Thursday, 1 September 2016

Devotion to The Sacred Heart, Its Theology, History and Philosophy part 11.

By  Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.



Father Croiset, whose learning and virtue merited the respect and admiration of his contemporaries, succeeded the Beata in the field of spreading the devotion. The year following the death of Blessed Margaret Mary, he published his noteworthy contribution to the devotional literature on the Sacred Heart. It contained a concise presentation of the cult accompanied by a short life of the Beata. He gives us a few glimpses into her life, eulogizing her virtues and extraordinary holiness. That he was well qualified to accomplish such a task no one, conversant with the incidents of his life, will question. He was the director of her conscience. With frank openness and child-like simplicity she revealed to him the secrets of her soul, and kept up a correspondence with him till a short time before her death. 

The good effects which the reading of this book produced on the public at large were incalculable, nor can they be exaggerated. An unprecedented demand having been made for it, it was submitted to reprint at Bordeaux in 1694 by the authority of the Archbishop, and passed through a number of editions. In 1699 it was printed again at Besangon with the addition of a few pious reflections coming from the pen of Father Fromment, S. J. At Aurillac, it went through six consecutive reprints within a short period. At last, Father Croiset, exercising all the care and attention a work of this nature would demand, once more revised and enlarged it. The result was the most reliable edition that has yet appeared. It was published at Lyons in 1698. This contributed in a large measure to the growth of the devotion. Many chapels were erected in honor of the Sacred Heart. Some already constructed were placed under its special protection. The feast began to be solemnized, as Christ desired, on the day after the Octave of Corpus Christi.

The cult was no longer confined to the narrow boundary lines of France. In 1697, Mary, the wife of James II, the dethroned king of England, sent a petition to Innocent XII requesting the establishment of a special feast and Mass in honor of the Sacred Heart for all the Visitation convents. Frigidianus Castagnorius pleaded her cause against Bottinius. The Promotor Fidei opposed it on the grounds of novelty. Permission, however, was given to celebrate a Mass in honor of the Five Wounds on the day intimated. Thus, the petitioners gained only a slight point. This apparent failure, however, did not place an obstacle to the growth of this devotion. On the contrary, it continued its spread with even greater rapidity than theretofore. In 1726, after a brief span of about thirty-six years, more than three hundred societies were erected in France, Flanders, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and Bohemia, and the influence of the new cultus penetrated even beyond the sea into China, Persia, the Indies, Syria, Canada and the American Islands. It is estimated that throughout all these different countries more than four hundred Confraternities could be reckoned.