Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Devotion to the Sacred Heart Of Jesus. 40.



THE association of prayer, which has of late spread rapidly under the title of the "Apostleship of Prayer," will be explained in these pages and recommended to the reader, because it constitutes one of the simplest and most excel lent means of practising the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, because it has its true home in the seminary for priests, and because its design and work make it specially suitable for priests. In fact, it was in the seclusion of a seminary that it took its rise.

Origin of the Apostlcship of Prayer. On the feast of St. Francis Xavier in the year 1844, Fr. Gautrelet, the Superior of the House of Scholastics at Vals, near Puy, in the south of France, delivered an address to the young religious in which he invited them to commence the work of the apostolate at once by offering their prayers, their studies, and all their actions for the conversion of unbelievers and for the needs of the Church. The proposal was received with pious enthusiasm; and in order to give the matter a definite form and permanent organisation the members of the association grouped themselves in bands of twelve, and had leaflets printed on which an intention was given for which they were to offer their prayers, work, and studies. Fr. Gautrelet had not contemplated anything more than suggesting to the young men under his charge during the period of preparation for their future apostolic calling a means of exercising their zeal for souls in union with the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, who in the solitude of the tabernacle continually intercedes and offers Himself for the world's salvation. But this league, so insignificant in its origin, soon spread beyond the walls of the Jesuits' house, and was actively taken up by both clergy and laity. A powerful impulse was given to it when the Bishop of Puy granted his sanction to it, and when, later on, it was enriched with indulgences by Pius IX., who also approved the statutes. Further more, the General of the Society of Jesus granted to the members of the league a share in all the merits, prayers, and good works of the members of his Order; and almost all religious orders and congregations have since accorded to it the same favour. The development of the league and its extension throughout the world was astonishingly rapid; its members may now be counted by millions. 1 This is due to the action of the Holy Ghost Himself, who in an age in which faith and morals are more imperilled than ever, awakens the spirit of prayer in the hearts of the faithful and stimulates it to fresh vigour and energy. This association has since been confirmed in its substance and perfected in its form by new statutes approved by Leo XIII. in 1896, when its relation to the Confraternity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was definitely determined.

1 It is impossible to give more than a proximate estimate of the number of the members. To judge by the certificates of admission issued by the director general it must amount to over twelve millions.