BY THE REV. H. NOLDIN, S.J.
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN.
REVISED BY THE REV. W. H. KENT, O.S.C
The query now presents itself, has this devotion already fulfilled the end for which it was revealed and introduced into the Church? It has, it is true, in the course of the two centuries which have elapsed since it was first made known, spread throughout the Church; it has become in many places a popular and favourite devotion and has been fruitful in blessings; nevertheless those among the faithful who have adopted it gladly and who practise it diligently are but few among the many. The world, the sphere in which it was destined to exercise the most potent influence, to produce the greatest regenerating effect, the world which is estranged from Christ and the Church, still stands aloof, refusing to be warmed and illumined by its light and heat. If Christ the Lord desires that this devotion shall ultimately produce the fruit for the sake of which He planted it in the garden of the Church, must it not be His wish that His priests above all shall appreciate the value of this devotion, shall delight in it and themselves practise it, and employ it as a means of gaining for Him the souls for whom He lived, suffered, and died? We can certainly render no greater service to Our Lord than by making the devotion our own, and propagating it to the utmost of our power. Its history amply demonstrates that He has its extension much at heart; He would not have appeared so often to B. Margaret, He would not have instructed her Himself in every particular concerning it, He would not have made such great and glorious promises to those who should practise it, had He not regarded its adoption and extension as a matter of vital importance. And who is to spread it if priests do not? Consequently two of the promises He makes are exclusively for priests. "Those who labour for the salvation of souls," Our Lord says, " shall receive a peculiar facility for touching the heart of the most hardened sinners, and shall in general meet with wonderful success in their work, if they have a pro found devotion to the Heart of Jesus." Again, He promises that the names of all persons who take pains to spread this devotion shall be inscribed upon His Heart, never to be effaced. One would think this first promise would be sufficient to inspire us with ardent zeal for the devotion, yet Our Lord adds no less a promise than this, the grace of final perseverance, predestination to eternal felicity, to those who practise it faithfully and spread it diligently. A precious privilege indeed!
When the apostles returned from their first missionary expedition they told Our Lord with joy that they had worked miracles and in His name had cast out devils: "Lord, the devils also are subject to us in Thy name. (Luke x. 17.) " Then Our Lord answered them, saying: "Rejoice not in this, that spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven." (Luke x. 20.) And this very privilege which Christ declared to be the chief cause wherefore His disciples should rejoice, the grace of being numbered among the elect, He promises to those who promote the devotion to His Sacred Heart: "Their names shall be inscribed in My Heart, never to be effaced." We must never forget that neither priests nor religious can have full certitude of eternal salvation; it is by no means impossible for a priest, a religious, to incur that most awful doom, eternal perdition. The more we feel the paramount importance of escaping so appalling a calamity, the more assiduously shall we seek for marks of predestination and election. The saints teach us that devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is one such sign, and we learn from Our Lord's promise that zeal in the propagation of the devotion to His Sacred Heart is another.
The seminarist who looks forward to cooper ate later on in the work of improving morals and raising the tone of religious life and Christian practise; whose ambition, moreover, is to please Our Lord and render Him an acceptable service; who, finally, is desirous to make his own salvation sure, will therefore cherish a deep reverence and love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And after he has, in the tranquil seclusion of the seminary, stood by this furnace of charity till his own heart has felt its heat and caught its glow, he will go forth, and, in the sphere of action assigned to him, will diffuse its genial warmth in order to kindle a cold, unfeeling world. Thus he will fulfil the earnest desire of Him who said: "I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?" ( Luke xii. 49.)