One evening I called down the basement stairs for my eighth grader to come up for dinner. He had gone down to run on our treadmill, but when I opened the door, I didn’t hear the familiar whirring noise, so I went to investigate.
I found him sprawled on the floor, preparing to take a nap.
“What?” I said. “I thought you were running.”
He responded, “I was, but I just got so tired.”
Something didn’t feel right, and then, in a moment of total clarity, it hit me — carbon monoxide! I immediately got him up and out of the basement and called for help.
When the technician arrived, he found that our basement had extremely high levels of the deadly gas coming from an improperly vented gas water heater that had been installed by a friend of the previous owners of our house. The technician kept telling me how lucky we were, but I knew it wasn’t luck; I knew it was God.
Two weeks prior, my family and I gathered beneath two religious images resting on the fireplace mantle of our newly purchased home. For seven days we had been praying for this moment and anticipating the graces that would come from bringing Christ into our home through Enthronement to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
During the ceremony I pondered how this act would impact our family. As we read aloud the 12 promises given by Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the champion of this devotion, I concluded that we had nothing to lose by dedicating our home to Christ and that if even one of the promises came to pass, it would be worth it.
The promises are:
- I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
- I will give peace in their families and will unite families that are divided.
- I will console them in all their troubles.
- I will be their refuge during life and above all in death.
- I will bestow the blessings of heaven on all their enterprises.
- Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
- Tepid souls shall become fervent.
- Fervent souls shall rise quickly to great perfection.
- I will bless those places wherein the image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored and will imprint my love on the hearts of those who would wear this image on their person. I will also destroy in them all disordered movements.
- I will give to priests who are animated by a tender devotion to my Divine Heart the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
- Those who promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
- I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence: They will not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
At the time, we had six children ranging from eighth grade down to a toddler, and we were running from one event to the next. Life was good, but I was feeling the weight of the responsibility of parenting in this modern era and the many stresses that burden married couples today.
I realized I needed Christ in a real and lasting way to help me be a better wife and mother. Afterward, I felt a sense of peace and resolved to be more conscientious about our faith, but in many ways we all settled back into life as usual. It wasn’t until our carbon monoxide experience that we started to become more aware of God’s grace working anew in our family life. After that we started to see the many graces being granted. Some health concerns were resolved, minor financial needs were met, and most importantly a new desire to be closer to Our Lord began to take root.
Christ’s love for all of us
The Sacred Heart devotion is rooted in the very person of Jesus. In John 19:34 we learn how a Roman soldier thrust his lance into the side of Christ, from which flowed blood and water from piercing the heart of Jesus. Cardinal Raymond Burke says:
The blood and water which flowed from the Pierced Heart of Jesus is the sign of his life with us in the Church. Once risen from the dead and seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, Christ has never ceased to pour out, from his glorious Pierced Heart, the grace of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples. (Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Sacred Scripture, published on CatholicCulture.org)
This image of Christ’s heart outside of the body is a source of refuge and consolation, as it is rooted in Our Lord’s deep desire to spread his love to all mankind and draw us all closer to his ever-loving heart.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’s visions
Devotion to the Sacred Heart first gained prominence through the efforts of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690), a French mystic canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.
As a young child, St. Margaret Mary underwent many trials. Rather than becoming bitter, she allowed her hardships to sanctify her and deepen her faith life. St. Margaret Mary felt called to become a religious sister and left her home for the convent on June 20, 1671. She entered the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial, France, and was professed the next year.
St. Margaret Mary experienced multiple extraordinary visions that affirmed Christ’s love for humanity through his most Sacred Heart. In her visions, Christ expressed his desire for St. Margaret Mary to promote a devotion to the Sacred Heart, teach others about the importance of going to Mass on each First Friday of the month for nine months, start a Holy Hour of Reparation, and establish a feast day to honor Christ’s Most Sacred Heart.
Jesus told St. Margaret Mary that he would bless each home where an image of his Sacred Heart is exposed and honored.
The portrait of the Sacred Heart is a means by which we can deepen our love of God and enlighten our souls with divine truths. This devotion is focused around crowning Jesus Christ the king of our lives and allowing him to enter into the very fabric of our lives so that we, too, can cling to Christ much like St. John the Apostle did at the Last Supper (see John 13:23).
By drawing close to Jesus’ Heart we seek not only a place of refuge and consolation but we also seek to be strengthened by him so as to bring him to those whom we meet day in and day out. (SacredHeartCongressColumbus.org)
We learn in the Gospels that Christ sought out the sick and sinners and invited them to have a personal relationship with him. This devotion is intended to bring us back to the heart of Christ and recognize his deep and passionate love for us. Christ wants to be our “king, brother, and friend.”
How to enthrone
The enthronement process includes the recitation of seven days of prayer leading up to the final ceremony, which includes many beautiful prayers and the placement of an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Often the image is accompanied by one of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for it was she who said at the Wedding Feast of Cana, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Mary is the perfect model of faithfully following Our Lord. We look to her to learn how to love Christ more profoundly.
Sacred Heart Columbus
I became familiar with this devotion growing up as a young girl through the witness of my grandfather. He devoted more than 30 years of his life to creating plaques of the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart through an organization called The Men of the Sacred Heart.
Following his witness, my parents, Chuck and JoAnn Wilson, along with their spiritual director, Fr. Stash Dailey, founded Sacred Heart Columbus, a group of lay missionaries that travel around central Ohio spreading the devotion. Sacred Heart Columbus hosts a monthly radio program on the First Friday of the month, has a website (SacredHeartCongressColumbus.org), produces a DVD and a booklet to provide resources, and hosts a yearly congress with educational speakers.
This organization and many others around the country are devoted to helping people discover the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As Chuck says, “Catholic families are under spiritual attack, and enthroning your home is something that will not only strengthen your family but is part of the solution to many of the struggles related to family life. So many people have found it to be a tremendous blessing in their lives.”
In central Ohio during the last six years, more than 40 teams of missionaries have witnessed the enthronement of more than 1,000 homes and institutions.
The Sacred Heart devotion is one that links Catholics all around the world. This devotion can teach us how to better love Our Lord and allow him to be king of our homes so we can better face our daily struggles.