- Eugene de Mazenod's devotion to the Sacred Heart
- How this devotion should be understood
- The Oblate tradition
The present article lays no claim to giving a full explanation of the Church’s teaching on the Sacred Heart. Rather, it is a study of how our Founder lived his devotion to the Sacred Heart; what this devotion meant to him and what significance it had for the Oblates. Pope Paul VI noted that Eugene de Mazenod was “an individual passionately devoted to Jesus Christ”. Consequently, we should consider his devotion to the Sacred Heart as one aspect of his devotion to the person of Jesus. For the rest we should refer to the basic article on Jesus Christ in this Dictionary.
Eugene de Mazenod’s devotion to the Sacred Heart
There is no document extant from Eugene’s childhood to tell us how he was introduced to devotion to the Sacred Heart. On the other hand, we know that this devotion found an important place in his life under the influence of Don Bartolo Zinelli in Venice. With regard to the spiritual exercises suggested by his spiritual mentor, we read the following: “I will unite my insignificant acts of adoration with those of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, of the Angels and the Saints… I will respectfully kiss my crucifix in the area of the Wounded Heart” (we will return to the theme of this intimate gesture later on). Father Magy, who became his confidant when he was discerning his vocation, was involved in leading a group of pious individuals in Marseilles which was a center for devotion to and apostolate of the Sacred Heart. 
At the Seminary of Saint Sulpice, under the influence of the French School of spirituality, his devotion to the Sacred Heart deepened. Pierre de Bérulle stressed what he called the “interior” Jesus, that is, the most profound attitudes and sentiments of Christ. As a result, Eugene de Mazenod learned to enter into the depth of the mysteries of Jesus to find in the heart of Jesus the intimate life of the man-God in its entirety.
From the beginning of his ministry he revived devotion to the Sacred Heart, a devotion that was very much alive in Aix in pre-Revolutionary days. Indeed, in 1721, in the wake of the plague that had ravaged Marseilles, the Archbishop of Aix, following the example of Bishop de Belzunce, decreed that the feast of the Sacred Heart would be celebrated in the diocese the first Friday following the Octave of the Blessed Sacrament. Before this, Father Timothée de Raynier, a member of the Congregation of the Minimes of Aix, had published in 1662, L’homme intérieur ou l’idée du parfait chrétien, in which he wrote: “What happiness to be united to Jesus Christ in his Sacred Heart which was ever united to God, not only by the hypostatic union, but also by the union of the acts of his love”.  Consequently, it was a long-standing tradition in Eugene de Mazenod’s native city, a tradition to which Eugene had an affinity and into which he infused new life.
In 1819, the Pious Union of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was set up in Aix in the Oblate church known as “of the Mission”.  In 1822, Father de Mazenod published a pamphlet under the title Exercice à l’honneur du Sacré-Coeur qui se fait par les agrégés tous les premiers vendredis de chaque mois dans l’église du Sacré-Coeur, dite de la Mission, à Aix. It is in the Oblate chapel as well that the annual feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated each year. The celebrations consisted of a solemn High Mass and a procession through the Cours to the mission cross. After Father de Mazenod’s departure for Marseilles, the Oblates maintained this tradition – as we can see from reports given in the Codex of the house and in the local press. For example, there was a long article published in the June 9, 1853 issue of La Provence, describing the solemn Mass celebrated by the Archbishop, the procession following the traditional route with participation by the civil authorities and the military. Meanwhile in Marseilles, Father de Mazenod remained spiritually united to the ceremonies celebrated at Aix in honor of the Sacred Heart. So it was that in a letter to Father Hippolyte Courtès he expressed his regret at not having received a detailed report about the feast of the Sacred Heart: “On that day, I was with you in spirit, and twenty times, I would even say a hundred times, I uttered some pious exclamation in your direction […]” 
A perusal of the letters he wrote after his departure from Aix in 1823 yields only a few references to the Sacred Heart, but they are significant. For example, in a letter to Father Henry Tempier he spoke approvingly of an initiative seeking favors through the intercession of Marguerite Mary Alacoque, the servant of God: “The Jesuits […] are bringing to the tomb of the Lord’s servant two of their desperately ill members in the hope they will be cured. I would wish this with all my heart for the sake of the most holy devotion to the Sacred Heart”.  Writing to Father Tempier, who was in Rome at the time, he described the ceremonies in honor of the Sacred Heart at Marseilles: “You know how things went here but you could never get any idea from the papers of the beauty, emotion and divine quality of our celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart […] It was a magnificent evening”.  Even if he hardly mentions it in his letters, Father de Mazenod left his Oblates the example of a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart as these few words from Father Joseph Gérard bear witness: “I have just learnt that your Lordship has fallen seriously ill […] We remember with edification your great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and we are going to appeal to this Sacred Heart with the most ardent confidence”. 
