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The Teaching of Pope John Paul II

on the Sacred Heart of Jesus

and the Theology of Reparation

     Arthur Burton Calkins

Part 1

I.  Introduction

            The theology and practice of “reparation” as it relates to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been rather largely and unfortunately ignored in most theological circles since the Second Vatican Council.  All too often it has been relegated to the category of “pre-conciliar pious devotions” by theologians and sometimes even by religious communities, which were originally founded with reparation as one of their fundamental ends. 1  Not a few theorists today would claim that the idea of reparation, as it was once known and practiced in the Church until the time of the Second Vatican Council, has been appropriately replaced by the “preferential option for the poor” or some other form of apostolic outreach. 2

            While on the one hand I am convinced that the solemn teaching of Pope Pius XI in his masterful encyclical on the theology of reparation, Miserentissimus Redemptor of 8 May 1928, remains normative for the Church on this matter, 3 on the other hand I believe that it is entirely possible to illustrate that our present Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has continued to affirm, to build upon and to develop the doctrine of his predecessor Pope Pius XI.  I have felt myself challenged to undertake this study particularly by the very informative and fascinating doctoral thesis of Robert A. Stackpole, Consoling the Heart of Jesus:  A History of the Notion and its Practice, especially as found in the Ascetical and Mystical Tradition of the Church. 4  While I remain genuinely grateful to Dr. Stackpole for the vast amount of material which he has assembled, assimilated and made available to researchers, I believe that some of his tentative conclusions and positions, specifically those regarding the foundational value of the teaching of Miserentissimus Redemptor and of the contribution of Pope John Paul II to the theology of reparation, may be further reassessed and supplemented.  I intend to do this explicitly in the course of this study.

II.  John Paul II’s Magisterium on the Heart of Jesus

            First of all, it should be acknowledged that Pope John Paul II has bequeathed to the Church a remarkably rich patrimony of teaching on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which continued unabated to the end of his pontificate.  For instance, he devoted numerous discourses in whole or in part to the Heart of Jesus, he has given three series of Angelus addresses covering all thirty-three petitions in the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 5 he made fascinating allusions to the Heart of Jesus in his first two encyclicals, Redemptor Hominis 6 and Dives in Misericordia, 7 and is particularly fond of emphasizing #22 of Gaudium et Spes as a reference to the Heart of Christ which is contained in the Council documents. 8  He also wrote a notable Message for the Centenary of the Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the entire Church on 11 June 1999.

            It must further be recognized that, since the Pope’s teaching continued unabated, there still exists no comprehensive analyses of all of it. Nonetheless there have been a number of helpful studies on John Paul II’s teaching on the Sacred Heart of Jesus which provide important insights and orientations.  One thinks of El Corazón de Jesús en la enseñanza de Juan Pablo II (1978-1988) with the presentation by Father Roger Vekemans, S.J. 9 which includes papal texts as well as studies by Jesuit Fathers Mendizábal, Pozo and Glotin; of the helpful commentary on texts from the first part of the pontificate offered by Dr. Timothy O’Donnell in his study Heart of the Redeemer 10 and on the illuminating analysis on the Pope's contributions to the theology of the Heart of Jesus by Father Bertrand de Margerie, S.J. 11  I have also authored a study of Pope John Paul II’s Magisterium on the Hearts of Jesus and Mary 12 and have dealt with the Pope's theology and anthropology of the Heart of Jesus as this sheds light on his theology of Marian consecration in my book Totus Tuus. 13

            With specific reference to John Paul II’s teaching on the theology of reparation as it pertains to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one should be aware of the commentary on the Holy Father's letter of 5 October 1986 addressed to Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Superior General of the Jesuits, by two distinguished Jesuit theologians, Fathers Édouard Glotin 14 and Bertrand de Margerie 15 and by Dr. Robert A. Stackpole’s analysis of a few papal texts dealing with the consolation of the Heart of Christ. 16  Even what I am about to present here will necessarily be restricted, but I hope that it will shed further light on how Pope John Paul II continued to bring forth treasures both old and new (cf. Mt. 13:52), confirming the teaching of his predecessors while enriching it with his own unique perspectives and providing a remarkably vast panorama on theocentric and Christocentric reparation.

