1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sacred Heart

SACRED HEART. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a cult peculiar to the modern Roman Catholic Church. The principal object of this devotion is the Saviour Himself. The secondary and partial object is that Heart which was the seat or organ of His love, and which forms the natural symbol thereof. Heart and love are viewed, not physiologically, but in their moral connexion. The chief liturgical expressions of this cult are the institution of a feast of the Sacred' Heart and public representations of it by statues and pictures.

Private worship of Christ's heart in particular is of great antiquity in the Church, and is prominent in St Gertrude and other mystics. It was greatly stimulated in the 17th century by St Francis of Sales (q.v.) who gave this symbol to his Order (the Visitation) as its badge. The Venerable Fr. Eudes must also be mentioned as a great propagator of the devotion, in the same century, and he was the first to obtain a certain public, though only local, authorization of the new pious practices. Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a Visitation nun of Paray-le-Monial, assisted by her director, the Venerable Claude de la Colombière, S.J. (1641-1682), was the instrument of the introduction of the specific worship of the Sacred Heart into the Church by a decision of the supreme authority, although their work only took effect long after their death. Mary of Modena, the exiled queen of James II., at the instance of the Visitation, petitioned in 1697 for a proper Feast of the Sacred Heart. Neither then, however, nor on the presentation of new petitions in 1726, was an affirmative answer obtained. Meanwhile the chief objection, that of “novelty,” was gradually removed by the multiplication of local manifestations, the genuineness of which was proved to the satisfaction of the Roman Congregation of Rights, and in 1765 it was allowed for houses of the Visitation and certain countries. It must be added that this devotion was strongly opposed, not only by the Jansenists, but by others within the Church, under the mistaken idea that the Heart of Christ was viewed in it as separate from the rest of His Being. The formulation of this objection by the synod of Pistoia,[1] in 1786, however, only provoked a clearer explanation of the doctrine, which contributed to confirm the cult. In 1856 Pius IX. introduced the feast into the general calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, fixing the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi for its celebration. The Beatification of Blessed M.M. Alacoque in 1864 gave a new impetus to the cause of which she had been the apostle.

See Nic. Nilles, S.J., De rationibus festorum SS. Cordis Jesu, &c. (3rd ed., Innsbruck, 1873); E. Letrierce, S.J., Études sur le Sacré Cœur et la Visitation (Paris, 1890). These two works contain bibliographical lists. Dalgairns, The Devotion to the Heart of Jesus (1853); H. E. Manning, The Glories of the Sacred Heart (1876); Jos. Nix, Cultus SS. Cordis Jesu . . . cum additamento de cultu purissimi cordis B. V. Mariae (2nd ed., Freiburg-i.-B., 1891). (H. B. M.)

  1. Scipione de Ricci, bishop of Pistoia from 1780 to 1791, on the ex-Jesuits requesting him to consecrate a bell dedicated to this object, issued a pastoral letter (3rd June 1784) in which he pointed out that the spirit of true religion was “far removed from fetishism,” and warned his flock against “cardiolatry.” This pastoral was subsequently in 1786 annexed to the resolutions passed by the reforming synod of Pistoia (q.v.), and was condemned with eighty-four other propositions by papal bull in 1794.—Ed.