I highly recommend the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is a wonderful prayer for our times. Thus, I will comment on some of its invocations and the lessons they can teach us.
Heart of Jesus Formed by the Holy Spirit in the Womb of the Virgin Mother
The first invocation is a most beautiful one: Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother.
This invocation invites us to many considerations. We can consider the Heart of Jesus in its material and carnal reality. It is the object of our worship because it symbolizes the will of Our Lord and, therefore, His love.
Consider the Heart of Jesus was formed in the Immaculate womb of Our Lady with the flesh that the Mother gives to form her Son’s Body. Thus, the most holy Flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ is bound to the divinity in the hypostatic union and, at the same time, is the very flesh of Mary. The Blood of Jesus is the blood of Mary. The Heart of Jesus is, in some way, the Heart of Mary.
We must consider this admirable process of generation by which a mother gives everything she has in earnest to form the body of her son. Thus, we see that Jesus was entirely formed in this way from the flesh of Mary in an ocean of love. It was a fire of love and adoration for the Son that she was forming in her womb. We can then better understand how the Heart of Jesus is linked to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We can have boundless confidence in the efficacy of Our Lady’s intercession with Our Lord. Indeed, Our Lord will not refuse anything to this most holy, most perfect Mother. He not only has no complaint but has the most incomparable and complete contentment that a Creator can have with His creature. This is even more so because He knows that His own Flesh is the flesh of Our Lady and that His own Heart is, so to speak, the Heart of Our Lady.
I think devotees of Our Lady will find great meaning in this invocation.
Heart of Jesus of Infinite Majesty
Another very beautiful invocation is Heart of Jesus of Infinite Majesty.
Saint Augustine says: “Where humility is, there is majesty” (Ubi humilitas, ibi maiestas – Sermon 14). The two things are inseparable.
Thus, we conclude that the Heart of Jesus is both an abyss of humility and a heavenly firmament of majesty. If I were an artist, I would like to know how to depict Our Lord, not only expressing majesty and humility but also the relationship between the two. I would seek to present Our Lord in a way in which one sees in a single glance what majesty has in common with humility and vice versa. We could explore that superior sphere of virtue where these two particular virtues meet and merge.
The “Beau Dieu d’Amiens”
An expressive example of this is the statue of the Beau Dieu d’Amiens, the Good God of Amiens, found at the portal of the cathedral of Amiens. It does not expose the Heart of Jesus. However, the representation has given me this impression of this mixture of virtues. He is shown as a most worthy king and most noble doctor. At the same time, He is so serene, so meek and so wholly master of Himself. He is capable of receiving the worst insult and remaining entirely quiet and serene, with no reaction of self-love if this reaction were the virtue required at the moment.
Indeed, the statue of the Beau Dieu d’Amiens is among those that best demonstrate this link of the highest majesty with the highest humility.
We love to consider ourselves as children of the Counter-Revolution, the effort to fight for Christian civilization. This invocation is fitting for us since the Revolution against Christian order caricatures humility and silences majesty. We should ask the Heart of Jesus to give our hearts that elevated and the noblest form of majesty that every counter-revolutionary must have. This majesty carries with a sense of royalty, perfect order, honor and hierarchy even when found in the most humble of men.
An extraordinary example of this majesty is Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (1769-1837). She was a simple cook in Rome and never had any pretense of passing for a queen. However, she had such a majestic bearing that it was impossible to be near her without feeling overwhelmed by her presence.
Heart of Jesus, Burning Furnace of Charity
Another beautiful invocation is Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity.
The Heart of Jesus is a burning furnace of God’s love because charity is the very love of God. Thus, Jesus is a burning furnace—not just a furnace, which already brings the idea of ardor. He is then a very ardent furnace—a figure that expresses well the idea that He is the focus of all the love of God.
The devotion to the Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary is especially splendid for those who complain of being tepid or dragging along in their spiritual life. This devotion communicates this fire of the furnace of charity.
If we want the true love of God for ourselves or others, let us adopt this most suitable and excellent devotion.
Heart of Jesus, Patient and Most Merciful
The invocation Heart of Jesus, patient and most merciful, also seems very important for our times. What exactly do we mean by patient? A patient person is one who suffers. Thus, we can say the Heart of Jesus is suffering and most merciful. Because He suffers, He can bear the injuries that we inflict on Him.
