BY THE REV. H. NOLDIN, S.J.
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN.
REVISED BY THE REV. W. H. KENT, O.S.C
Any one who followed all the negotiations carried on with the Holy See concerning this matter could not fail to be struck by two prominent facts. In the first place he could not but observe that the Church, far from being prepossessed in favour of this devotion and well-disposed towards it, rather regarded it with a cautious reserve, almost bordering on suspicion, when it was submitted to her for scrutiny; and in the second place, that during the investigations the revelations of B. Margaret were of no account, being almost entirely disregarded. 1 The main point with which the Church was concerned was to ascertain that the devotion rested on the immutable basis of Catholic dogma, and that it would tend to the greater glory of God as well as the salvation of man. Consequently it is quite incorrect, to say the least, to assert that the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus rests on the revelations made to a private individual, which very possibly may be illusory and deceptive. It is true that it was owing to the revelations vouchsafed to B. Margaret that this devotion was practised by the faithful and examined by the Church, yet it was not in virtue of those revelations, but of the infallible dogmas of the faith, that ecclesiastical sanction was accorded to it. One cannot, of course, suppose such a thing after they have undergone official scrutiny and been pronounced authentic, yet even were it possible for the revelations of B. Margaret to have been figments of the imagination, the devotion would lose nothing as to its interior truth or outward stability.
About the middle of the eighteenth century the devotion had already become widely known; in many localities it was a popular and favourite devotion, for, since the Church had given her sanction to it, there was nothing to prevent it from spreading rapidly throughout the whole Catholic world. Yet the following years were anything but favourable to its growth and diffusion. Proud and godless science, supported by the force of the law, rose up in angry antagonism to the Heart of Jesus and those who paid homage to it. The Jansenists had from the outset displayed determined hostility to the cultus; and about the time of which we are speaking, posterior to the year 1765, their enmity knew no bounds. The so-called en lightened principles of the day had penetrated even into the sanctuary and infected many a representative of the Catholic priesthood with their spirit, causing them to wither under its breath as the green leaves grow sere and yellow in the autumnal blast. Thus it came to pass that unhappily some Catholic priests joined hands with the Jansenists in their hatred to the devotion and their rancor against those who practised it. The efforts made by that party in combination with the Austrian government to completely extirpate the "Jesuitical devotion," as they were pleased to call it, are almost incredible. The Jansenist bishop of Pistoja, Scipio Ricci, the Jansenistic periodicals Nouvelles ecclesiastiques in France and Annali ecclesiastici in Italy, the pseudo-synod of Pistoja, Bishop Morosini of Verona, one of the Illuminati, waged war against the devotion primarily by means of sophisms and misrepresentations, contempt and sarcasm, and where these weapons failed the secular authority was appealed to for aid. At first simple fines, later on imprisonment and banishment were the penalties inflicted; nay, the cultus of the Sacred Heart had even its martyrs. At the time of the French Revolution the veneration of a picture of the Heart of Jesus was a crime punishable with death.
1 The feast in question was instituted before the Church had pronounced a verdict regarding the revelations of B. Margaret Mary.