Today we celebrate the external feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is properly celebrated on the Friday after the Sunday after Corpus Christi. The Church often celebrates beloved feasts more than once—we just can’t get enough of them! On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we call to mind how our Lord thinks about us all the time. We are always in his heart. The graces we receive daily from God’s thoughtfulness, however, come at a price, as we are reminded in the Gospel today. There is no love without suffering. A soldier thrust a lance through Our Lord’s Sacred heart as he hung on the Cross; blood and water gushed from his open side. Why would blood and water flow in abundance from a corpse? First, because Jesus, though dead, lives forever, and his heart never ceases to beat, his blood never ceases to flow, for the people he loves. Second, the Church is born from Christ’s wounded heart in the sacraments of water and blood--Baptism and the Holy Eucharist--pour upon the world. Christ’s heart is open to all men and women. It is never closed.
Immaculate Heart of Mary
The Church celebrates also the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary the day after the Sacred Heart, although this year the Nativity of St. John the Baptist superseded it. But let’s reflect a little on the Immaculate Heart of Mary, since we missed it this year. Jesus in his infinite love sent his Holy Mother to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, six times in 1917. On June 13, she said to the children:
“I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.” All of the evils came to pass: Russia spread her errors to all of Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America (especially Cuba). Nations were annihilated (Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, etc.). More Christians were martyred from 1917-1989 than died in the entire world over the previous 19 centuries. The Holy Father was shot by what seems certainly to have been a Soviet-motivated agent on May 13, 1981, but beyond that one attack, Pius XII, Paul VI, and JPII suffered terribly in the brutal persecutions of the Church under communism.
Prayer and Penance
But it was the July 13 apparition at Fatima that, in the words of St. John Paul, “summed up the whole 20th century.” She gave the children three visions, which Lucia called the three “secrets” because Our Lady instructed her not to reveal what the children saw immediately. She allowed the children to see hell, but only for a few seconds—any longer would have caused them to die of fright, as Lucia said later. Our Lady has assured the children that they would go to heaven if they continued leading good and holy lives. Seeing hell for themselves moved the children to pray and do penance for poor sinners.
Our Lady had assured the children: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” Although Russia is more Christian now than at any time since 1917, the triumph of the Immaculate Heart has yet to happen. The West is moving rapidly away from God, even beginning to persecute Christians and peace has yet to come among nations. The eternal destiny of many souls—heaven or hell—depends on the Church’s intercession. We must continue to pray, do penance, and make our communions of reparation. I have decided to begin promoting the Five First Saturdays of reparation, for which our Lady specifically asked at Fatima. We choose first five Saturdays in a row to attend Mass, pray the rosary, spend 15 minutes of meditation on the mysteries, and make a good confession. I have been negligent in promoting the first Saturdays; may Our Lady forgive me. Let us dedicate ourselves to real prayer and penance. The best penance is to accept patiently, even gladly, the sufferings God allows in our lives. May the evil one in our time be checked by Our Lord’s Sacred Heart. May many may be won over from sin by the Immaculate Heart of Mary, cause of our Joy.