III.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus as the Source of Reparation

             (Cor Iesu -- Propitiatio pro Peccatis Nostris)

            Virtually every Pope since Pius XI has followed him in emphasizing that our primary response to the love of God manifested in the Heart of Jesus is the twofold work of consecration and reparation.  In his magisterial encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor Pope Pius XI explicitly called the entire Church to embrace the practice of reparation.  Here is the way he put it:

            Whereas the primary object of consecration is that the creature should repay the love of the Creator by loving him in return, yet from this another naturally follows – that is, to make amends for the insults offered to the Divine Love by oblivion and neglect, and by the sins and offenses of mankind.  This duty is commonly called by the name of “reparation.” 17

            Now, while the clear thrust of the encyclical is to delineate the theology and practice of reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 18 this cannot be dissociated from the even more primary reparation offered by Christ to the Father on Calvary.  Father de Margerie in the course of his very valuable analysis of Miserentissimus Redemptor 19 distinguishes between what he refers to as objective and subjective reparation 20 or between theocentric and Christocentric reparation. 21  He refers to the reparation offered by Christ to the Father as objective or theocentric and that offered by believers to Christ as subjective or Christocentric. 22

            This first and most fundamental way in which reparation is understood theologically may also be described as the atonement, expiation, propitiation or satisfaction, which Christ has made for us to the Father in his redemptive sacrifice.  Each of these words emphasizes with a slightly different accent the profound truth that once man fell into sin he was incapable of “making up” for the offense which he had caused to God and the disorder which he had introduced into the universe. 23  Only Jesus could repair the damage done by sin and make the reparation owed to God in justice.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church neatly synthesizes this concept thus:

            It is the love “to the end” (Jn. 13:1) that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction.  He knew and loved us all when he offered his life.  Now “the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died” (2 Cor. 5:14).  No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and to offer himself as a sacrifice for all.  The existence in Christ of the divine Person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all. 24

The most fundamental reparation, then, is the reparation made to the Father by Christ on the Cross and renewed on our altars.  This is also quite clearly brought out in Pius XI’s encyclical:

            We can, nay we must, add our own praise and satisfaction to the praise and satisfaction, which Christ gave to God in the name of sinners.  It should be remembered, however, that the expiatory value of our acts depends solely upon the bloody sacrifice of Christ, a sacrifice which is renewed unceasingly in an unbloody manner on our altars, for “one is the Victim, one and the same is he who now offers through the ministry of his priests, the same who offered himself on the cross, the manner only of the offering being different.” 25  For this reason, with the august sacrifice of the Eucharist must be united the immolation of the ministers and also of the rest of the faithful, so that they too may offer themselves "a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God" (Rom. 12:1). 26


            Further, in Miserentissimus Redemptor Pius XI points out that in the revelations to Saint Margaret Mary the Heart of Jesus is manifested as “aflame with love and accompanied by the emblems of his Passion” [insignia passionis præferens ac flammas amoris ostentans] in order to indicate at one and the same time the “infinite malice of sin” [infinitam peccati malitiam] and the “infinite love of our Repairer” [Reparatoris caritatem infinitam]. 27  Unfortunately, the precise terminology of Pius XI, meant to illustrate the Heart of Jesus as symbolizing the reparative love offered by Jesus to the Father for our sins, is rendered in English translations of the encyclical as the “infinite love of our Redeemer” or the “infinite charity of our Redeemer”.  This rendition was no doubt out of fear on the part of the translators that to speak of Jesus as “Repairer” or “Offerer of reparation” would be unduly awkward, but it does, nonetheless obscure the Pope’s clear intention to indicate the Heart of Jesus as symbolizing Christ’s work of offering the Father perfect reparation.  The Pope emphasizes this concept yet again when he says that Christ “rightly desires to have us as his companions in the work of expiation” [expiationis suæ socios]. 28

            Finally, the concept of the reparation offered by the Heart of Jesus to the Father is magnificently summed up in the Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which Pius XI appended to his encyclical and which he mandated to be recited publicly every year on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. 29  Interestingly, this prayer is addressed to Jesus, but after enumerating many of the sins and outrages by which the Heart of Jesus is offended, it puts these words on the lips of the faithful:

            Would, O divine Jesus, we were able to wash away such abominations with our blood.  We now offer, in reparation for these violations of Thy divine honour, the satisfaction Thou didst once make to Thy eternal Father on the cross and which Thou dost continue to renew daily on our altars; we offer it in union with the acts of atonement of Thy Virgin Mother and all the Saints and of the pious faithful on earth [Interea ad violatum divinum honorem resarciendum, quam Tu olim Patri in cruce satisfactionem obtulisti quamque cotidie in altaribus renovare pergis, hanc eandem nos tibi præstamus, cum Virginis Matris, omnium Sanctorum, piorum quoque fidelium expiationibus coniunctam]. 30

