On June 16, 1675 Jesus appeared to Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque (now a saint) and asked for the creation of a new feast.
He requested for the Feast of the Sacred Heart to be celebrated on the Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi, nineteen days after Pentecost.
In 1856, Pope Pius IX extended the feast to the Universal Church. This year, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated on June 28th.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart is very popular and one you may already know and/or practice. If not, I recommend learning about it.
Rather than explain the devotion, I’ll share a recent experience that connects to the Sacred Heart.
The Incorrupt Heart of Saint Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney
Recently, the Knights of Columbus sponsored a pilgrimage in the U.S. of a first class relic of Saint Jean Vianney: his incorrupt heart.
A relic is an object associated with a saint that may be offered to the faithful for veneration… A relic is venerated in recognition of the fact that God has worked through a saint, and that an object associated with a saint is holy and can lead us to God (Knights of Columbus official pamphlet).
St. Jean Vianney died on August 4, 1859.
In the early 20th century, his body was exhumed and found fully intact!
Over 150 years later, his body — including his heart — is still incorrupt.
Several months ago, I had the opportunity to venerate St. Jean Vianney’s heart at a local parish. This was a special grace I’m truly grateful for; and it was exciting to see an incorrupt relic for the first time!
I’ll share two lessons from my experience venerating the relic.
Lesson One: Humility and Simplicity
St. Jean Vianney is one of my favorite saints. One reason is because he struggled throughout his life.
There were sufferings in his family, he barely completed seminary and was made fun of by his peers, he suffered trials and humiliations throughout his priesthood, and he became a target of the devil because of the many souls he saved.
After being ordained he was sent to Ars, a small farming community in France.
The village was a spiritual disaster. There he found an abandoned parish and people who did not welcome his presence.
It was an assignment many would have considered beneath them; however, he embraced the role as the Curé of Ars and persevered to the end.
After some time, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visited Ars each year to meet the holy priest. By meeting him, especially in the confessional, they encountered a humble man who bore the heart of Christ.
A simple man who barely completed seminary led countless souls to heaven. His devotion to God and his vocation were all that mattered — not his intelligence, skill or merit.
As proof that his life was pleasing to God, his body remained intact after his death; and he continues to touch others through the relics.
“Remain humble, remain simple. The more you are so, the more good you will do.” ~ St. Jean Vianney
Lesson Two: the Priesthood
St. Jean Vianney was a holy, faithful, dedicated priest. Learning about his life gave me a better understanding of the priesthood and the incredible gift it is.
During his time in Ars, he heard confessions for up to eighteen hours per day; built an orphanage for homeless children; received the poor openly; focused on prayer, fasting and penance; had a great devotion to the Mass and the Eucharist; and worked tirelessly to bring souls to God. He was such a model priest that he became the official patron of parish priests.
When a man becomes a priest, it’s often a sacrifice for the man and those in his life. While venerating the heart and attending the special Mass, I was given the grace to clearly see that the mission of the priest — leading souls to heaven — is one worthy of the sacrifice.
If a man is called to the priesthood, those in his life must focus on the mission and be willing to give him to God. Our Church needs holy priests, and it’s something we must pray for every day.
“Since the priest is important, the priest will only be understood in heaven. If we were to understand him on this earth, we would die of love.” ~ St. Jean Vianney
What’s the connection between the incorrupt heart of St. Jean Vianney and the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
St. Jean Vianney’s heart was united with the Sacred Heart in a way we all must strive for: his heart burned with love.
This holy priest did everything out of love.
He served the people of Ars and those he met with compassion, humility and honesty. He lived to do the Father’s will and serve those he encountered, which is exactly what Jesus did.
God poured His love and grace on souls through the priesthood of St. Jean Vianney. Others were so drawn to the Curé of Ars because they saw Christ in him.
The incorrupt heart of St. Jean Vianney is a visible sign of God’s unending love for us and a window into the Heart of Jesus — His real, beating, bleeding Heart.
May we always remember the deep love God has for each of us.
May we always strive to return this love, no matter what the cost.
“Behold the Heart that has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify to Its love…” ~ Jesus to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque