Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (1647-1690), a French nun in the Visitation Order, and gave her the special task to spread devotion to His Most Sacred Heart at a time when religion was growing cold in the hearts of mankind.
He said to her:
"Behold this heart which, not withstanding the burning love for men with which it is consumed and exhausted, meets with no other return from most Christians than sacrilege, contempt, indifference and ingratitude, even in the sacrament of my love [the Eucharist]. But what pierces my heart most deeply is that I am subjected to these insults by persons especially consecrated to my service."
Jesus asked for special prayers and practices to make amends (reparation) for this great neglect to the proper reverence owed to God. For those who did this faithfully, he made what St. Margaret Mary referred to as the "Great Promise" which was the last and greatest of the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
"I promise you in the unfathomable mercy of my heart that my omnipotent love will procure the grace of final penitence for all those who receive communion on nine successive first Fridays of the month; they will not die in my disfavor [the grace of final repentance], or without having received the sacraments, since my divine heart will be their sure refuge in the last moments of their life."
The devotion to the Sacred Heart (also known as the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,Sacratissimum Cor Iesu in Latin) is one of the most widely practiced and well-knownRoman Catholic devotions, taking the heart of the resurrected Body as the representation of the love by Jesus Christ God, which is "his heart, pierced on the Cross", and "in the texts of the New Testament is revealed to us as God's boundless and passionate love for mankind".
This devotion is predominantly used in the Roman Catholic Church, followed by the high-church Anglicans, Lutherans and Eastern Catholics. In the Roman Catholic Church, the liturgical Solemnities of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated the first Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, or 19 days after Pentecost Sunday.
The devotion is especially concerned with what the Church deems to be the long-suffering love and compassion of the heart of Christ towards humanity. The popularization of this devotion in its modern form is derived from a Roman Catholic nun from France, SaintMargaret Mary Alacoque, who said she learned the devotion from Jesus during a series ofapparitions to her between 1673 and 1675, and later, in the 19th century, from the mystical revelations of another Roman Catholic nun in Portugal, Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart, a religious of the Good Shepherd, who requested in the name of Christ thatPope Leo XIII consecrate the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Predecessors to the modern devotion arose unmistakably in the Middle Ages in various facets of Catholic mysticism, particularly with Saint Gertrude the Great.
The specific conditions to receive the Great Promise of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are:
1. Receive Holy Communion on nine consecutive first Fridays of the month (this assumes that the person is in a state of grace, having made a sacramental confession for any mortal sins prior to receiving communion).
2. Having the intention, at least implicitly, of making reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for all the sinfulness and ingratitude of men.
In 1889, Pope Leo XIII permitted priests and bishops worldwide to offer one morning votive Mass of the Sacred Heart on the first Friday of each month in churches or oratories where special devotions to the Sacred Heart were held, provided no feast of the Lord, double of the first class, or privileged feria, vigil, or octave occurred on that day. This permission was retained in the 1962 Missal, which remains the authorized liturgical text for the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite under the terms of Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum, though the rubrics were altered to restrict the use of this permission to first Fridays on liturgical days of the third and fourth class; additionally, the 1962 rubrics allow two such votive Masses to be said on first Fridays, with no requirement for these Masses to be said in the morning (evening Masses having been permitted by Pope Pius XII by his 1953 apostolic constitution Christus Dominus).
No specific permission for use of the votive Mass of the Sacred Heart on first Fridays exists in the rubrics of the Mass of Paul VI, though votive Masses of any kind are permitted on most weekdays in Ordinary Time on which no obligatory memorial, feast, or solemnity occurs.
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