            What I have tried to outline above Father Bertrand de Margerie, S.J. has beautifully summarized thus:

            For Bonaventure, the work of Christ consisted in repairing wounded humanity:  “Reparatio fontalis Christi”:  Christ is the first Repairer, the source of all reparation.  The reparation accomplished by Christ makes ours possible.  The primordial reparation of Christ is an invitation for the response of man in view of bringing all things under one Head, that is, in view of the recapitulation of the universe, in view of putting man back in his proper position in the eternal economy of the wisdom and love of God.  The pierced Heart of Christ sums up all that the only Son has done for the love of men and of the Father.  We need not seek any other source outside that of the reparative love of Christ. 31

IV.  John Paul II’s Teaching on the Heart of Jesus

            as the Source of Reparation

            Perhaps one of the Pope's most striking references to the Heart of Christ as epitomizing his work of redemption was in the extraordinarily rich homily, which he gave at Fatima on 13 May 1982.  In that homily, which illustrates the profound Christological foundation for Marian consecration, he said:

            The Immaculate Heart of Mary opened with the words "Woman, behold, your son!" is spiritually united with the heart of her Son opened by the soldier's spear.  Mary's heart was opened by the same love for man and for the world with which Christ loved man and the world, offering Himself for them on the cross, until the soldier's spear struck that blow.

              Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means drawing near, through the Mother’s intercession, to the very Fountain of life that sprang from Golgotha.  This Fountain pours forth unceasingly redemption and grace.  In it reparation is made continually for the sins of the world.  It is a ceaseless source of new life and holiness.

              Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother means returning beneath the cross of the Son.  It means consecrating this world to the pierced heart of the Savior, bringing it back to the very source of redemption. 32

            Here the Pope provides a marvelous vision of the Heart of Jesus as a “fountain” which at one and the same time ceaselessly pours out redemption and grace even as it continually makes reparation for the sins of the world.  It is a portrayal thoroughly grounded in the patristic and medieval exegesis of John 19:34 which also evokes the images so dear to the subsequent mystical tradition. 33  It is a depiction, which shares in the perspective of Saint John’s Gospel, which focuses simultaneously on Christ as suffering, and in glory. 34  The “fountain unceasingly pouring forth redemption and grace” may also be a graceful allusion to the vision of Sister Lúcia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart, O.C.D., which took place at Tuy, Spain on 13 June 1929.  On that occasion Sister Lúcia saw Jesus on the cross with blood flowing from his face and his wounded side and under his left arm “large letters, as if of crystal clear water which ran down upon the altar, formed these words:  ‘Grace and Mercy’.” 35

            He returned to this theme a year later in writing to the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima:

            But cheered on by hope, which is based on the great certitude of Christ dead and risen, of the Paschal Christ, who is the definitive Incarnation and the living sign of Mercy, of that love which shows itself perennially stronger than sin (cf. Dives in Misericordia, 8), my prayer – with the prayer of the pilgrims of Fatima, certainly –­ continues unceasingly to this Fount of life, from which flow uninterruptedly redemption and grace, ever stronger than evil.  And uniting myself to our Redeemer Jesus Christ and to his consecration for the world and for men, since only in the divine Heart is our expiation re-clothed with the power to achieve pardon and to attain to reparation and reconciliation, I invite all to pray with the Pope and – if I may be permitted – also for the Pope. 36

The divine Heart of Jesus is presented here as the “Fount of life from which grace and redemption flow uninterruptedly” and the source of expiation, reparation and reconciliation.  In this text there is an obvious reference to what the Holy Father had said at Fatima the year before which is confirmed in a footnote, but there may also be two more subtle allusions, of particular interest in the Portuguese milieu.  The first may be to Sister Lúcia’s vision of 13 June 1929 once again.  The second, consisting in the reference to the “Divine Heart” rather than to the “Sacred Heart”, may be a graceful allusion to Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart Droste zu Vischering (1863-1899) who was the human agent responsible for Leo XIII’s consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1899 and who died in Porto, Portugal that same year. 37

            On yet another occasion, without making an explicit verbal identification of “the fount of redemption” with the Heart of Christ, the Pope referred to his renewed Act of Entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of 25 March 1984 as

            a drawing nearer of the world, through the Mother of Christ and Our Mother, to the source of life, poured out on Golgotha:  it was a bringing back of the world to the same fount of Redemption. 38

There is no doubt about the point of reference as the Heart of Jesus, however, because a footnote to the text refers us back to the above-cited passage in the homily pronounced in Fatima two years earlier.  Here the allusion to the reparative dimension is more subtle, but not lacking.  The language of “pouring out” quite clearly refers to the sacrificial pouring out of the blood of the victim.  In an allusive way the Heart of Jesus is presented once again as the symbol of reparation to God and redemption for men.

