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Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today, June 11, is the Solemn Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto has written a pastoral letter just in time for this year’s feast.

Heart Speaks to Heart is easily accessible on the website for the Archdiocese of Toronto. The Cardinal’s letter has twelve sections, starting with an explanation of why our COVID world needs devotion to the Sacred Heart.

After a year of Covid, we are all heavy laden, and in great need of rest for our souls. The spectre of sickness and death wears us down, as does the devastating effect of pandemic restrictions, which grow ever more burdensome in response to the spread of the virus. …

In the midst of this grief, we also see extraordinary examples of love and sacrifice, and selfless service to those who are afflicted, but the tensions of our times are starkly before us all. …

I firmly believe that to give us the guidance and strength required to fulfil our mission as disciples of Jesus more effectively, in a world so much in need of his love, we also need to rediscover a treasure, central to our life in Christ, that is hidden in plain sight in our Catholic spiritual heritage.

It seems ever more clear to me that especially in these days we would all do well to focus intently on the symbol of the compassionate love of Christ: the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Cardinal writes of the symbol of the Sacred Heart and its meaning, touching on its connections to social justice. He also includes some practical suggestions for this devotion and a litany for the celebration.

He reminds us of the history of this devotion, for instance, the significant role of St Margaret Mary Alocoque (1647-1690), a Visitation nun who between 1673 and 1675 received private revelations, visions during prayer of Our Lord, in which he speaks of prayer to the Sacred Heart.

He says that devotion to the Sacred Heart leads us to ponder the sacred humanity of Jesus, God with us. He reminds us of this devotion’s connection to the Church’s rich history of a commitment to social justice.

It is sometimes thought that devotion to the Sacred Heart can be rather individualistic – nothing but a personal relationship between me and Jesus. But that is the opposite of the spirituality of the Sacred Heart. We see in Jesus a love for his heavenly Father that moves outward in this world to the love of neighbour.

Toward the end of the letter are some practical suggestions for praying with this devotion: The Cardinal speaks of a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, the beauty of reading the Gospels, participation in the Mass, and placing images that remind us of the Sacred Heart. His pastoral letter serves as a reminder of the generous love of Jesus which is symbolized by the Sacred Heart.