The great mercy of the Lord is reflected in the words of the twelve promises He made to Saint Margaret Mary during the course of His appearances to her, in which He revealed the devotion to His Sacred Heart and His desire that this devotion be firmy established, recognised, and actively spread throughout the Church and all the world.
These promises offer us all the graces we need throughout life and at death; peace and confort in our difficulties; blessings on all we do; the graces necessary to move from the lukewarmness of faith to the fire of sanctity and to perfection; the certainty of His divine refuge and protection; and the grace of final perseverance, dying with the fortification of the Sacraments.
Astonishingly, then, this devotion is not as much practiced as you would think it should be, considering all the Lord offers us. Why is this? I think in our day, there are a number of reasons to explain this.
Firstly, we are in an era where Faith has less significance than it did in times past, even one or two generations ago. It doesn’t matter, then, what the Lord promises us, if we do not know Him or believe in Him. We cannot love what we do not know; and we will not spend the time and energy getting to know something which seems to us to have no relevance.
Secondly, the promises of the Sacred Heart are not about ‘instant gratification’ – unlike the present age, where we want everything (and often get everything) right now. Rather, the promises demand something from us – perseverance coupled with trust. These promises are – in a sense – similar to the promise of a tree which will one day grow from the little seed in our hand; we need to plant the seed first of all, and then tend it carefully over time. But if we do so, that seed will germinate, produce the tree it offers and then give us it’s fruit. In other words, it is only by living the devotion to the Sacred Heart, making it part of who and what we are, that the graces blossom.
Thirdly, we have perhaps lost the sense of eternity. For many, only the present moment exists. Tomorrow is a hope, while eternity is so much stuff and nonsense. To believe in eternity means to question what we are in ourselves – finite, creatures, with a purpose. Eternity tells us that if we are finite, then there is Another Who is infinite; that if we are creatures, then there is a Creator; that we have a destiny, we form part of a plan greater than ourselves.
Fourthly, the world in which we live often simultaneously presents to us the contradictory messages that we are all (and self) important, but have no lasting value; these promises, on the other hand, tell us precisely the opposite – we are infinitely loved and we have a unique place within that Divine Love.
The Second Vatican Council went to great lengths to remind us of the universal call to holiness – every single one of us is called to be a saint, to “be perfect, as your Father is perfect” (cf. Mt.5:48). Most recently, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminded us explicitly of this call in his beautiful Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Gaudete Et Exsultate’, (On The Call To Holiness In Today’s World). It is a very inspiring document, one we should all take the time and trouble to read and ponder at heart. Responding to the graces offered to us by the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a way of walking that path of deepening sanctity, because this is what divine grace does – it sanctifies us.
Writing some three hundred years ago in his seminal book, ‘The Secret Of Mary’, Saint Louis Marie de Montfort had this to say on the subject of the call to holiness –
“It is certain that growth in the holiness of God is your vocation.. Everything.. must lead to that end. Otherwise, you are resisting God in not doing the work for which He created you.”
Saint Augustine put it all very simply when we wrote that “our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in Thee”.
Without the Lord, without His divine love, and without His divine grace living and active within us, everything else will remain empty and – ultimately – without real meaning. His love changes everything – and it changes us.
Perhaps today, on this First Friday of the month, we might all take a moment to read and think about these beautiful promises of the Lord regarding the devotion to His Sacred Heart; and perhaops this will be a moment of grace for us, enkindling within our poor hearts a little flickering flame of love for Him.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us, for we place all our trust in Thee.
The Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, given to St Margaret Mary Alacoque
1. I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
2. I will establish peace in their homes.
3. I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
5. I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
6. Sinners will find in My Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
9. I will bless every place in which an image of My Heart is exposed and honored.
10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart.
12. I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in My disgrace, nor without receiving their Sacraments. My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.