Letter of the Superior General to the Society for the Feast of the Sacred Heart
Rome, June 2000
Our patronal Feast, which falls on the last day of June, invites us to renew our consecration to the One, who is the centre of our lives, whose Heart is “the centre on which everything in the Old and New Testament converges, the pivot around which everything in Catholicism turns, the sun of the Church, the soul of our souls, the source of our mysteries, the origin of our sacraments, the pledge of our reconciliation, the salvation of our world, the remedy of all our ills” (Chevalier). I encourage you in this Jubilee year to make a special effort to prepare for the feast and to celebrate it with a keen awareness of its significance for us.
What does it mean, to renew our consecration to the Heart of Jesus? By our incorporation into the Church through the sacraments of Christian initiation, we become members of a holy people, a consecrated nation, a people made capable of exercising the unique priesthood of Jesus Christ. The language used in the Scriptures indicates that there is something really special about us as chosen and loved ones, called to be holy and blameless in God’s sight and to offer praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the graces and blessings bestowed upon us. The holiness of life to which we are called is totally a gift of God, the gift of a transformed existence, the root and cause of which is Jesus’ self-sacrifice in loving obedience and his resurrection from the dead. This holiness is not our work, even though it involves our willing cooperation. It has its source in God’s gifts to us in Jesus, who “consecrated himself so that we might be consecrated in truth” (Jn 17:19). The worship we offer to God is basically the worship of a holy life, a worship that is expressed and deepened in the liturgy of word, song and ritual, and from there issues in a life of joyful dedication to the Kingdom of God in the world.
We renewed our baptismal consecration on the day of our first profession of our religious vows in the MSC community. Drawn by the love shown to us by Jesus and wanting to share in his work, we consecrated ourselves to his Heart. Even though our profession was temporary to begin with, it always tended in the direction of the ultimate consecration of our whole heart, of all that we are, of all that we have, to the Heart of Christ and to his mission in the world. Over the years, wonderfully moved and sustained by the amazing goodness of God, we have renewed our profession and consecrated ourselves anew to his Cause. We have found joy in our vocation and we have brought joy into the lives of many people burdened by life’s problems.
I make an appeal to us all on this Jubilee year, on this Feast of the Heart of Jesus, coming as it does in the very heart of the Jubilee, to renew our consecration to his Heart and to his mission. This will involve something more than an “Act of Consecration”, however good and helpful such an act might be. Let us take a look at our lives and open ourselves to the plans of his Heart for us, responding in a personal way to Christ’s invitation. This will involve taking time for prayer, setting aside faithfully the half-hour that is recommended to us for our daily personal prayer. It is the time of daily encounter between God, who comes to meet us in his word, in his Word Incarnate, and me, me in my everyday reality, in my struggles and in my apostolic plans. If you notice that you are too busy or too something else to set aside this minimum time for prayer, then you are making bad use of your time. To waste time in prayer is to gain time for others. This is the experience of the saints! If this practice has slipped out of your life, recover it, renew it, and you will find it a source of blessing.
Celebrate the liturgy of the hours and the liturgy of the Eucharist with your MSC community and your ecclesial community. This is your daily bread for the journey, the source of living water for the long road, the bond of community, the public worship of God and the driving force of mission. The practice has been creeping in of not celebrating the Eucharist except when people request it, and then of celebrating several times if so requested. There is a danger in this of letting yourself become a functionary, a performer of rites. Resist it, as Chevalier would say! Look for the occasion each day to celebrate the Eucharist with your religious confreres and/or with the people, to break the word and the bread even with one or two people. The only reality we have is today’s. We are all the poorer is we let it pass without a moment of deep encounter with the Lord, such as the Eucharist gives us, when celebrated with faith and love.
Take time to talk to one another in community, to have moments of shared reflection on aspects of our spirituality, to accompany one another in sickness and in troubles, in joys and success. Sometimes it helps greatly to have a visitor address the community on a theological theme related to our spirituality and mission. Our spirituality has “an extraordinary actuality”, said Pope John Paul a year ago, speaking from Warsaw, in a message to mark the centenary of the consecration of the human race to the Heart of Jesus. Speaking to all the faithful, he said:
“I want to express my approval and encouragement to all those who continue in whatever way in the Church to cultivate, deepen and promote the cult of the Heart of Christ, with language and forms adapted to our time, so as to be able to transmit it to future generations in the spirit that has always animated it. It is a matter still today of leading the faithful to keep their adoring gaze fixed on the mystery of Christ, the God-Man, so as to become men and women of interior life, persons who feel and live the call to the new life, to holiness, to reparation, which is apostolic cooperation in the salvation of the world; persons who are preparing themselves for the new evangelization, recognizing the Heart of Christ as the heart of the Church. It is urgent that the world understand that Christianity is the religion of love” (Warsaw, 11 June 1999; Osservatore Romano, Saturday 12 June 1999).
Finally, enjoy the love of Christ’s Heart for you, his mercy in your weakness and struggles, his strength in your giving of yourself generously, his presence in your being with the poor and the little ones, with the victims of injustice, with all those who suffer. Let us pray for one another and remember especially the sufferings of our people at this time in Indonesia and in the Congo. Let us pray for the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, who celebrate the centenary of their foundation on the feast of the Sacred Heart this year, for which I hope to be with them in Hiltrup. May Our Lady of the Sacred Heart intercede for us and help us to renew our sense of vocation and consecration to the Heart of her Son, so that we may be effective apostles and witnesses of his love all over the world.
With my love and fraternal good wishes for a happy Feast Day and with my prayers for your well-being,
Fr. Michael Curran, msc