Monday, February 7, 2011

Be Still, My Sacred Heart

I'm starting to pray a novena. It's my first one, and like many first things, I'm excited about it. I'm a Type A, competitive and over-performing personality, which means I prefer to do everything myself.

But what's the point of being an overachiever if I underachieve for God, who gave me my drive, talents and abilities in the first place? Talk about ingraditude! So, now that I've graduated, and my priorities are sensibly shifting, I've decided to focus 2011 specifically on trusting God in all things. At present, I mostly do, but I still worry.

I was struck this past Sunday, during the Nicene Creed, when I said I believe in the resurrection of the body.

Here I was, participating in the Mass, not worrying whether or not people might come kill us because we publicly proclaim our belief in Jesus (which is happening currently in the Middle East; "No group right now may be suffering more in the Middle East than Christians," says The New Republic.). Jesus Christ, who bodily ascended to Heaven, who will come again to judge the living and the dead, present at the Mass, and there I was in the pew, filling my thoughts with smaller, more trivial worries. How silly of me!

And, I pondered further, if I can trust God, in his great mercy, to give us everlasting life, how can I do anything except "pray, hope and [not] worry"? (to quoth St. Padre Pio.)

Part of trusting is abandoning my weaknesses and my excuses. I have a lot of excuses, most of which correlate quite nicely with my snooze button. This morning, however, I decided to ignore my usual must-sleep-more feeling and got up for morning Mass at St. Gertie's. I got dressed, hazy with sleepiness, and made my way around the house to get ready, including moving two cars out of the driveway so that I could get my own car out.

Mass was wonderful; a quiet solemnity with the 30-ish people. Afterwards, I read The Magnificat's prayer for this morning: "By waiting and by calm you shall be saved,/ in quiet and in trust your strength lies (Is 30:15b). God in his power is refuge and strength; God in his mercy is the river that refreshes the soul; God in his beauty stills our useless struggles and gathers us into his peace.

A novena, I recently re-learned, does not have to be said with a rosary. I was always under the impression it did. Actually, I was under the impression that a novena was saying the rosary nine times a day for nine days. Not sure where I learned this, or why I thought this, but now I know better. A novena is simply a prayer said for nine days in a row for a specific purpose.

For example, I am praying the Sacred Heart of Jesus novena. Sr. Marguerite Marie Alacoque was a French nun and mystic (lived 1647-1690) who had visions of Christ and increased devotion to the Sacred Heart. If people keep this devotion, our Lord told Sr. Marguerite Marie, he promises 12 things:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will give peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.
9. I will bless those places wherein the image of my Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
12. In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.

(Why yes, these promises do seem similar to Mary's 15 Promises to Christians who pray the rosary!)

"And He [Christ] showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin that made Him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure Him all the honour and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which His heart is the source."
— from Revelations of Our Lord to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque

Pope Leo XIII consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart in 1899. I've always been especially drawn to this devotion. Growing up, I saw Jesus and his Sacred Heart every day, as it was framed on the wall by my bedroom and taped to our kitchen fridge. When I did a retreat with the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist my junior year of college, my little slip of paper said, "O Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me!" Nearly everyone else got Mary and I got Jesus' Sacred Heart? This is why I decided upon this devotion for my first novena.

It starts, "O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you." Behold I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of [mention the purpose of your prayer]"

Then, your intention(s), followed by an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, and ends, "Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you. Amen."

Today is only Day 2, but I have great hopes and fervent prayers. Even if nothing is directly resolved, these types of prayers are a nice reminder that we live by God's timetable, not our own.

Oh, and Mary posted this awesome and dance-inducing video yesterday. Must share:

Mary, by the way, is amazing. She left corporate America at 45 to raise and homeschool two of the sweetest little girls. I really admire her.

Happy Monday! As Old Sport says, may you find beauty in an unexpected place today!


  1. How wonderful! I love novenas, especially to St. Raphael & St. Joseph. I haven't done a novena to the Sacred Heart.

  2. Julie,
    What a wonderful novena. Wow! We were definitely on the same wave length last night! Thanks for the link and mention on Twitter!

  3. I'm a devotee of the Sacred Heart. Soon I'll write about the many miracles I experienced through it. It is before a statue of the Sacred Heart that I heard "the call."

    There's a book of meditations on the Sacred Heart by Fr. Thomas D. Williams, LC. It's called "A Heart Like His." It's set up that you read one for each day in June, the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart, but you can read it anytime of the year. It's written fairly recently so it's fresh and relevant. I strongly, strongly, strongly recommend it. Shoot, it was while reading this book that one of the "miracles" happened to me....

  4. I frequently have to lasso my mind back into focus during the Creed or during certain parts of transubstantiation. You're right, we're so fortunate to be in the country where we're not dodging mortar rounds to get to Mass.

    Great idea for a Novena!

  5. I just prayed my first novena ever recently too (still have to write a post about that...). I thought at first that it "didn't work" but a few days later, I realized that it completely "worked", just not in the way I was expecting... hope you had a good experience with yours!