BY THE REV. H. NOLDIN, S.J.
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN.
REVISED BY THE REV. W. H. KENT, O.S.C
The proceedings of the enemies of this devotion were the same in all countries. At first in feuilletons and periodicals they poured out a perfect deluge of scorn and derision upon the devotion and its promoters. True to their resolution to exterminate it from the world, they were not content with the means first employed, but applied to the government authorities, in order that the devotion might be forcibly suppressed, and its defenders silenced. Nowhere was their application received so favourably as by the Austrian government. The devotion was interdicted from motives of state policy, and the propagation of it rendered punishable by law. The astronomer royal, the well-known ex-Jesuit Maximilian Hell, was sentenced to pay the enormous fine of 500 florins merely because he distributed some little books on the Sacred Heart; and one of the canons of the cathedral in Vienna was actually sent to prison for the same "crime." Priests who were desirous of taking their doctor's degree in theology were compelled previously to promise that they would keep the Christian religion free from erroneous and pseudo-devotions. Throughout the land orders from high authority were issued to remove all pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus from the churches; and where this was not feasible, to cover them with a coat of whitewash. In the Jesuits' church at Innsbruck at the present day the picture which had then to be whitewashed is held in veneration, having been restored in the following year to its original condition at the request of the inhabitants of the Tyrol, and of the magistrate of the town.
The task of defending the devotion against the malicious attacks of these powerful enemies and propagating it amongst the faithful fell to the lot of the Society of Jesus. The Jansenists and their adherents hoped all the more confidently to see it disappear from the face of the earth because the very Order on which it mainly depended for support had been forced to yield to stress of popular opinion, which was most adverse to it at that period. But their hopes were not destined to be fulfilled. The members of the suppressed Order were stirred up to greater zeal and more unsparing efforts in the defence and furtherance of the much-abused devotion, because it was their firm belief that the toleration they enjoyed in Russia was to be attributed to the protection of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and they earnestly besought and firmly hoped for the restoration of the Society throughout the whole of Christendom from the bounty of the divine Heart. Consequently they exerted themselves to the utmost of their power to promote this cultus with word and pen; their efforts, however, met with isolated and scanty success. Not until more than half a century later, together with the revival of Catholic life and recognition of the Church's claims, did brighter days dawn for this devotion. During the glorious pontificate of Pius IX. of happy memory, it rose to the highest point of prosperity. In the year 1856, in accordance with the petition of the French bishops, the feast of the Sacred Heart was extended to the whole Church; and in 1864 the beatification of the handmaid of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, M. Mary Alacoque, took place. Besides the manifold blessings which Our Lord God bestowed everywhere with a lavish hand on the adorers of the Heart of Jesus, nothing contributed so much to further and give importance to this cultus as the fact that the favoured disciple of the divine Heart was raised by the Church to our altars. Finally Pius IX. crowned all his exertions for the propagation of the devotion by dedicating the whole Church to the divine Heart of Our Lord. When in 1865 the bicentenary of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was celebrated, the Holy Father gave permission to every member of his flock throughout the whole Catholic world to consecrate him or her self individually in like manner, by the use of an act of consecration, the formula of which was approved by the Congregation of Rites.