Ever since I was a child, the most Sacred Heart of Jesus has been a part of my life.
It began with my family. A lovely picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hung in our living room and there we consecrated our family to Jesus' most Sacred Heart. On the First Friday of most months we participated in the all-night vigil at St. Agnes Church. (I think we kids loved most the super refreshments at the break around 11 pm!) The continuity of this practice made a deep impression on me. There's something powerful about repetition. Even our "I love you" becomes more and more deep as we repeat it to the one(s) we love.
Maybe that's why the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus happens over nine First Fridays of the month. Repetition creates habits, memories, deep and meaningful experiences.
Jesus wants us to experience his love and the promise of his mercy.
In Jesus' first apparition to St. Margaret Mary in 1673, he said, "My Divine Heart is so passionately in love with men that it can no longer withhold the flames of that burning love." A love that can't be silent and still, a love that must leap into action to save and rescue...this is the love that God has for us. How much we long to know this love! Pope Francis has said to us regarding Jesus' most sacred heart: "The Lord is always watching us with mercy, [always] awaits us with mercy. Let us be not afraid to approach him! He has a merciful heart! If we show our inner wounds, our sins, He always forgives us. He is pure mercy! Let us never forget this: He is pure mercy! Let us go to Jesus!"
According to the words of Christ through his apparitions to St. Margaret Mary, there are several promises to those that practice the First Friday Devotions:
"In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour."
In the world that we and our kids live in, we more and more need the assurance of the loving reliability and security offered by Jesus's strong and tender love for us. Devotion to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus is not a pious exercise. Jesus' love is as powerfully active in the world today as it was when Jesus walked the earth! And so much more needed!
In Pope John Paul II's last Divine Mercy message, which he had prepared for his Regina Caeli message for April 3, 2005 and was delivered posthumously, the beloved Saint intimated to the world: "As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the Risen Lord offers his love that pardons, reconciles and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!"
In every language, in every age, the heart is regarded as the natural symbol of love and affection. What more natural and expressive symbol is there, then, of the excessive love of Jesus than his Sacred Heart?
PROMISES OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS TO THOSE WHO MAKE THE NINE FIRST FRIDAYS
- I will give them all of the graces necessary for their state of life.
- I will establish peace in their homes.
- I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
- I will be their strength during life and above all during death.
- I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.
- Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.
- Tepid souls shall grow fervent.
- Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
- I will bless every place where a picture of my heart shall be set up 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, never to be blotted out.
- I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant all to those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
by Sr. Kathryn James, FSP