How this devotion should be understood
Eugene de Mazenod never composed any treatise on this or on any other subject. Consequently, we must search through his letters and his reflections on his ministry to find out how he lived this devotion. The following characteristics stand out clearly.
1. TO ADHERE TO JESUS CHRIST
If we want to understand Eugene’s devotion to the Heart of Jesus, we must not focus exclusively on his explicit references to it. Indeed, we repeat that his attachment to the person of Christ is for him something basic which he expresses in ways that are very different. It is in this vein that he speaks to Abbé Joseph-Marie Timon-David: “There is no need for me to recommend to you to develop in your young people a thorough understanding that in adoring Our Lord’s Sacred Heart, they should not so much focus their attention on this sacred object of their love as they should extend it to the living person of Jesus Christ who is present”. 
2. TO LOVE WITH CHRIST
He wrote to his mother: “To give honor to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to drink in the love of God at its very fountainhead”.  In the seminary, he expressed it as “the feast of Jesus Christ’s love for man”.  As a result, he wishes to love others with the intensity of the love of Christ.
3. TO CONFORM ONE’S LIFE TO THAT OF CHRIST
As for himself, he wants “to be a priest according to his Heart, for everything is contained in that one word”.  As he states in his diary, the Heart of Jesus is “the prototype for our hearts”.  We should deepen our understanding of everything that flows from the loving Heart of Jesus Christ, not only for all people, but in particular for his apostles and disciples”. 
In a special way to follow Christ as the witness of the fatherly mercy of God, even for the greatest sinners, is the attitude that Father de Mazenod adopted in his ministry with the prisoners and subsequently in his preaching of parish missions. This was the perspective that guided him when he introduced the moral theology of Saint Alphonsus into France. InHistoire des catholiques en France, we read that the movement inspired by the thought of Saint Alphonsus which was “a major event in the pastoral field, […] spread throughout southern France where Mazenod and his Oblates promoted it”.  We may not find a specific text in which Father de Mazenod explicitly associates the Sacred Heart with Saint Alphonsus’ theology. Nonetheless, it is evident that in his missionary praxis the two harmonized perfectly. He is a witness of mercy as a result of his contemplation of the love without measure in the Heart of Jesus.
The same spiritual attitude is found in the pamphlet of prayer drawn up by Father de Mazenod for the exercises of the First Friday of the month. A large place is given to “the crown in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”. It is a collection of prayers to which one adds “an Our Father and five Gloria Patri in honor of the five wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ and of his Sacred Heart”. The heart and the five wounds are the external signs of the love of Christ for all. Thus Father de Mazenod wants the love of Christ contemplated and praised through these exercises. Considering the five wounds along with the heart harks back to an ancient tradition. “In the initial stages, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was associated with the devotion to his five wounds and his passion; the separation between the two took place gradually”.  As we have seen earlier in this article, this tradition came to Eugene through Don Zinelli.
Foremost in these prayers in honor of the Heart of Jesus is a contemplation which admires. Each invocation begins with an act of faith filled with wonder. “O my Jesus, I admire your Heart so patient” (p. 6). “Let them sing, O Jesus, the praises of your generous Heart” (p. 6). When he contemplates the unbounded love of Christ, the individual Christian becomes aware of his own wretchedness; he then asks forgiveness for his sins by expressing his abhorrence of being found so different from Christ (p. 6). All that he can do is to beg for the grace of an interior renewal to “render love for love” (p. 5). The request for the gift of love reappears several times: “pour into my heart a keen steadfast love” (p. 6). This brings to mind the prayer written by Eugene during his retreat in preparation for his priestly ordination. 
One does not find a debate about devotion to the Sacred Heart in the writings of the Founder. But what is found is the witness of an apostle who has discovered the immensity of the love of Christ, and who wants to fathom it ever more deeply and introduce the faithful to whom he ministers to this same experience.
The Oblate tradition
In faithfulness to our Founder, devotion to the Sacred Heart is one of our spiritual riches.
