Thursday, 3 November 2016

Devotion to The Sacred Heart, Its Theology, History and Philosophy part 61.

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

The Promise was judged dangerous because it presumably advocated the certainty of salvation, irrespective of the mode of life consequent to the compliance with the requirements laid down. Moreover, it seemed to contradict the dogmatic definition drawn up by the Council of Trent.

Father McNabb points out some interpretations of the promise found in leaflets scattered broadcast among the simple pious faithful, and rightly emphasizes the fact that it exposes them to the danger of falling into material superstition. 80 He expresses his disapproval in particular against a leaflet of Stephen Coube, S.J., which is being circulated without an imprimatur and misleads its readers by the statement that " the Holy Church has adopted and blessed this practice." 81 Again, he maintains that the Little Treasury of Leaflets, published by M. and S. Eaton, Dublin, does not quote the promise in a correct form. He also points out that a booklet translated from the French (Montreuil-sur-Mer, 1894) entitled, Promises made by Our Lord Jesus Christ to Blessed Margaret Mary contains fourteen promises. The writer of this latter book is Father Frangoisi, S.J., and it is circulated with the imprimatur of the Provincial.

To these we might add the objectionable statements contained in the Catechisme de la Devotion au Sacri Coeur, par un Pretre Oblat de Marie Immaculee, Paris, 1902. Speaking of the Great Promise this author says that it is certain both as to its origin and as to its effects. It is found in the authentic writings of Blessed Margaret Mary. Those who comply with the required conditions will obtain the necessary graces to persevere until death in the narrow path of salvation by a perfect observance of the precepts of the Church, or the evangelical counsels. The right to these extraordinary fruits, once acquired, cannot be lost even if afterwards one stays away from the frequentation of the sacraments. But the graces received are so abundant that this complete forgetfulness of essential duties will be a rare exception and of short duration. Inexcusable are, therefore, all those who throw aside this easy plank of salvation.

Another work which also contains statements that cannot be substantiated is the Tresor Spirituel de la devotion au Sacre Coeur de Jesus. Its author qualifies the promise as great on account of the grace of which it gives an absolute assurance, viz., the grace of final perseverance, a holy death, salvation. Furthermore, it offers a plank of salvation which is so easily accessible. The Sacred Heart has given us an answer to the question: Who can be saved ?

He who communicates in a pious manner every month, the author continues, is on his way to heaven, and by communicating nine First Fridays he will obtain a special grace to persevere in this way until death.

Similar exaggerations may be found even in American magazines. The article published in the American Messenger of the Sacred Heart is unquestionably capable of misinterpretation. In the foregoing pages it has already been pointed out how this author leaves one under the false impression that we possess the autographic document on which the Twelfth Promise is based. " Again," says the same author, " what we contend is that the Great Promise does insure him an efficacious grace, wherewith he shall unfailingly, though with full liberty, perform whatever may be necessary for salvation. And it is precisely in this that the Great Promise goes further than the promises found in the Gospel."

What answer is to be given to those who maintain that the Twelfth Promise is offered only as a means of impetrating a happy death, or perseverance in prayer, whereby a happy death can be infallibly secured ? " We ask," he rejoins, " do these Holy Communions obtain that grace infallibly or not? If they obtain it for us infallibly, then, we say, that this interpretation does not differ substantially from our own. But, if the Communions do not obtain infallibly for us the grace spoken of in the objection, then Christ's words may be proved false, and many who have made the Nine Fridays worthily may still die in His disfavor, and be lost; hence we reject this interpretation."

In the opinion of this author, the grace bestowed by the Twelfth Promise is of a higher order than the grace given by the sacraments which are directly instituted by Christ as the proper channels of grace for all the faithful. He himself makes the assertion that: " No Sacrament was instituted as the cause of such an efficacious actual grace, that is, of a grace that would infallibly obtain the consent of the will" yet it is precisely this kind of grace he claims for the person who has made the Nine Fridays.

This will suffice to indicate that the Great Promise has been interpreted in terms which are unwarrantable, and that many indefensible and misleading things have been said about it. To say that this practice is adopted and blessed by the Church, that the promised grace will be granted unfailingly, that if one complied with the requisite conditions he will persevere in good works throughout all the days of his life, that these Holy Communions will infallibly obtain for us a happy death, that it is the most accessible plank of salvation, etc., are statements which may be qualified as exaggerated, bold, and unjustifiable in the absence of an authoritative pronouncement on the part of the Church. There is a serious danger in such language because simple-minded and credulous persons will not stop to inquire into the reasons, but will interpret such statements literally, without questioning the authority of the writer, especially if he is an ecclesiastic.