            In his Holy Thursday Letter to Priests of 13 April 1987 the Holy Father placed heavy emphasis on the oppression, which Jesus experiences in his heart:

            If despite everything, he prays that “this chalice pass from him”, he thus reveals before God and mankind all the weight of the task he has to assume:  to substitute himself for all of us in the expiation of sin.  He also shows the immensity of the suffering which fills his human heart ... Before the Father he remains in all the truth of his humanity, the truth of a human heart oppressed by a suffering which is about to reach its tragic conclusion:  “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mk. 14:34). 39

Only in his human nature can the Son of God take upon himself the sins of all of his brothers and sisters.  Only thus can he substitute himself for us and expiate for our sins – and his human heart becomes the obvious symbol of this substitution and expiation.

            The Pope devoted his Angelus address of 10 September 1989 to meditating on the invocation, “Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins, have mercy on us”:

            Dear brothers and sisters, the invocation from the Litany of the Sacred Heart reminds us that Jesus, according to the words of the Apostle Paul, “was put to death for our sins” (Rom. 4:25); indeed, even though he had not committed sin, “God made him into sin on our behalf” (2 Cor. 5:21).  Upon the heart of Christ the weight of the sin of the world weighed heavily.

              In him was fulfilled perfectly the figure of the “paschal lamb”, the victim offered to God so that, in the sign of its blood, the firstborn of the Hebrews might be saved (cf. Ex. 12:21-27).  Rightly, therefore, John the Baptist recognizes in him the true “Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29):  the innocent lamb who took upon himself the sin of the world in order to immerse it in the saving waters of the Jordan (cf. Mt. 3:13-16 and parallels); the meek lamb “led to the slaughter, like a sheep that is silent before its shearers” (Is. 53:7), so that the haughty word of evil men might be confounded by his divine silence.

              Jesus is the willing victim because he offered himself “freely to his passion” (Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer II), the victim of expiation for the sins of mankind (cf. Lev. 1:5; Heb. 10:5-10), which he purged in the fire of his love.

              Jesus is the eternal victim.  Risen from the dead and glorified at the right hand of the Father, he preserves in his immortal body the marks of the wounds of his nailed hands and feet, of his pierced heart (cf. Jn. 20:27; Lk. 24:39-40) and presents them to the Father in his incessant prayer of intercession on our behalf (cf. Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34). 40

            Jesus’ human heart is a most expressive symbol of his victimhood.  Scripture and the liturgy see him as the “paschal lamb”, the “Lamb of God”, the “innocent lamb led to slaughter”. Even now in glory he remains the “eternal victim”.  His five glorious wounds, the trophies of his victory over sin and death, are not only an eloquent witness to his victimhood, but become in the liturgy of heaven the signs of his on-going priestly intercession.  From the very fact that this meditation is offered as a reflection on “Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins, have mercy on us”, it is clear that the Holy Father is directing us to focus on the wound of the heart as the most representative of all of Christ's wounds, the single most expressive indication of his eternal victimhood.  This also follows from and confirms the teaching of the Venerable Pius XII in his monumental encyclical on the Sacred Heart Haurietis Aquas in which he states that there are two principle reasons that the Church renders the highest form of worship to the Heart of the Redeemer:

The first, which applies also to the other sacred members of the Body of Jesus Christ, rests on that principle whereby we recognize that His Heart, the noblest part of human nature [eius Cor, utpote nobilissimam humanæ naturæ partem], is hypostatically united to the Person of the divine Word. ...
The other reason ... arises from the fact that
His Heart, more than all the other members of His body, is the natural sign and symbol of His boundless love for the human race [Cor eius, magis quam cetera omnia eius corporis membra, immensæ eius caritatis erga hominum genus naturalis index seu symbolus est]. 41

V.  John Paul II’s Teaching on Our Union with the Reparation

    Offered by the Heart of Jesus

            As we have already seen above, the most fundamental reparation is the reparation made to the Father by Christ on the Cross and renewed on our altars and this is powerfully synthesized in the symbol of the Heart of Christ, “propitiation for our sins”.  This is a truth that we find presented in the teaching of Pope John Paul II with notable consistency.  For instance, in his Angelus address of 27 June 1982 he said:

            Reciting the Litany – and in general venerating the Divine Heart – we learn the mystery of Redemption in all its divine and human depth.