1. THE EXPRESSION OF THE DEVOTION
Oblates speak of their confidence in the Heart of Jesus very simply in the letters or reports coming from the missions. I point out a few examples. In his diary, Bishop Vital Grandin mentioned his trials and difficulties: the fire at Red River, insults heaped upon him by a Protestant minister, health problems, travel, “Finally, sufficiently recovered, I arrived at the mission of the Sacred Heart, Fort Simpson. The Heart of Jesus strengthened mine.”  Father Florimond Gendre recalls his missionary voyages: “You will be happy in the new scholasticate of the Sacred Heart. And how indeed could one not be happy in the proximity of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary?”  The editor of Missions reminds us of the importance of devotion to the Sacred Heart: “The Sacred Heart has deemed it appropriate to cast a favoring glance on our modest Congregation and associated it with his plans, […] the Oblates everywhere are apostles of this devotion of love and reparation”.  The Oblates were pleased to spread this devotion, as Father Prosper Légeard, missionary at Ile-à-la-Crosse: “One thing which pleases me greatly is the fact that they are beginning to have a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart. All of them have in their possession the holy pictures that we made for them, which they keep and treasure”.  Bishop Arsène Turquetil wrote: “It goes without saying that it was with great gratitude to the Sacred Heart that I read the letter of our two missionaries”.  We could multiply quotations of this type. A perusal of Missions would provide us with an abundant supply of them.
2. THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION
To facilitate a sober reflection on devotion to the Sacred Heart the editor of Missions published notes found among the papers of Father Ambrose Vincens, who was Assistant General from 1850.  These notes give us some grasp of how the Oblates understood devotion to the Sacred Heart. At the outset, he focuses on what is most essential: “God is love; whence springs an image that captures for us, all the more effectively, the God who portrays this charity in most vivid fashion”.  To illustrate the appropriateness of this devotion, Father Vincens reminds us that long before our Lord appeared to Saint Marguerite Mary, spiritual masters such as Origen and Saint Augustine had recommended recourse to the merciful love of the Savior. As a true son of Father de Mazenod, Father Vincens is aware of the missionary character of devotion to the Sacred Heart. He sees in it a manifestation of God’s mercy as opposed to the rigorism of Jansenism that he calls “a heresy without compassion”.  He sees in it a call to dedicate ourselves to the poor: “[Devotion to the Sacred Heart] will look with compassion on the indigent individual, the orphan, the widow, the abandoned child, on all the ostracized of the earth. It will wear itself out and spend itself entirely for all these unfortunate people, even on behalf of its enemies – and you claim it does not flow from the heart!”  He sees in it a source of strength in the face of trials. During the Revolution, the Heart of Jesus was “a refuge for those who gave witness to the faith … source of consolation”. 
From this presentation, he draws some practical conclusions. The concrete attitude of Oblates must be to respond to the love of God – especially in the celebration and adoration of the Eucharist – and in fraternal charity. These reflections on the part of Father Vincens restate the convictions of our Founder on behalf of all Oblates.
3. APOSTOLATE OF THE OBLATES
In order to propagate devotion to the Sacred Heart among Christians, the Oblates were given the responsibility of staffing some important shrines, the first of which was Montmartre. The is narrated in Paguelle de Follenay’s biography of Cardinal Hippolyte Guibert.  The project originated with two laymen, M. Legentil and M. Rohault de Fleury, with others joining them later. Their objective was to “to erect a religious monument destined to ward off from their city the retribution of divine wrath”.  Bishop Guibert, Archbishop of Tours at the time, was approached to be the patron of this project. At the outset, he was understandably hesitant since, in the wake of the destruction wrought by the war of 1870-1871, all Catholic works needed to be rebuilt. He possibly also sensed the ambivalence inherent in this project. Indeed, the political climate of this period was characterized by an ever-widening rift between the majority of Catholics and the stalwart supporters of the French Republic. The Histoire des catholiques en France, quoted above, speaks of “the state of French Catholicism between 1870 and 1880 at a time when it came in political conflict with the appearance of the Third Republic.  Those who were promoting the project of a Basilica in honor of the Sacred Heart considered the Republic as the source of all the evils that had befallen France. By entrusting themselves to the Sacred Heart, they wanted to see the royal government restored in Paris and the authority of Pius IX re-asserted over the Papal States. 
