Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for Today

This Friday, June 7, is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion is a centuries old tradition in the Catholic Church, but I confess: I have had a hard time with it.

sacred heart

A traditional image of the Sacred Heart.

One reason is because many of the illustrations of the Sacred Heart show a “wimpy” Jesus. (This is my personal opinion. You might find them “tender.”) Also I think the disconnected heart with thorns around is a little gross. Yet, after some personal prayer and reflection, I have come up with three aspects of this venerable devotion that I do find meaningful and relevant for our time.  I can summarize them by saying the Sacred Heart of Jesus is human, wounded, and loving.

Years ago I saw a typo in a spiritual book. Instead of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the book said the Scared Heart of Jesus. The typo wasn’t so far off, really, for there were probably many times Jesus’ heart was scared! The fact is, Jesus was fully human. The Sacred Heart reminds us of this vital truth. But his incarnation was not a one-time event that ended at the Ascension. No, the incarnation continues into our own day—in the Eucharist and in the whole of humanity—including me! The Sacred Heart tells me that Jesus needs my humanity—my hands, my feet, my voice, my mind, and yes, my heart—to do good in the world and thus to help bring about the reign of God in my time and place.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is also wounded.  Jesus was vulnerable. He was open to pain, suffering, and failure. When we are the most vulnerable, God (it seems) has easier access to our heart and soul. As the writer Father Phil Murnion once said, “It is in the concrete, imperfect, and even sinful activities that we are most likely to catch a glimpse of the grace of God.”  Wow! That means that the “fractures” and “ruptures” in our lives, though painful, can be the openings through which God’s grace pours in.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart centers on a heart, the organ we traditionally associate with loving. The Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us of God’s unconditional love for us. It also calls us to love as expansively as Jesus did. And there’s more. The psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan defined healthy adult maturity as “a state in which tenderness prevails.”  I like that!  Perhaps we can ask ourselves regularly, “How expansive is my love?” And “Does tenderness prevail in me–or have I allowed some negative quality (like impatience, pettiness, arrogance, or self-righteousness) to take over?”

A little kindergarten girl once said, “Jesus is God’s show-and-tell.” How profound are her words! For devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus “shows and tells” us  that our faith, like the heart of Jesus, must also be incarnational, vulnerable, and tender.

Let us pray:

Heart of Jesus, you are human.

Give me a greater appreciation of your incarnation

extended into my time, my place, my circumstances.

Heart of Jesus, you are wounded.

Give me the courage to be vulnerable to pain and failure.

May the “fractures” in my life

be openings through which your Grace can freely pour.

Heart of Jesus, you are loving.

Help me to experience your unconditional love for me.

Give me strength to love more expansively .

May tenderness prevail in me–as it did in you. Amen.


SacredHeart2Sacred-Heart Dali

Here are two other images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by artists Joseph Fanelli (left) and Salvador Dali (right).




Does devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus speak to you and your spirituality? Why or why not?

No Comments

  1. Kathleen Magiera on June 3, 2013 at 5:47 am

    Sister Melannie,

    What beautiful images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the end of your reflection today, they really touched my heart!


  2. Mary Schneider on June 3, 2013 at 10:33 am

    The church in my former parish in Ely, NV, is dedicated to and named for The Sacred Heart of Jesus, so I early-on had a devotion to His Heart. You have added many new insights and things I will prayerfully think about. (I do like the image by Joseph Fanelli very much). Thank you again. Have a wonderful week.


  3. Michelle K. on June 3, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Sister Melannie,

    Like you I had a hard time with the only image I ever saw of the Sacred Heart of Jesus…the first picture you showed. My grandparents had the image hanging in their house. It always disturbed me. I think it was because the expression on his face seemed to express disappointment more than love. And I agree, it is rather a wimpy image of Christ. Thank you for sharing the other two images…I too like the Joseph Fanelli image.


  4. Annie on June 3, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Thanks, Melannie! I agree totally about finding good images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Some are even worse than wimpy—they look severe or stern.

  5. Carolyn on June 3, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Sr. Melannie, thank you for your honest words. I have always been uncomfortable with the wimpy pictures of Christ. I have never liked the art of Salvador Dali but found his Christ to be beautiful. Also I really appreciated your prayer.

  6. marian on June 4, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Hi Sister Melannie
    When I was a kid I thought of that picture as a reminder of the torture Jesus endured…
    Now my image of Jesus is an intimate, enveloping Presence. Artwork, music, and rituals are rooted in an awareness of a tremendous Love. “Oh God, You Search Me & You Know Me…” Bernadette Farrell’s song has been in my heart lately…God always there…always loving us…and teaching us.
    Hope all is well with you…

  7. Joan on June 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Sister Melannie
    Yours is the only blog I read regularly, and this one is a great example of why! You hit the mark every time and give me something to reflect on in a new way. THANK YOU! You are a blessing to me and many others! Joan

  8. Karen S on June 4, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Sr. Melannie,
    I was sitting here feeling down when I opened up your message of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Beautiful! I just had a wonderful feeling come into my own Heart. I know Jesus is looking down on me as we prepare for surgery for my dear daughter Kristin who will have part of her colon removed on Monday. Jesus has touched our lives in so many ways ~ I feel he will be with Kristin & our family on this day.
    Thank you for your blessing of today. karen s

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on June 5, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Dear Karen, My prayers are with you, your daughter Kristin, and your family. I’m sure my readers will keep all of you in their thoughts and prayers too. Sr. Melannie

  9. Martha on June 6, 2013 at 1:23 am

    Sr. Melannie, thank you for this wonderful post and prayer. How refreshing!!!

  10. Mary Lynn on June 9, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    The Sacred Heart of Jesus didn’t speak to me much until reading your reflection this week. The timing is spot on as I recover from surgery on a broken elbow sustained in a biking accident 2 1/2 weeks ago. Scared Jesus, wounded Jesus, vulnerable Jesus — yes, these are images I now appreciate in a new way as my understanding of the incarnation continues to be shaped by my own brokenness. The care that I have received from my community has shown me the tender embrace of God in a very real way. The graces of the experience are unfolding. Perhaps more meditation on the Sacred Heart will be helpful on this journey toward healing and wholeness.

    Thank you for the inspiration, Sr. Melannie.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on June 10, 2013 at 6:17 am

      Dear Mary Lynn, I will hold you and your healing in my prayer. Thank you for writing! Sr. Melannie

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