by Boudreaux, Florentin, 1821-1894
Such is the tendency of modern rebellion against God; such the danger which now threatens our race. Goodness and virtue, God and Religion are attacked in their last stronghold, the heart of man ; and from the hearts of those who are foremost in the hostile camp they have already been expelled. To meet this new attack, God gives His Church a new defence, opens a new asylum, erects a new bulwark. As the heart of man is the threatened point, the Heart of Jesus is the defence ; it is opened as a city of refuge ; it closes around us as a wall of protection. Our hearts are brought under the influence of a divine Heart, and learn to esteem what it esteemed, to love what it loved, to hate what it hated. They are made familiar with its infinite beauties, its inexhaustible treasures, its divine virtues, its ineffable excellence ; and while they cannot avoid loving it, they must desire to resemble it ; and this gradually fills them with its spirit, infuses its virtues into them and saves them from the corrupting influences of the worldly spirit. We need not wonder, therefore, that, when this new and unexpected device of God’s watchful Providence over His Elect was discovered by His opponents, no means were left untried by them to destroy or to weaken its power. Their instinct told them that the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus would foil all their plans and defeat all their attempts ; and, therefore, they summoned up all their energies to combat the devotion, to decry it, to ridicule it, to crush it. They enlisted against it all the talent they could command. Theologians, philosophers, journalists, encyclopedists turned their learning, their sophistry, their wit and sarcasm against the new devotion.
Even a pretended council was assembled to condemn it as a false and dangerous novelty. But all in vain. Satan can resist God, but he cannot. The Synod of Pistoia was convoked, in opposition to the Holy See, by the schismatical Bishop, Scipio Ricci, in 1786. Its decrees were condemned. The Bull of Pius VI., “ Auctorem Fidei ,” finally ended the long contest and gave the victory to the devotion, in 1794. overcome Him. The devotion to the Sacred Heart had come from God, as the necessary remedy for the threatening evil of the times, and therefore, though it naturally excited as violent a storm of opposition as His sworn enemies could raise, it was necessarily victorious, by virtue of the Divine Omnipotence by which it was supported. The Church, true to the instinct which tells her where her safety lies, embraced the devotion with eager joy. The Holy See, which speaks with the in- fallible authority of God when it decides what is and what is not conformable to the truth either in belief or in practice, solemnly approved the devotion and urged its adoption on the Faithful, as a means to arouse in their hearts that tender, personal love for the Incarnate Word, which would counteract the personal hatred of God and of His Christ, engendered and fostered by the spirit of modern infidelity. The children of the Church, obedient to the voice of their Mother warning them of danger, have fled for refuge to the secure asylum of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They are few in number, like those who found safety in the Ark when the Deluge was at hand ; but they come from all lands, and with eager, fearful yet hopeful earnestness, they press on towards the opening made in the side of the new Ark of salvation, which will save them from destruction. And now there is a spirit stirring the great heart of the Church : it is a spirit of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Cities and Dioceses have felt its movement; kingdoms and armies have obeyed its voice; Religious orders and pious associations have acknowledged its power. And hence we have heard of cities and dioceses, kingdoms and armies. Religious orders and pious associations publicly and solemnly consecrating themselves to the Sacred Heart. And this spirit of consecration will continue to whisper to the heart of the Church, it will continue to speak of the perils which surround her, of the safety which the Sacred Heart offers, until the whole Church, in every land under heaven, will send up to the Sacred Heart of Jesus one universal, solemn act, consecrating herself and all her children to its worship, to its honor, to its defence, to the tenderest personal love for the Incarnate God, whose Heart is so beautifully loving, so bountifully provident, so gloriously overflowing with grace and virtue and strength for her protection.
But this tender love for the Divine Person of our Lord can be produced only by a familiar intercourse with Him. We must know Him, know especially His love for us; else we can not love Him. “Ignoti nulla cupido.” But where our hearts find a Heart that loves them truly, unselfishly, ardently, they can not help loving that Heart in return. And when love for the sacred Person of our Saviour has been enkindled in us, our hearts are safe. The spirit of God has been poured into them and has produced that filial affection which cries out, “Abba, Father ! ” and which is a foretaste as well as a pledge of the joys of our great Father's house in heaven. Intense personal love of God, which is to be our beatitude eternally, has begun to be our happy occupation here. Earth is changed into heaven. The banished sons of Adam are restored to Paradise and to the familiarity with God, which made Paradise the ante-chamber of heaven. We have therefore taken this idea of a return to Paradise, as the groundwork of the following considerations on the Sacred Heart. This Heart is, in very deed, the master-piece of creation, in all that is lovely, delightful, sweet, gentle, beautiful, magnificent. It is a Paradise infinitely more favored than was the garden of Eden from which sin expelled us. The virtues of the Sacred Heart are the flowers, the blossoms, the fruits, whose sweetness and whose nourishment give health and life, and prepare us for the eternal Paradise of heaven. But since these virtues of the Sacred Heart were practised by our Divine Lord for love of us, so that we might be induced, by the strongest motive, to imitate His examples ; and since this imitation is, at the same time, a necessary condition of our sharing in the merits of His redemption, and a necessary consequence of the love which will bind our hearts to His ; the Paradise of His Heart becomes also a school in which He Himself is our Teacher and in which He Himself gives us lessons and examples in the science of the Saints. This appeared to be the most practical, the most solid, as well as the most tender and affectionate development of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We all know what beautiful love unites together the hearts of docile scholars and the heart of a truly good, wise, devoted and affectionate teacher ; how easily and naturally the disciples are drawn, by their love of the Master, to think with him, to speak as he speaks, to live as he lives. May we not hope, then, that our love for a Divine Teacher, for an infinitely wise, tender, affectionate Master, will produce in us the same happy result? Let us, therefore, enter into this beautiful and divine Paradise ; let us feast our souls on its heavenly fruits and adorn them with its undying blossoms. Happy we, if its loveliness charms our hearts to dwell forever within its happy and holy cloisters, to make our permanent home, for time and eternity, in this Paradise of God.