Despite the ambiguous motivation behind this project, we Oblates need have no doubts as to Cardinal Guibert’s sincerity in his fidelity to Eugene de Mazenod’s spiritual heritage. For him, devotion to the Sacred Heart was a basic value. Against the advice of many, he chose Montmartre as the site of the future basilica because it was the Mount of the Martyrs, the spot where the first missionaries of the Ile-de-France shed their blood for the Gospel. Another motivating factor for the Cardinal’s choice was that, at this time, Montmartre was a poor residential quarter of the city and, in order to remain faithful to the Oblate motto, the Cardinal wanted first and foremost to evangelize these people through prayer. Unfortunately, by choosing the spot that gave rise to the revolt of the “Commune”, he was not aware that he would provoke protest from the faction opposed to the Church. We can, however, affirm that his goal in building the basilica was strictly a religious one: “To make reparation to God for past faults and to pledge future fidelity through the Heart of Jesus”.  Wanting to give this monument the symbolic value of “a national vow”, he solicited the support of Julian Simon, Minister of Public Worship, asking him to obtain the approval of the Chamber for this project, by recognizing it as being a public utility. The law was passed in July of 1873.
Before the basilica was completed he had built a temporary chapel which he entrusted to the Oblates on March 3, 1876. The Oblates’ apostolate at Montmartre had a powerful impact on the Congregation as a whole, something we should never forget. We will highlight the most important traits that still carry a significance for us today. Since the Oblates were already in charge of a number of shrines (Lumières, Bonsecours, Cléry, etc.), they already knew from experience how to organize a pilgrimage center.
Their first objective was to make of Montmartre a place for prayer. It would be prayer of praise and thanksgiving, as well as reparation for past sins according to the direction given by Cardinal Guibert. Consequently, each day several Masses were celebrated, and prayers were organized at different moments of the day. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed was the type of prayer which was to take on more and more importance. Initially it was done on certain days, then a night vigil provided the presence of worshipers and, finally, perpetual adoration was established. Volunteers for adoration during the night were recruited from the whole of France. At the end of a twenty-year period, the tally showed four thousand men adorers and six thousand women. In his report written on the occasion of the twenty-five years of presence of the Oblates at Montmartre, Father Edmund Thiriet was able to write: “The wonder of Montmartre at present is its program of perpetual adoration”. 
They aimed to help Christians deepen their faith. With this goal in mind, the Oblates preached every day to instruct the faithful – they sometimes preached up to four times a day, including weekdays. They organized Christians in different associations, according to their professions or in groups under a variety of titles, as for example, the “Sacred Heart Circle” for young people who committed themselves to live their Christian life to the full and to spread their faith. They established a “choir school” to embellish liturgical celebrations. Indeed, the choir school was also a milieu in which some young people discovered their vocation to become Oblates and others a calling to the diocesan priesthood.
The spread of Montmartre’s influence was also due to the work of the Oblates. They published a newsletter that quickly spread to every corner of France. They sought and obtained from Rome approval for an Arch-confraternity of the Sacred Heart, richly endowed with indulgences. They invited the local churches to become associated with their program of perpetual adoration. This “universal adoration” in union with Montmartre once numbered up to ten thousand churches and chapels in its membership. Montmartre chaplains crisscrossed the country fostering devotion to the Sacred Heart. Father Jean-Baptiste Lémius, in particular, built up a reputation as a talented preacher. Two works are worthy of special mention.
Firstly, the association ofPriest-apostles of the Sacred Heart. It began with prayer for priests; then ceremonies for young priests who came to entrust their priestly life to Jesus Christ, and then it became a spiritual association of priests with the objective of honoring the priesthood of Jesus Christ and to pray for vocations.  What is especially worthy of note for us Oblates is that this movement counted Saint John the Apostle among its patrons. We can see here a development of the thinking of our Founder who commits us to walking in the footsteps of the Apostles, our elders in our adherence to Christ. By spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Oblates often made reference to Saint John. During that same period, and as a fruit of the same kind of thinking, a statue of Saint John was installed in the church of Aix-en-Provence (1873). Among the Apostles that the Oblates acknowledge as their “first fathers”, Saint John holds a special place because he was a trusted intimate of the Heart of Jesus and he received the mother of Jesus into his house.
Secondly, the Work for the Poor was founded in 1894 by Father Jean – Baptiste Lémius. It resulted from his conviction that it was not enough to simply preach the good news; but one had to help the poor in a concrete way. At the time, this objective was achieve by charitable works. Every Sunday he would gather many poor people, celebrate Mass for them, instruct them and offer them a half-kilo portion of bread. Three times a week he would organize a session for religious instruction and distribute hot soup. He set up a clinic, a place to distribute clothing and, of capital importance, a juridical consulting service to defend poor people against injustices. Father Lémius was a talented enough orator to arouse the voluntary help needed for his works and to collect generous gifts.
