- For other uses, see Sacred Heart (disambiguation).
Jesus' Sacred Heart
The Sacred Heart is a devotional name used by some Roman Catholics to refer to Jesus. Devotion to the Sacred Heart in focusing on Christ's heart metaphorically focuses on the emotional and moral life of Jesus and especially his love for humanity. It also stresses the central Catholic concept of loving Jesus. In the image, Christ's heart is shown containing wounds to which Jesus is pointing, including a crown of thorns. This 'wounded heart' is meant to symbolise Christ's hurt at the rejection of his message by humanity. In including the 'crown of thorns', it alludes to the manner of his death, which is further highlighted by the inclusion of crucifixion wounds on Christ's hands. Thus the Christ of the image is of a post-resurrection Jesus speaking symbolically to humanity, not the pre-crucifixion Jesus of the Gospels.
The most significant source for the devotion to the Sacred Heart was St. Margaret Mary (Alacoque) (22 July 1647 - 17 October 1690) of the Religious of the Visitation Order who claimed to have received visions of Jesus Christ. In these visions she was told that those who prayerfully looked to the Sacred Heart would be given specific graces. In his Papal Bull Auctorem Fidei Pope Pius VI praised devotion to the Sacred Heart, which had its own critics within Roman Catholicism. However devotion to the Sacred Heart has been traced back as early as St. Mechtilde (d. 1298) and St. Gertrude (d. 1302).
Following a theological review, in his encyclical Annum Sacrum (May 25, 1899) Pope Leo XIII decreed that the consecration of the entire human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus should take place. It took place on 11 June 1899. In more recent times the revered Italian cleric Padre Pio promoted and revived the concept of prayer directly to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Religious imagery of the Sacred Heart regularly featured in Catholic homes, particularly before Vatican II. Sometimes that image contained beneath it a list of family members, meaning that the entire family were devotees of the Sacred Heart, from whom blessings on the home and the family members were sought, often through the prayer "O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee". One particular image was used as part of a set, along with an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In that image, Mary too was shown pointing to her heart, expressing her maternal love for the human race and for her son, Jesus Christ. The mirror images reflect an eternal binding of the two hearts. This set of images is shown here.
Blessed Virgin Mary
Many non-Catholics, particularly fundamentalist Protestants, have criticised devotion to the Sacred Heart as idolatry. Whilst some Catholics too have been critical of the "overly sentimental" nature of such imagery and devotion, the critics also recognise that the images essentially reflect the core Christian tenet of 'love'. While Marian imagery has undergone a degree of a revival under the papacy of Pope John Paul II, who is a devotee of the Blessed Virgin, devotions to the Sacred Heart have declined somewhat, with post-Vatican II Catholic devotions focusing on different images of, and a different perspective on, Jesus Christ.
The Sacred Heart is still a widely used name for many Catholic institutions, including universities in Connecticut, USA, Tokyo, Japan and Luxembourg, and many Catholic parishes, hospitals, schools and religious orders. It is also gives its name to a holy day in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, the Feast of the Sacred Heart.