A time to celebrate

The Catholic Church loves to celebrate. We celebrate feast days and solemnities, holy days and sacraments. The Church encourages private celebrations, such as the celebration of one’s Baptism day. Each month is dedicated to particular devotions, and June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The Catholic Church loves to celebrate. We celebrate feast days and solemnities, holy days and sacraments. The Church encourages private celebrations, such as the celebration of one’s Baptism day. Each month is dedicated to particular devotions, and June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.The devotion especially emphasises the unmitigated love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity. From the time of Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Paul, there has always been in the Church something like devotion to the love of God; nevertheless, the devotion remained an individual, or at least a private devotion until 1670.It was in that year that the first Feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated in Rennes, France, through the efforts of Father Jean Eudes (1602-1680).
From Rennes, the devotion spread, but it took the visions of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1675, for the devotion to become universal.Many will recall the story of a French religious sister, Margaret Mary Alacoque who, after joining the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial in 1671, began just two years later to receive visions revealing the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She was rebuffed by her superior and by theologians for a time about the validity of the visions, but remained humble, obedient, and charitable to those who persecuted her until the truth of the mission given to her by Our Lord convinced those who opposed her.What has become known as the ‘great apparition,’ took place on June 16, 1675, during the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi. This is the source of the modern Feast of the Sacred Heart. In that vision, Christ asked Margaret Mary to request that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be celebrated in reparation for the ingratitude of men for the sacrifice that Christ had made for them.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus represents not simply His physical heart but His love for all mankind.The task given her by Christ, who called her the Beloved Disciple of the Sacred Heart, was to teach and encourage devotion to His Sacred Heart. Saint Margaret Mary was canonised in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV and then in 1928, Pope Pius XI reiterated in his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor, the value of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart.However, it was almost one hundred years after the apparitions, that the Feast of the Sacred Heart was approved for specified dioceses by Clement XIII in 1765, and extended to the whole Church by Pius IX in 1856. In 1889 Pope Leo XIII elevated it to the rank of first class, and through an encyclical letter in 1899 dedicated the whole Catholic world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 
Devotion to the Sacred Heart was also an essential component of Pope Saint John Paul II’s hopes for the “new evangelisation” called for by the Church. “For evangelisation today,” he said, “the Heart of Christ must be recognised as the heart of the Church: It is He who calls us to conversion, to reconciliation. It is He who leads pure hearts and those hungering for justice along the way of the Beatitudes. It is He who achieves the warm communion of the members of the one Body. It is He who enables us to adhere to the Good News and to accept the promise of eternal life.
It is He who sends us out on mission. The heart-to-heart with Jesus broadens the human heart on a global scale.” Therefore, I thought it timely to remind ourselves of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, particularly since our beautiful Cathedral here in Bendigo is dedicated and named the Sacred Heart Cathedral.  As well as being the principal Church of the Diocese of Sandhurst it is also the home Church of the Cathedral Parish, serving the people of central and north-west parts of the city of Bendigo and many visitors to the church and the city.In fact, in referring to the internet, I find that Trip Advisor tells readers that a visit to the Sacred Heart Cathedral is listed as 4th out of 59 things for tourists to do in Bendigo! It is described as grand and impressive, and we know that it is all those things, as well as being the third largest church in Australia and almost as tall as St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne. Although it was not finally completed until 1977, the initial part of our Cathedral was blessed in 1901, shortly after Pope Leo dedicated the whole Catholic world to the Sacred Heart.  
In 2006, Benedict XVI reconfirmed ‘it is still a fitting task for Christians to continue to deepen their relationship with the Heart of Jesus, in such a way as to revive their faith in the saving love of God and to welcome him ever better into their lives.’  Today, over three hundred years since the Sacred Heart apparitions, present day pilgrims continue to visit the impressively humble shrine at Paray-le-Monial in France, where they read the promises Jesus revealed there to Saint Margaret Mary. This appeal of the Lord to Saint Margaret Mary struck the hearts of many men and women of faith in the centuries that followed. The Lord was declaring the depth – indeed the fire – of his love for humanity and yet saying that he received so little love in return.This stirred the heart of Saint Mary MacKillop. She explained her own response to these words saying, “And with this burning appeal of the Sacred Heart came such a rush of longing desire on my part to be Its lover and Its true child that, at a glance, the falseness of the world appeared before me; the beauty, the pity and the generosity of the Sacred Heart in this loving appeal could not be resisted”. Her own response to this message shaped her faith and the spiritual vision of her life. This is why the Sisters of Saint Joseph have the title of Sacred Heart linked to their name.
This year, the Feast of the Sacred Heart will be celebrated on June 8. I invite you all to celebrate this Feast by rekindling your love of the Sacred Heart this June. Why not join the parishioners and tourists and make a special visit to the Sacred Heart Cathedral. If you find it difficult to find words, maybe the following verse borrowed from poet Christina Rossetti might help: What can I give Him, poor as I am?If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;Yet what I can, I give Him: I give Him my heart.

- Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst