both can be found easily with a Google search). Last year, our 11-year-old took over the whole process herself and shared her results with her schoolmates after the closing Mass.
The heart-shaped pans I bought at the dollar store many years ago for St. Valentine’s Day have gotten plenty of use over the years to help us honour our Saviour and his Mother on these special days. Our favourite chocolate cake recipe is the “No Egg Chocolate Cake” out of the “Company’s Coming” cake book and can also be found at allrecipes.com as “Wacky Cake.” This recipe makes enough batter to bake the two hearts and at least two cupcakes to place at the top of the hearts where the cross and flames go. If you don’t have heart pans, you can cut a heart out of a circle, square, or rectangle pan, or just decorate the top with hearts out of icing or candy.
When your family is gathered together on this extraordinary solemnity, and your kids are learning that there is a beating, divine heart out there that loves them perfectly, you can know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is watching and whispering, “Oh, my heart.”
Lazzuri writes from her home in Nova Scotia, where she lives with her husband, six children, and her mom.
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