BY THE REV. H. NOLDIN, S.J.
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN.
REVISED BY THE REV. W. H. KENT, O.S.C
VI. THE SPREAD OF THE DEVOTION.
I.THERE is not one among the various devotions practised in the Catholic Church which does not owe its origin to the guidance of divine Providence, to the operation of the Holy Ghost, who governs the whole Church. They are all so many means for the betterment of morals, for the exaltation of religion, placed by God within the reach of the faithful in order that they may attain their last end more securely and certainly, more worthily and perfectly.
Whenever an extraordinary need arises in the Church, whenever some particular evil finds a footing in her fold, God in His loving care provides an extraordinary means to meet that exigency, to check the growth of that evil. As in the time of St. Dominic He introduced the rosary, and in the time of St. Bernardine of Sienna the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, as a fitting remedy for the spiritual maladies of the age, so at a more recent date He gave us the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for the purpose of rekindling the light of faith, the flame of charity in an unbelieving, unloving world. The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the devotion most needed in our own day.
Nearly four hundred years before the revelations vouchsafed to B. Margaret Mary, St. Gertrude, on St. John the Evangelist's day, had the famous vision which is of importance for the sake of estimating the devotion of which we speak at its true value.
We read, in the "Insinuations of Divine Piety," that upon Gertrude, who had a great love and devotion to the Heart of Jesus, asking St. John why it was that he, having lain on Our Lord's breast at the Last Supper, had not explained for the good of the Church the love of His divine Heart, the saint replied to her in these memorable words. "His task," he said, "was to record for the Church, as yet in her infancy, words from the lips of the uncreated word of the Father; whereas the treasures of the divine Heart were reserved to be revealed at a later time, when the world should be growing old and become tepid, that by the remembrance of this mystery it might be re kindled and reawakened to the love of God. All that the divine Saviour revealed to His privileged servant, B. Margaret, fully coincides with this statement. It was on occasion of the apparition already mentioned, on the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, that Our Lord told her His great desire for an increase of love on man's part had determined Him to disclose to them His Heart, and open to them all the treasures of charity, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation contained within it. Moreover, He added, this devotion was a final exertion of His charity, wherewith it was His will to favour the Christians of these last centuries, inasmuch as this devotion was at one and the same time the stimulating motive and the most efficacious means of stirring them up to love Him, to love Him fervently and truly.
That which is plainly apparent in the history of the origin of the devotion is no less evident if we consider the state of religion in the present day. The devotion to the Heart of Jesus is destined by God to fulfil a great mission; it is to be instrumental in renewing the face of the earth; and it may confidently be hoped that through its influence by the mercy and grace of God, Christian faith and practical piety will be promoted and elevated throughout the Catholic world.