In surveying the Oblates’ twenty-seven years of apostolate at Montmartre, we can echo the praise expressed by François Veuillot in the March 29, 1903 edition of l’Univers: “Fiery apostles, persevering individuals, devoted and enthralling preachers, reliable and wise organizers, leaders of the masses and founders of works”. 
Among other shrines dedicated to the Sacred Heart and entrusted to Oblate zeal, the most renowned is that of Brussels. The initiative to build a basilica in honor of the Sacred Heart as a religious endeavor and national project was due to Leopold II, King of Belgium. The temporary chapel where the Oblates began their work was blessed April 11, 1905. Just as in Montmartre, all sorts of projects were started.  Superior General Bishop Augustine Dontenwill’s visit was the occasion for a grand feast for the Oblates residing in Belgium.  With the years, the works developed, while the house also served as a center for groups of preachers preaching parish missions, even in France.  A great thanksgiving celebration was held after the war, on June 29, 1919, with consecration to the Sacred Heart in both French and Flemish.  Some time later, Cardinal Mercier asked the Superior General to withdraw the Oblates to make way for the diocesan clergy. In his report to the General Chapter of 1920, the provincial reported, “For us it meant collapse”, and he added, “it was dictated by a political agenda”. 
Apostolate of the Sacred Heart saw tremendous success in Quebec with Victor Lelièvre as its driving force. He launched the movement by organizing a day of adoration in the church of Saint Sauveur in Quebec City on the first Friday of November 1904. One hour in the evening was set aside for the workers in order to help them to pray, to strengthen their faith and to become involved in a Christian way in their workplace.  In order to increase the effectiveness of his apostolate, he founded the “Committee of the Sacred Heart” and in 1923 opened the doors of the retreat house “Jésus Ouvrier”, which even today exercises an enormous influence. Father Lelièvre carried out this apostolate throughout his life. The pages of Missions provide numerous examples of this right up to the last years which preceded his death in 1956. He knew how to speak the people’s language: “He talks like we do”, stated one of the workers who was exposed to Father Lelièvre’s ministry. At the General Chapter of 1947, the Provincial of Canada-East presented the house of Jésus Ouvrier in this way: “Father Victor Lelièvre has created here an extraordinary center for conversion and spiritual restoration”.  Like many other Oblates, Father Lelièvre has illustrated that devotion to the Sacred Heart – this passionate devotion to God who loves us in his Son – is the source of unbounded zeal for the missionary.
The majority of Oblate provinces and missions have directed and continue to direct prayer centers consecrated to the Sacred Heart. We could offer them their share of praise, but it would be impossible to deal with each example.
4. CONSECRATION AND SCAPULAR
The consecration of the Christian to God as a concrete expression of his baptismal commitment is traditional.  “With the appearance of the French School of spirituality […] the idea of a total and radical gift of self stands revealed in full light”.  Pierre de Bérulle readily uses terms like “I consecrate myself”, “I dedicate myself”, as expressions of the radical character of what he calls the “oblation” which he makes “to honor the oblation and gift which Jesus Christ made of himself to God his Father”.  Saint Marguerite-Marie and Father Claude de la Colombière both consecrated themselves explicitly to the Sacred Heart.
Following in their Founder’s footsteps, the Oblates spontaneously chose to become part of this movement. Their “oblation” was not only an individual offering through the vows; it was also offering up each community and the entire Oblate family. In addition to that, from the very first years on, the consecration composed by the Venerable Anne-Madeleine Rémuzat – which Father de Mazenod had copied on page 8 in the “Exercice à l’honneur du Sacré Coeur de Jésus” quoted above – and which was reprinted in our prayer manuals until 1958, was recited in community.
The active involvement of the Oblates at Montmartre strengthened still more their resolve to consecrate themselves to the Heart of Jesus. That is what motivated the General Chapter of 1873 to consecrate the Congregation to the Heart of Jesus.  On the last day of the chapter, all the Oblates who were able to do so gathered in the scholasticate chapel at Autun. Father Joseph Fabre, the Superior General, recited on their behalf, the consecration composed by Father Jean-Baptiste Honorat. The prayer is characteristically Oblate, richly imbued with Scriptural spirituality. It was carried in our prayer manuals until 1958.  According to the directives of the 1898 General Chapter, this consecration is to be renewed at the end of the retreat. 