The second meaning of the word patient in the Heart of Jesus is not only his willingness to suffer but to love that suffering. We can thus understand that suffering is the great law of life and that an existence without suffering is worth absolutely nothing.
We Are Worth Something in the Measure That We Can Suffer
From a certain standpoint, our lives are only worth something insofar as we suffer and love this suffering. This rule is what is represented by the patient Heart of Jesus.
A typical expression of the capacity to suffer is having the spirit of the initiative through which we overcome laziness, boredom and self-love. We then get down to work by embracing the thickest and hardest fight if necessary. At the same time, we are ready to leave it immediately if the interest of the Church takes us in the opposite direction.
This superior form of patience gives us a spirit of initiative and combativeness through which we can renounce all laziness and slowness. This patience is what we must ask of the patient and most merciful Heart of Jesus.
Merciful means one who has pity. It is a corollary of the second meaning of the word patience, one who suffers with love. There is an enormous difficulty of convincing young souls of the mercy of God. He forgives us once, twice, two thousand times, and just does not want us to become discouraged to obtain His forgiveness.
This magnificent invocation should inspire us to have confidence in the forgiveness of Our Lord through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Remember that the Heart of Jesus is patient and most merciful. He is patient with my faults and sins. He is merciful concerning my shortcomings. He pities us through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This excellent invocation can even be recited during the day, so as not to lose confidence in Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Heart of Jesus, Propitiation for Our Sins
The next invocation is Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our sins. We sometimes feel fundamentally unworthy before God. Even the purest and lofty souls can feel unworthiness. Indeed, it is understandable since we are absolutely nothing before God’s infinite justice.
This invocation brings us tranquility. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a propitiation for our sins.
What does propitiation mean? It means an atoning sacrifice that appeases. I am worth nothing. The poor sacrifices I make—because they come from me—are also worth nothing as such. However, there is a victim who is worth everything because He is a victim without blemish or stain. He is a victim bound by the Hypostatic Union to the Divinity. This victim is our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered Himself for me. Accordingly, this Victim obtains everything for me which I am afraid of not achieving.
This Victim has borne my sins and suffered for them. Thus, I can consider my sins with shame and at least contrition. However, I can also have an immense trust because Someone died for me. He shed for me every drop of His Blood. I have no confidence in myself, but I trust in this infinitely Precious Blood, which was shed for me.
Heart of Jesus, Source of all Consolation
A final invocation is Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation.
The word consolation also has two meanings: 1) a strengthening; and 2) the joy, suavity and unction of the Holy Spirit in our souls. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the source of all consolation in both senses.
Our strength comes from Him. He strengthens us when we feel weak, lukewarm and disoriented. We should especially have recourse to Him when facing some great act of generosity to which we are called but have no courage to face. We should not imagine ourselves as Olympic champions, capable of all things. No! The Heart of Jesus is the source of all strength. We must ask for strength by going through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is the necessary and unique channel to reach the Heart of Jesus. Be assured you will not be frustrated with your request. At a particular moment, you will have the strength needed to do even the most arduous and difficult things in the spiritual life.
A Way of Thanksgiving After Communion
We can benefit from these considerations when receiving Holy Communion.
For example, one excellent way to prepare for communion would be to take the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and pick—perhaps even at random—one of the invocations. We could then receive Holy Communion having in mind that we are receiving the real, physical, true and living presence of that Heart about which we are meditating.
For example, take the invocation, source of all consolation, in the first sense as the source of our strength. We could pray at Communion:
“Lord, Thou are the source of all consolation and strength. I would like to have a thousand times more strength to serve Thee better. I know that this source of fortitude is now present within me; I know that Thou art this source of strength. Give me strength against Thy external enemies and the evil tendencies within me. Have pity on me. Have compassion on me, I ask Thee through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Say prayers like this. They are spontaneous and free movements of the soul that can be very helpful. Here is a final suggestion. When you experience aridity at Communion and cannot find any subject to talk with Our Lord, take an invocation from the Litany of the Sacred Heart and pray it. Your Communion may then be a source of extraordinary graces.
The preceding article is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave on June 24, 1965. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. –Ed.