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Devotions to the Sacred Heart
at Canonization

by Pope John Paul II

At the canonization of St. Claude La Colombiere, S.J.

VATICAN CITY -- True devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can strengthen Christian communities against the onslaughts of unbelief, just as it did in 17th-century France. It can also counter the spreading of forms of meditation that "only mask a tragic spiritual emptiness," said Pope John Paul II at the canonization of St. Claude La Colombiere, S.J.

La Colombiere, a 17th-century French Jesuit who was the spiritual adviser to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and an apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was solemnly canonized on May 31st at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

In his homily, the Pope noted that France during St. Claude's life had many of the characteristics of today. There was "high human culture" on one side, and "cruel conflict and human poverty" on the other. Also, "the clergy and religious orders were often decadent: As a result the people remained far from the light of faith, the benefits of the spiritual life and of ecclesial communion"

Into this milieu came St. Claude, "a true companion of St. Ignatius," who "resolutely took the way of holiness ...rejecting all tepidness."

In the course of his assignments, he met St. Margaret Mary, who entrusted Fr. La Colombiere with the mission of establishing devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a cause he took up with all his strength. In the years left to him, said the Pope, La Colombiere "interiorized these 'infinite riches."

"His spiritual life then developed in the perspective of the 'reparation' and 'infinite mercy' so underscored at Paray-le-Monial. He gave himself completely to the Sacred Heart 'ever burning with love.' Even in trials he practiced forgetfulness of self in order to attain purity of love and to raise the world to God …

"The past three centuries," the Pope said, "allow us to evaluate the importance of the message which was entrusted to Claude La Colombiere. In a period of contrasts between the fervor of some and the indifference of impiety of many, here is a devotion centered on the humanity of Christ, on His presence, on His love of mercy, and on forgiveness.

The call to reparation, characteristic of Paray-le-Monial, can be variously understood, but essentially it is a matter of sinners, which all human beings are, returning to the Lord, touched by His love, and offering a more intense fidelity in the future, a life aflame with charity. If there is a solidarity in sin, there is also a solidarity in salvation. The offering of each is made for the good of all …

"Devotion to the Heart of Christ would be a source of balance and spiritual strengthening for Christian communities so often faced with increasing unbelief over the coming centuries: an impersonal conception of God will spread; individuals, moving away from a personal encounter with Christ and the source of grace, will want to be the sole masters of their history and to become a law unto themselves, to the point of being ruthless in pursuing their own ambitions."

"The message of Paray, accessible to the humble as well as to the great of this world, answers such aberrations by clarifying the relationship of the person to God: in conformity with the Church's Tradition, it turns his gaze toward the cross of the world's Redeemer."

The Pope further said that Catholics who are truly attached to the Sacred Heart will not "be seduced by forms of meditation which turn in on the self without welcoming the presence of the Lord … (and) conceptions of the sacred which only mask a tragic spiritual emptiness."

Devotion to the Sacred Heart is also an essential component of the Holy Father's hopes for the "new evangelization" called for by the Church.

"For evangelization today," he said, "the Heart of Christ must be recognized as the heart of the Church: It is He who calls us to conversion, to reconciliation. It is He who leads pure hearts and those hungering for justice along the way of the Beatitudes. It is He who achieves the warm communion of the members of the one Body.
It is He who enables us to adhere to the Good News and to accept the promise of eternal life. It is He who sends us out on mission. The heart-to-heart with Jesus broadens the human heart on a global scale."

Citing the work of three predecessors, Popes Leo XIII, Pius XI, and Pius XII, Pope John Paul II encouraged Catholics to see in the true devotion to the Sacred Heart the "spiritual answer to the difficulties which the faith and the Church are facing."


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