The scapular is a special exterior sign of this consecration; it does in fact boast a long history. The custom of wearing a sign of Christ on one’s chest is a way of fulfilling Our Lord’s wish that his friends should bear his image on their hearts, according to a March 2, 1685 letter of Saint Marguerite-Marie. There are some fraternities whose members wear a scapular as a sign of their link to a Religious Order, for example, the Trinitarians, Servites of Mary, etc.  The scapular specific to the Sacred Heart derives from the apparitions at Notre-Dame-de-Pellevoisin.  Our Lord showed it to the lady seer, and Father Jean-Baptiste Lémius at Montmartre fostered devotion to it. Through Father Cassien Augier, Father Lèmius requested permission from the Holy See to spread devotion to this image in honor of the hearts of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin. In response to this request, Pope Leo XIII – by an April 2, 1900 decree – approved the making of this scapular and entrusted it to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate by a decree of May 19 of the same year. 
The Oblates proved faithful in spreading devotion to the scapular of the Sacred Heart as we can see from the witness of a missionary in Mackenzie who requested three hundred copies of the scapular to distribute to the faithful in his charge. “They will be proud to bear on their persons the sign of God’s love and the splendid image of the Mother of Mercy”.  To remind the Oblates that “we have been officially commissioned to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart in scapular form”, in 1929, the editor of Missions reissued the Holy See’s documents with regard to this subject which had been published for the first time in the 1900 edition of Missions. On June 24 1949, Father Leo Deschâtelets, Superior General, asked the Congregation to “remain faithful to this apostolic mission of spreading devotion to the scapular of the Sacred Heart”.  From that time on, pastoral practice in this regard has seen some profound changes, but the essential element has remained constant in line with what Father Deschâtelets stated at the end of his circular: “Our vocation as missionaries makes of us preachers of the mystery of God’s love for men”.  And at the appropriate time, our predecessors knew how to come up with the kind of image which touched the religious sensitivity of people. 
5. APOSTOLATE THROUGH MEANS OF THE WRITTEN WORD
The books on doctrine and devotion to the Heart of Christ was an area of apostolate in which the Oblates were involved for some time. Through these means the chaplains at Montmartre, in particular, were able to extend their efforts and exercise a more lasting influence on those who came to pray at the shrine. Father Alfred Jean-Baptiste Yenveux, stationed at Montmartre from the beginning of 1876 until 1903 published a five-volume study on the teachings of Blessed Marguerite-Marie as found in her writings and her life. This study bears the title Le Règne du Coeur de Jésus. It develops a whole spiritual program and commitment for Christians. This same priest also wrote a two-volume collection of prayers entitled Aux pieds de Jésus. Father John Baptist Lémius wrote a few books to make Montmartre better known, to give brief teachings and to stimulate devotion to the Sacred Heart. A number of others also worked in this field, but it is not opportune to quote them all.
The Oblate who wrote the most books on the Sacred Heart is without question Father Félix Anizan. In the well over a dozen books written by him there are doctrinal studies such as Qui est le Sacré-Coeur, devotional books the most famous of which is Vers Lui – élévations au Sacré-Coeur, which saw a printing of twenty-five thousand copies. There was even Gethsémani, a long poem published in 1910. It is a series of graphic scenes portraying the agony of Jesus. They are not lacking in literary merit. What surfaces from the example of these Oblates is the fact that they wanted to become involved in various areas in order to foster devotion to the Sacred Heart.
This article is thus not a theological treatise, but rather an overview of the example of our Founder and our Oblate confreres, our predecessors in the Congregation. Today, there has been a rapid evolution in mentality, and there are certain forms of devotions which we deem as no longer being in tune with contemporary religious feeling. It is up to us to rediscover the values lived by our predecessors to be faithful to them in order to integrate them into our own lives in the present context. Let us restate the essential elements basing ourselves on the New Testament.
1. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is first and foremost a contemplation of the love of God. “Yes, God loved the world so much” (John 3:16). “This is the love I mean… God’s love for us when he sent his Son” (1 John 4:10).
2. The total assurance of this love is assumed as an essential component of revelation. “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love toward ourselves” (1 John 4:16).
3. The revelation of love unleashes a fiery power which gives rise to apostolic zeal. “And this is because the love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead” (2 Corinthians 5:14). “I am perfectly willing to spend what I have … in the interest of your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:15).
4. In conclusion, to succeed in life is “to give love for love”, but this very success is a gift. “I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them” (John 17:26).