By Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.
The words of St. Bernard reveal his deeply religious soul. "The lance," he maintains, "pierced His Side, and it penetrated into His Heart in order that from henceforth He may be induced to compassionate us in our infirmities; the secret of the Heart is exposed by the openings of the body." Abbot William (d. 1148) calls the Heart of Jesus "an assured refuge of mercy," and the Abbot Gilbert of Holland (d. 1172) exclaims: "The wound of the Heart displays the ardor of love. truly sweet Heart which at the sight of our love is induced to give us love in return." In the "Vitis Mystica," claimed by some to have originated from the pen of St. Bernard, by others from that of St. Bonaventure, we read that "this Heart was wounded in order that through this visible wound the invisible wound of love may be displayed. What other way could His ardent love be exhibited more effectively than by permitting the wounding of the body as well as of the Heart by lance? The fleshy wound thus symbolizes the spiritual wound." Allusions of this character become more and more frequent as time advances. The ecclesiastical writers of the preceding centuries did not as yet unite the material and the formal object of this devotion for some give preference to the Heart, others again to the love It symbolizes.
The two become united in the writings of St. Gertrude (d. 1302). After this Saint acquainted the world with the nature and the character of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, the leaders in piety and learning penned thousands of passages extolling the Heart of Christ as the seat of love, wisdom, magnanimity, and all manifestations to which His human nature gave evidence during His terrestrial sojourn. Such utterances were then easily intelligible, for in those days the human heart was considered the fountain-head of all good and evil. Our contemporary physiologists contradict this old tradition. For the time being it will suffice to say that many expressions and modes of speech, referring to the heart in practically all languages, convey meaning that is not to be confined to the mate rial heart exclusively, but must be interpreted as relating to our moral faculties. The word heart, and the functions falsely attributed to it by the popular as well as the scientific minds of the past, captivated many contemplative soul long before the time of Blessed Margaret Mary. From the year 1072 to 1680, Father Chandlery enumerates 110 writers, and quotes some of their references to the Sacred Heart. The venerable Carthusian Lanspergius (d. 1539) and the pious Benedictine Louis de Blois (d. 1566) were instrumental in introducing the devotion among the ascetics. Thus, the devotion gained entrance into the monastic life.
To diffuse it still more extensively among the laity, Father Hajnal (d. 1644), the celebrated Hungarian Jesuit, undertook to publish its first treatise in book form. In his vernacular in 1629 he edited work in Vienna, under the title "Jesus Szentseges Szive tiszteloinek konyve." The Polish Jesuit, Father Druzbicki, followed in his footsteps with work whose title was "Meta cordium, Cor Jesu." These two pioneers paved the way for the immediate precursor of Blessed Margaret Mary, viz., Father Eudes. In the estimation of Father Le Dore, Father Eudes justly merits to be called the first apostle of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.6 The two Congregations and the Seminary Chapel he founded were placed under the protection of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In 1670 he edited work entitled "La devotion au Coeur adorable de Jesus," in which he inserted an Office and Mass in honor of the Sacred Heart. The same year it received the approbation of three Bishops. He established feast of the Sacred Heart and the Mass and Office composed by him were read. Father Le Dore quotes the words of approbation of Bishop de Lomenie de Brienne, and those of Bishop de Maupas de Tour. It is evident from these citations that their conception of the devotion was practically the same as it exists in our own era. On July 25, 1680, Father Eudes finished his work entitled, "Coeur admirable de la tris sainte Mere de Dieu." The last of the twelve books is devoted exclusively to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Father Le Dore, com menting upon this work, says "C'est un excellent traite de la devotion au Sacre Coeur du Fils de Dieu." Father Eudes was declared Venerable by decree issued on January, 1904, and honored with the title "Auctor liturgici cultus SS. Cordium Jesu et Mariae."
Pere Bouvier, in his excellent article, maintains that Msgr. Languet ignored the merit of this great forerunner of the Sacred Heart Devotion. This statement is not founded on truth. Msgr. Languet, in the Life of Blessed Margaret Mary, published in 1729, pays a signal tribute to Pere Eudes. He calls him " the most zealous hero of this illustrious devotion." He gives a summary of his life; enumerates some of his merits, and points out that the Office Father Eudes composed, was approved by the Archbishop of Rouen, by six Bishops, and a number of Doctors of the theological faculty of Paris. Clement X was so pleased with the religious enthusiasm he displayed in this respect, that, in 1674, he issued six Briefs of Indulgences in which all the churches of his seminaries were to participate in perpetuity. Notwithstanding the indefatigable zeal Father Eudes displayed, in order to spread and make known this devotion, the words of Pere Allet may be repeated here with propriety: " Pere Eudes did not receive from heaven a formal and authentic mission to establish the feast of the Sacred Heart for the universal Church. Irrespective of this privilege, however, he played an important role in its introduction."