BY THE REV. H. NOLDIN, S.J.
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN.
REVISED BY THE REV. W. H. KENT, O.S.C
If flourishing and prosperous confraternities already exist in any parish, and fulfil satisfactorily the object for which they were instituted, it would be advisable not to erect the Confraternity of the Sacred Heart, but to con tent one's self with introducing the Apostleship of Prayer, of which we shall speak presently. Or if confraternities already exist, but have lost much of their influence and usefulness, without, however, having lost all vitality or being unsuited to the exigencies of the day, such as the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament or of the Rosary, it would be better to awaken them to fresh life and activity rather than introduce others. Now, the Apostleship of Prayer is an excellent means of revivifying what has become torpid, since not being itself a confraternity it in nowise interferes with or supplants such associations, but will serve to promote and encourage their growth.
Finally, if there should exist confraternities that have become antiquated and no longer fulfil the end for which they were instituted or meet the needs of the times, as for instance the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, established at one period in many places, they had better be dissolved and others substituted in their place. In fact it is the same with con fraternities as with the devotions of the Church; some have a general import and are suited for all times and all places, as, for example, the confraternity of a good death, besides the two already mentioned. Others are called into existence to meet the circumstances of the time being, which change with the passing years. Divine Providence has appointed for our own day among others the Confraternity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Daily experience proves that these more recent confraternities meet with a more favourable reception from the faithful than one ventured to hope for, and flourish to a greater extent than was anticipated.
The priest who contemplates establishing the Confraternity of the Sacred Heart in his parish ought in the first place to pray fervently and offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass in order to obtain the blessing of God on the proposed undertaking; and he will do well to follow B. Peter Faber's example and invoke the aid of the guardian angels of his parishioners, praying them to inspire the souls committed to their charge with love and veneration for the Heart of Jesus.
In the erection of the confraternity care must be taken not to omit any formality which has been declared essential; so that the members may really participate in the spiritual privileges and the indulgences attached thereto. An omission of this nature cannot be repaired; it would be necessary either to erect the confraternity over again or obtain a remedy (sanatio) from the Holy See.
If this confraternity is to produce the looked-for results in the congregation, it is all important that vitality should be given to it and its vigour maintained by the discretion and zeal of their pastor. Accordingly he must see that his flock are, by means of a suitable discourse, made thoroughly acquainted with the Sacred Heart and the veneration due to it; that they should appreciate and value the confraternity and deem it a privilege and a pleasure to be received into it, and take part in its devotional exercises gladly and regularly. If there is an evening service held in the church every day, an act of reparation or some other short devotion in honour of the Sacred Heart might be added to the usual devotions on the first Friday of the month. It is indispensable for the welfare of the confraternity that once a month regularly, if possible on the first Sunday, a service should be held, at which, besides devotions to the Sacred Heart, a short sermon should be preached, and in addition to the usual act of reparation, prayers should be offered for the members of the confraternity, both living and dead. If a sermon cannot well be delivered on the subject, at any rate a few earnest impressive words concerning the Sacred Heart might be spoken at the close of the usual catechetical lecture. A zealous priest will not experience much difficulty in making the Sunday in question a day of general communion for the greater part of his flock. On the first Friday of the month he can have the picture or statue on the altar of the confraternity suitably decorated and say Mass there.