Today, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of one of its (previously) most famous and venerated devotions: the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The cult to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus was made popular during the time of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun who saw visions of Jesus and His Most Sacred Heart in the 1670s. All these visions were reported and propagated by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’s own confession, the Jesuit St. Claude de la Colombière. From those days forth, the Sacred Heart of Jesus was promoted by the Jesuits to the entire Church.
In many Catholic homes before, a print, statue, painting or whatever image of the Most Sacred Heart was displayed prominently. Through the decades, like many of our beautiful devotions though, these images, and the meanings linked to them, have been forgotten, shunned or quite literally, thrown out of the window.
The Catholic Church celebrates this feast with much solemnity steeped in symbolism and meaning. Feast Masses are often preceded or followed by a Holy Hour, the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. It is common that during the feast of the Sacred Heart, people consecrate themselves to the Divine Heart and ask for reparation for all the sins committed by men. It is a Catholic sentiment and belief that men’s sins greatly bruise and disturb the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In the Philippines, devotion to the Sacred Heart, which is portrayed as pierced, flaming and bloody, was a big, big feast and a time of great prayerful devotion. Photos from my late grandmother’s collections show her in her First Communion fineries kneeling beside a beautiful statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Apparently, even my grandmother’s sisters’ First Communion photos also have an image of the Sacred Heart.
Older Filipinos would say that indeed, during their times before, during and after the War, devotion to Christ’s bruised Heart was so immense. There were many well-loved hymns to the Sacred Heart. And among Filipinos of that time, nothing would beat the Filipinos’ “anthem” to the Most Sacred Heart, Manuel Bernabe’s No Mas Amor Que El Tuyo, a Spanish poem put into song by Simeon Resurreción that was also the himno oficial of the well-publicized and very historical National Conference on the Holy Eucharist in 1937, an event where all Filipinos gathered at the Luneta to consecrate all Filipino families to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
There was also the “Red Scapular” or the scapular of the Apostolado de Oración/Apostleship of Prayer, another very famous confraternity in the past.First Friday devotions were also very popular among the young and the old of yore.
Likewise, it was traditional among Filipino families that at the family’s oratorio or chapel (to those who had space!) or right in the sala, a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was a must. It was in front of this image of the Sagrado Corazón that Filipino families consecrated themselves and promised the Heart of Jesus eternal loyalty to the sanctity of His Heart as well as to the family, His dwelling place.
However, these days, such practices and edifying devotion to a symbol of selflessness and pure love has obviously waned. Young people are obviously oblivious to the date, and worse, importance of such a feast. In my grade school, there were First Friday Masses every First Friday, year in, year out, but the significance of the Sacred Heart was not as emphasized as compared to former years. It dangerously sent the wrong message: the Faith as being shallow and routinary, a uniformity.
Rarely too does the local Church promote the Apostleship of Prayer and in effect, only the stereotypical spinsters are seen wearing the red scapular. Something must be done.
Lastly, what used to be the foremost spectacle of the sala, a wooden/ivory/stone image of the Sagrado Corazón has since been replaced by a Buddha or some other image. The Sacred Heart of Jesus, apparently is no longer in vogue. Some even say that it is insulting to guests who are unbelievers.
Well, such is the sad plight of the Sacred Heart. Worse, such is the sorry and sorrowful state of so many Filipino families, caught in the sea of confusion as it is no longer anchored on prayer, sacrifice and obedience. And so we see a society so broken, so divided and so lost.
It is the fervent prayer of all devotees of the Sacred Heart tomorrow that all Filipinos once again gather and sing a hymn of praise to the Sacred Heart, something the citizens of the Pearl of the Orient used to be known for.
No Mas Amor Que El Tuyo
Letra de Manuel Bernabe
Musica del Simeon Resurrección
No mas amor que el Tuyo
O Corazon Divino!
El pueblo Filipino,
Te da su corazon.
En templos y en hogares,
Te invoque nuestra lengua,
Tu reinaras sin mengua
De Aparri hasta Jolo.
Ha tiempo que esperamos
Tu imperio en el Oriente,
La Fe de Filipinas
Es como el sol ardiente,
como la roca firme,
inmensa como el mar!
La iniquidad no puede
ser de estas islas duena
que izada en nuestros montes,
Tu celestial ensena.
Las puertas de infierno