              At the same time we become sensitive to the need for reparation. Christ opens his Heart to us that we may join him in his reparation for the salvation of the world.  The language of the pierced Heart speaks the whole truth about his Gospel and about Easter.

              Let us always try to understand this language better.  Let us learn it. 42

            The Pope, for his part, wants to sensitize all of the faithful to this need to join Christ “in his reparation for the salvation of the world”.  Here is how he did so in his extraordinarily rich Angelus address of 30 June 1991:

            The mystery of the redemption, which is brought about through the Cross, always remains alive in the Church who is conscious that each of her children must bear his share of suffering in order, together with Christ, to make reparation for the sins of the world.  She, therefore, announces to humanity the riches of the Heart of Christ and invites all to draw near with full confidence to the throne of grace in order to find timely help there (cf. Heb. 4:16); she asks Christians also to share the infinite charity of the Redeemer and to participate in his work for the salvation of the world.

              How many Christians, touched by this invitation, have offered and continue to offer themselves, in union with Christ, as victims for the salvation of their brothers and sisters and in their own flesh make up that which is lacking in his sufferings on behalf of his body which is the Church (cf. Col. 1:24)!  Their example, as shown throughout the entire history of the Church, is still valid and encouraging.

              May this brief reference to the primacy of the Heart of Jesus in the economy of salvation lead us to a better understanding of the obligation of reparation for the offenses committed against God. Contemplation of the Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy, impels us toward the greater degree of love that is expressed in sharing the suffering and in commitment to expiation.

              The Virgin Mary, present at the foot of the Cross, is for all of us the supreme model because of her direct participation in the passion of Christ, from whose pierced heart saving grace is poured out upon the world. 43

There are many points to ponder in this marvelous text.  The most fundamental one, of course, is the emphasis on the need for all the children of the Church to make reparation in union with Christ for the sins of the world.  Indeed, the Holy Father speaks of “the obligation of reparation”.

            Supporting this thesis, however, are a number of other important principles.  Chief among these is Paul’s emphatic declaration about his making up “what is lacking in Christ's sufferings for the sake of his body which is the Church” (cf. Col. 1:24), which, according to the Pope, has become an imperative for all the children of the Church.  The reference to Colossians 1:24, which he analyzed at length in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris of 11 February 1984, recurs frequently in the Pope’s discourses and writings.  Paul’s affirmation is immediately fleshed out as the Pope evokes recognition of the “many Christians” who “have offered and continue to offer themselves, in union with Christ, as victims for the salvation of their brothers and sisters”.  Here, in effect, he confirms the doctrine of the communion of saints with particular emphasis on those who have come to be known as “victim souls”.  And this allusion is crowned by mention of her who is “the supreme model” of these victim souls “because of her direct participation in the passion of Christ”.  In this graceful termination of his Angelus address John Paul II follows closely the evocation of Mary as Reparatrix by which his predecessor Pius XI concluded his great encyclical on reparation, Miserentissimus Redemptor, as well as the Act of Reparation which he appended to it. 44

            “How many Christians, touched by this invitation, have offered and continue to offer themselves, in union with Christ, as victims!” we heard the Holy Father exclaim in the above cited text.  Now let us see how readily he appropriates the teachings of saints, blesseds and venerables in presenting the “obligation” of Christians of offering themselves in union with the Heart of Christ in reparation for the sins of their brethren and for their salvation.

            Our first example comes from the spirituality of Saint Annibale Maria Di Francia (1851-1927), the Sicilian founder of the Rogationist Fathers of the Heart of Jesus and the Daughters of Divine Zeal.  In his letter of 16 May 1997 to Father Pietro Cifuni, Superior General of the Rogationist Fathers, the Holy Father wrote:

            Bl. Annibale Maria Di Francia, docile to the divine Master's teachings and inwardly guided by the impulse of the Spirit, highlighted the conditions and characteristics of that prayer which make it an ecclesial work “par excellence”, yielding abundant fruit for the Church and for the world.

