Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sacred Heart Devotion: Part of a Balanced Spiritual Diet

I have been pondering the many fine posts I've seen the past day or so on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I can't hope to equal them, especially several of Father Mark's meditations at Vultus Christi. I know, I've mentioned him twice in as many days, but he really is THAT good. Check them out.

Reading his posts allowed me to go back and explore some earlier discoveries of my own from when I was still Lutheran, in the early 1990's. Here is a picture similar to one which I picked up at a garage sale many, many years ago. It had hung in my Pastor's study all through my years of pastoral ministry. It is an old fashioned etching of the Sacred Heart of Jesus from a Benedictine Monastery in Clyde MO.

Even as a Lutheran, I was always fascinated by this picture and the warm devotional consecration prayer underneath the picture. I even preached on the Sacred Heart once at my Lutheran parish... and used the picture as an illustration.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart was one way (among others) back then in which I could appropriate the truth of the Catholic faith without having to deal with the rest of the bundle of truths and practices which make up the Catholic Faith. It worked for a while, but even back then I sensed that the warmth of Sacred Heart devotion, seemingly so akin to the "love of Jesus" demonstrated by us Evangelicals, was really void of any power of its own.

The warmth of the emotion is fine, and very necessary to spiritual well-being. But, like anything else in the spiritual life, it does its work best when it forms a part of a larger whole. For me, that larger whole came into being many years later.
It happened once I began to explore not just the intellectual truths of Catholicism, but actually began to practice them. Frequent communion, personal and corporate prayer, regular confession and the Rosary are what it took for all the fine ideals of those earlier days to take concrete form in my life.
Of course, getting fixated on any particular devotion to the exclusion of all else can be one way of avoiding spiritual growth. We've all known Divine Mercy gurus, or Centering Prayer..., or Daily Office... or Lectio Divina .... gurus.
It's all they practice. It's what they swear by, for themselves and sometimes for everyone else. They seem to be Johnny-One Note practitioners of Catholicism. A good cure for that is to get a little dose (cynics would say- innoculation) of everything Catholic. I think it helps us have a balanced Faith life. Not doing so is like eating a diet of just one food... even if its healthy food. The same-ness of it all is just not good for you.

I remember back when I was a Protestant reading the book The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: How to Practice the Sacred Heart Devotion. The book was penned by Fr. John Croiset, S.J. at the end of the 1600's. He was spiritual director to St. Margaret Mary. She popularized this ancient and venerable form of devotion as a kind of antidote to the prevailing intellectualism and scholasticism of her own day.

Anyway, I went back today and skimmed through the book itself once again. There I re-discovered awide range of practices and ideas that formerly which had seemed so foreign to me back then. Now they are now part of the warp and woof of my life. For example, here are some of the means the book prescribes for acquiring the perfect love of Jesus:

frequent communion,
visits to the Blessed Sacrament,
tender devotion to the Virgin Mary.
How strange and foreign all of these concepts were to me back then. And, oh the contrast, now that they have entered my life and, to be truthful, given me new life in Him.
So I guess today that I am thankful for the small progress that I have begun to make in the Christian life, and praying always that it may continue and increase.

"One day I saw the Son of God, holding in his Hand His own Heart,
which appeared more brilliant than the sun
and which was casting rays of light on every side;
then, this amiable Savior gave me to understand
that all the graces which God unceasingly pours forth on men,
according to the capacity of each,
come from the plenitude of the Divine Heart."

-Saint Mechtilde (quoted by Fr. Croiset)

No comments: