Reclaiming June for the Sacred Heart of Jesus

By Aaron Lambert

While the month of June has been claimed by a prideful modern culture to celebrate falsified love and distorted identity, it’s important for Catholics to remember that June belonged to the Church first.

Each June, the Church dedicates the entire month to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where it offers special prayers and gives special attention to the Sacred Heart devotion. The reason for this is because the feast of the Sacred Heart, celebrated June 7 this year, usually falls in the month of June. Since the 17th century, the month of June has been connected to the Sacred Heart. It began to be recognized as the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as early as 1790 and continued to develop through the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Sacred Heart devotion is practiced and beloved by many all around the world, and in dedicating the month of June to it, the Church places great trust in this devotion. Writing in his 1956 encyclical “Haurietis Aquas” (On Devotion to the Sacred Heart), Pope Pius XII said, “The Church has always valued, and still does, the devotion to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus so highly that she provides for the spread of it among Christian peoples everywhere and by every means” (No. 8).

Even though June has taken on a different, more secular meaning, there has been in recent years a renewed call within the Church to “reclaim the month” of June. Just last year, podcaster Matt Fradd of the popular “Pints With Aquinas” podcast used his platform to promote a “reclaim the month” T-shirt, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops went viral by tweeting a reminder that June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart.

In order to properly “reclaim the month,” however, some basic history and education on the Sacred Heart devotion – and more importantly, the promises Jesus made to those who practice the devotion – is in order.

As with many of the pious and popular devotions in the Church, the Sacred Heart devotion began as a private revelation that gradually became more known and grew in popularity over the years. The origins of the devotion can be traced back as early as the 11th and 12th centuries to various monasteries that practiced an early form of it. However, the devotion in its modern form began on Dec. 27, 1673, with a nun named Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque, who lived at a monastery in eastern France. Jesus appeared to her in a series of apparitions and visions over the course of 18 months in which He revealed the mystery of His Sacred Heart to her.

Sister Margaret Mary reported that Jesus told her: “Behold the heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. … I promise you that my heart shall expand itself to shed in abundance the influence of its divine love upon those who shall thus honor it, and cause it to be honored.”

Among the revelations Jesus shared with Sister Mary Margaret were specific acts of piety to venerate His Sacred Heart. These included a Thursday holy hour, the creation of the feast of the Sacred Heart following the feast of Corpus Christi, and what has become known as the First Friday devotion, where devotees receive the Eucharist on the first Friday of each month.

In addition to these pious acts, Jesus also revealed 12 promises to Sister Mary Margaret for those who practice devotion to His Sacred Heart:

I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.

I will establish peace in their homes.

I will comfort them in all their afflictions.

I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.

I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.

Sinners will find in my heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.

Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.

Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.

I will bless every place in which an image of my heart is exposed and honored.

I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.

Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in my heart.

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.

Many were skeptical of Sister Mary Margaret’s visions and her claims of what Jesus revealed to her. Although she died in 1690, her testimony successfully laid the ground for the devotion to grow and flourish. As time passed and the devotion became more popular in France, the Vatican eventually granted the feast of the Sacred Heart to France in 1765, nearly 100 years after the original apparitions. Then, in 1856, after persistent appeals by the French bishops at the time, Pope Pius IX established the feast of the Sacred Heart for the universal Church, to be celebrated following the octave of Corpus Christi. Sister Mary Margaret was eventually canonized in 1920.

In the years that have followed, devotion to the Sacred Heart has grown to be one of the most popular and powerful forms of devotion in the Church. Many saints have had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart, including St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. John Bosco, St. Frances Cabrini and St. Maximillian Kolbe. These saints and many others who are devoted to the Sacred Heart have attested that this devotion is one of the best ways to grow in holiness.

In describing the devotion, Pope Pius XI, in his 1928 encyclical “Miserentissimus Redemptor” (On Reparation to the Sacred Heart), summed it up when he wrote: “For is not the sum of all religion, and therefore the pattern of more perfect life, contained in that most auspicious sign and in the form of piety that follows from it inasmuch as it more readily leads the minds of men to an intimate knowledge of Christ Our Lord, and more efficaciously moves their hearts to love Him more vehemently and to imitate Him more closely?” (No. 3).

The Sacred Heart of Jesus contains within it a richness and vibrancy that also, as it were, reveals the heart of the Christian faith. After all, if the heart itself is a symbol of both the true depths of love and the very core of a person, then it follows that to know and love Jesus’ heart is to deeply know Him and experience the depths of His love – an inexhaustible, ever-flowing stream of love which perpetually pours forth from His Sacred Heart for all of creation.

The love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus stands in stark contrast to the false version of love that the secular culture celebrates in June. It is that mysterious and perfect love of Christ that the Church honors instead, and the one that the world needs more witnesses to, especially in June. May the body of Christ reclaim the month of June for the Sacred Heart of Jesus; for it is there in His Sacred Heart that the fulfillment of true love lies and we find our deepest identity as loved children of God, where our restless souls can find true rest.

Aaron Lambert is a writer from Denver.