Sacred Heart, Sacred World
When I entered the Catholic Church nearly a decade ago, I was introduced to several devotional practices, one being the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was not until two years ago, when I learned I would need to undergo open-heart surgery at Mayo Clinic to correct a lifelong congenital anomaly, that my interest in the devotion was rekindled. One day, I was walking through the halls of Catholic Theological Union (where I am a graduate student) and passed by a painting I had ignored many times before. But this day, it stopped me in my tracks. As I gazed at the image, I realized it was an image of the Sacred Heart. The wound in Jesus’ heart was on his right side, the same side where my heart troubles originated. At that moment, I realized I wanted to know more about the devotion and how it could speak to me in my experience and our world today.
The devotion of the Sacred Heart was influenced by the visions of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Margaret Mary was a Visitandine nun living in Paray-le-Monial, France. On December 27, 1673, she claimed to receive a vision of Christ revealing the secrets of his heart to her and entrusted her with his mission of spreading the love of his heart to humanity. While Margaret Mary's visions were important and shaped the devotion in the 17th century, it was Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner who attempted to revivify devotion in the 20th century in a more inclusive way. Rahner proposed that the Sacred Heart of Jesus has a unifying characteristic between creation and humanity. By looking at the Sacred Heart through new theological lenses, he suggested that Catholics would see that the worship of the Sacred Heart is very much in line with the church and modern spirituality.
Wanting to learn more about this unity between humanity and creation, I asked one of my friends, a sister of Religious of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ), to describe what the Sacred Heart means to her and her sisters. She described their charism as discovering and manifesting the love of God, not just in themselves but in their ministry, mission, and the lives of others. She said, "We find Jesus' life in creation, and within that creation, we find the pulse of humanity. It is not only our duty to care for human life but also the natural world. In caring for all parts of creation, we are protecting the sacredness of life, the core of our being.” This image of unity among the natural world, human beings, and non-human animals illustrates how we are interconnected, finding our home in the Heart of Jesus.
It has been almost two years since my surgery, and the Sacred Heart still speaks to me. I find comfort in knowing that Jesus’ heart holds pain and hope, joy and sorrow. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, divine life still pulses within us and all of creation.
Quotation from: Conversation with Sister Cibele Barbosa da Silva, via Zoom in Monroe, Michigan, March 26, 2021.