"Irreplaceable" and "Indispensable"


Happy and Blessed Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!

We often speak of devotion to the Sacred Heart but I think there are some problems with that word “devotion.” There are many devotions in the Catholic Church and by speaking about Sacred Heart devotion the impression is that this is an optional devotion that depends upon an individual’s inclinations and preferences.

Not so, according to Pope Benedict. We can still talk about having a devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but we shouldn’t think of this as being one devotion among many others from which we are free to pick and choose. For Pope Benedict, devotion to the Sacred Heart is “irreplaceable” and “indispensable.”

Those are words he used in a letter he wrote to Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach on May 15, 2006. The occasion was the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s great Sacred Heart encyclical Haurietas Aquas. At that time Fr. Kolvenbach was the General Superior of the Jesuits and the General Director of the Apostleship of Prayer. It’s a beautiful letter that can be found on the Vatican web site. [http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/letters/2006/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20060515_50-haurietis-aquas_en.html]

Here’s part of what the Holy Father wrote:

"When we practise this devotion, not only do we recognize God's love with gratitude but we continue to open ourselves to this love so that our lives are ever more closely patterned upon it. God, who poured out his love 'into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us' (cf. Rom 5: 5), invites us tirelessly to accept his love. The main aim of the invitation to give ourselves entirely to the saving love of Christ and to consecrate ourselves to it (cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 4) is, consequently, to bring about our relationship with God. This explains why the devotion, which is totally oriented to the love of God who sacrificed himself for us, has an irreplaceable importance for our faith and for our life in love. …

"Love is never 'finished and complete' (cf. Deus Caritas Est, n. 17). Thus, looking at the 'side pierced by the spear' from which shines forth God's boundless desire for our salvation cannot be considered a transitory form of worship or devotion: the adoration of God's love, whose historical and devotional expression is found in the symbol of the 'pierced heart', remains indispensable for a living relationship with God (cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 62)."

So today’s celebration is not the expression of one devotion among many but of the devotion that we all have as Christians—our love for Jesus who loved us first and showed that love by dying and being pierced for us. In the words of Pope Benedict, this “cannot be considered a transitory form of worship or devotion.” It’s the Heart of our faith!