June – Month of the Sacred Heart – 4

The Link Between Devotion to the Sacred Heart and Devotion to the Divine Mercy

St. Margaret Mary Alcoque Photo by Lawrence OP (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/2945861795St. Margaret Mary Alcoque Photo by Lawrence OP (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/2945861795

Concluding our look at the Catholic observance of dedicating June to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this week we are examining the link between devotion to the Sacred Heart and devotion to the Divine Mercy.

An article which is very helpful in giving us a start to understanding this link is to be found at https://cruxnow.com/church/2016/05/sacred-heart-and-divine-mercy-two-devotions-one-message/  from the CRUX website.   Entitled “Sacred Heart and Divine Mercy: Two Devotions, One Message” and written by Fr. Jeffery Kirby in 2016, it draws attention to the striking similarity of the two saints most connected with the two devotions – St. Margaret Mary Alocoque and St. Faustina Kowalska.    As described last week, in the seventeenth century during her visions of Jesus the former gave to the world the devotion to the Sacred Heart as it is recognised today and the latter from her visions of Jesus gave us the devotion to Divine Mercy in the twentieth century.

Fr. Kirby writes of St. Margaret Mary that she was a simple French Visitation nun who was “known to be of modest intellect and clumsy in her duties” and he describes the poorly educated St. Faustina as “a meek Polish nun.” We can all take great heart that these two apparently ordinary women whose lives would have seemed to have passed unnoticed by the world were both personally visited by the Lord and entrusted with His message for us all. Quietly working on the routine (probably sometimes boring) daily tasks in the convent and attending to their prayer life they were each building a deep relationship of great love with Jesus. In His personal love for them He gave them the messages that He so desires each of us to know and now these devotions have spread throughout the world bringing Christ’s love, compassion and mercy to so many in the saving of their souls.  What an achievement!

Both saints are a great inspiration to us that we, the little people, can do a great deal and we need to not underestimate this. Wherever we are and whatever we do we can do it in great love for the Lord and He will turn our efforts into huge successes (most of which we will probably never know about until we meet the Lord in eternal life – and, hopefully, what a surprise it will be!). Two other great saints who draw our attention to this are St. Therese of Lisieux  (the Little Flower) and St. Mother Teresa. The former (a humble, enclosed Carmelite nun whose very short life ended at age twenty four) advises us that what matters in life is not great deeds but small things done with great love – the “Little Way.” Following her example, St. Mother Teresa encourages us by pointing out that we cannot all do great things but we can all do small things with great love. With the help of the prayers of these four great women we can all turn our personal disappointments, doubts, fears, anxieties and frustrations in our homes, workplaces etc. into a direct channel to the love, compassion and mercy of God – the essence of these two devotions.

In his article, Fr. Kirby in pondering the similarity of the messages of the Sacred Heart and the Divine Mercy, draws our attention to the similarity of their images and examines the historical contexts of each devotion.

In the seventeenth century, set against the heresies of Jansenism, he shows how “The Sacred Heart message of God’s burning heart of love eclipsed and replaced the false Jansenistic image of God’s fiery wrath and vengeance.”  In the twentieth century in the time between the great cruelty and suffering of the two World Wars, devotion to Divine Mercy was born.  In Fr. Kirby’s words, “ In the midst of the human drama that involved two massive wars of worldwide proportions, the rays of God’s mercy and grace overshadowed humanity’s rays of anger and justice. God was showing humanity another way.”

Fr. Kirby finally concludes “…blatantly the two devotions have one message: Humanity is good and is greatly loved by God, and God generously offers mercy to all…God is seeking to show humanity a better way. Alongside the reality of humanity’s falleness and sinfulness, is the reality of fraternal compassion and mercy. Humanity was made for greater things than pessimism, exclusionism, and rigourism.

He advises us that the degree to which we are willing to listen to and live the message of mercy of these two devotions is “…the degree to which there will be peace in one’s heart, and peace in the world.”

There are many other authors and articles which will help us to build on the link between the two devotions with the aim, of course, of drawing ever closer to the heart of Jesus by truly appreciating His love and mercy and extending it to others. Below are two:

Firstly, the short piece at: https://www.thedivinemercy.org/articles/sacred-heart-and-divine-mercy  and the more scholarly series by Robert Stackpole STD, director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, at:  https://www.thedivinemercy.org/articles/difference-emphasis

Don’t forget the wonderful first class relic of St. Faustina which we are incredibly fortunate to have at St. Edward’s and which is housed in the reliquary in the wall to the right of the sanctuary.

Although we may not be able to access it currently, we can visualise our church where it and our first class relic of St. Edward both are, know that they are near us wherever we are and remember to ask them for their intercession for whatever we may be praying for.

St. Faustina RelicImage by Kate Smyth-Stevens