A painting of St. Margaret Mary and her vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at St. Lazarus Church in Marseille, France by Rvalette
Later in the 17th century, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, a visitation sister from Paray-le-Monial in France, was given the gift of visions of Jesus who appeared to her as the Sacred Heart. I recall visiting the shrine twice – in the early 1980s and again in 2003 – and was impressed that Jesus would chose a charming but rather laid back town in rural France to appear to a humble woman religious.
Saint John Paul II would make this devotion front and center in his promotion of the diaries of Saint Faustina and the creation of Divine Mercy Sunday as the second Sunday of Easter. His early encyclical, Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), provided the great foundation.
To prepare myself for this feast, I went on pilgrimage… not to a distant country. I went next door to our Cathedral. On my own, I walked through the holy jubilee door of mercy, which at the Cathedral is to the left of the altar. As I walked through, I asked Jesus in His Sacred Heart to have mercy on me and on the whole world.
Then I paused in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel directly in back of the sanctuary. As I prayed for a renewal, I remembered our priests and all the faithful of the Archdiocese, especially those who really are desperate to experience the mercy of Jesus.
As I prayed, I could sense the preparations for the meal that would be served at noon directly below the chapel. The Sandefur Dining Hall, now 14 years old, is the scene for the hot meal served to those in our community who would otherwise go without. I could almost hear Jesus speak the words of sending that fill the Gospel encounters with those who experience His mercy. He would send them forth to serve: “As I have done, so you must do” (John 13:15).
Walking out of the chapel, I exited into the exterior courtyard that runs along the south side of the Cathedral and, thanks to Fr. Jeff Nicolas’ creativity, I paused at each station containing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Feeding, visiting, comforting, admonishing … all steps we are called to do or rather, Jesus will do in and through us … imparting mercy to others in His name. Freely you have received, so freely give (Matthew 10:8). Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.
As you observe the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, please remember our priests. The priests of the Archdiocese will gather next week for our annual assembly at Saint Meinrad. This assembly happens at the same time during which we are called to pray for the sanctification of priests, so your prayers are appreciated.