              The first condition is to put the Blessed Eucharist at the centre of personal and community life, in order to learn from it how to pray and love according to the Heart of Christ, indeed, to unite the offering of his own life with the offering Christ makes of his, continuing to intercede with the Father on our behalf (cf. Heb. 7:25; 9:24). ...

              The third condition on which the founder insisted is intimate association with the suffering of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through the practice of meditation and the generous acceptance, day after day, of exterior and interior suffering, one’s own and that of others, especially that endured by Holy Church, the Bride of Christ. 45

Prayer, according to Saint Annibale Maria and Pope John Paul II, becomes “an ecclesial work ‘par excellence’” when united with Christ’s self-offering, when intimately associated “with the suffering of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus”.

            In addressing pilgrims who came to Rome for the canonization of Saint Teresa Eustochio Verzeri (1801-1852), foundress of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and propagator of the devotion to the Heart of Jesus in nineteenth century Italy by means of her institute and her writings, the Pope said:

            In her spiritual path she [St. Teresa Verzeri] was particularly attracted by the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which she offered to the devotion of her sisters exhorting them to an obedient, generous and gentle religious life.  The souls who want to follow Jesus, she loved to repeat, should imitate him in everything, especially participating in his redemptive passion, after the example of Mary.  To a spiritual daughter, she wrote:  “You would also like to be with Christ on Tabor, but look at the Virgin Mary, she is not on Tabor, she is only at the foot of the cross:  believe, my dear, that the greatest grace that God can give you is that of suffering with him and for his love” (Lettere, part IV, vol. VII, n. 49). 46

Here we find once again the accent placed by the Saint and the Holy Father on Mary as our model in reparation, in participating in Christ’s redemptive passion.

            In his address of 14 June 1985 to the General Chapter of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians), the Holy Father recalled the figure of their founder, the Venerable Léon-Jean Dehon (1843-1925) who was profoundly committed to proclaiming and living the theology of reparation.  Here is how the Holy Father expressed himself:

            In the spirituality of Father Dehon the foundation and center of your institute is the worship and devotion to the Heart of Jesus.  That ought to orient both theological reflection and ascetical formation, as well as pastoral and missionary activity.  It could be recalled that he was always before the dramatic and sublime scene of Calvary described by John the Evangelist:  “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (Jn. 19:33 34).

              Recalling to himself the message and the apparitions of Paray-le Monial, Father Dehon saw in the pierced side the Heart of Jesus, symbol of the love of God toward men, from which flows sanctifying grace, the Sacraments, the Church and from that Heart, blood stained and crowned with thorns, he drew his apostolic zeal and his profound spirit of Eucharistic piety and reparation.  In the last copy book of his famous “diary”, by now an elderly and sick man, he noted:  “I assist at the perpetual Mass of heaven:  Jesus offers himself to the Father, the Lamb immolated from the beginning; the Heart of Jesus victim of love for the glory of God and the salvation of men”. 47

It was Father Dehon’s special charism to integrate his passion to propagate the Church’s social teaching with his profound attraction to reparation to and in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Hence the Holy Father wished to stress that the founder's reparative spirit “ought to orient both theological reflection and ascetical formation, as well as pastoral and missionary activity” in his institute.  But, obviously, such an exhortation is capable of a much broader application; it need not be limited to the sons of Father Dehon.

            What is to be noted particularly, however, is the beautiful passage, which the Holy Father cited from Father Dehon’s last notebook about how he assisted “at the perpetual Mass of heaven”.  Clearly, in his failing health and in the weakening of his forces, he offered himself in union with “the Heart of Jesus victim of love for the glory of God and the salvation of men”.

            Assistance “at the perpetual Mass of heaven” is an evocative way of linking the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, presented eternally to the Father, with the sacrifice of the Mass on earth.  This was a particular hallmark of the spirituality of Blessed Marie of Jesus Deluil-Martiny (1841-1884), bequeathed to the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, the community of cloistered religious which she founded.  At her beatification on 22 October 1989 the Holy Father spoke thus of her:

            “Here I am, I come to do your will” (Heb. 10:9).  These words from the Letter to the Hebrews attributed to Christ show what Marie Deluil-Martiny was called to accomplish throughout her life.  At a very early age she was touched by “Jesus’ injured love” and by the all too frequent rejection of God in society.  At the same time she discovered the greatness of the gift, which Jesus made to the Father to save mankind, the wealth of love, which radiates from his Heart, the fruitfulness of the blood and water which flowed from his open side.  She was convinced that it was necessary to participate in the redemptive suffering of Christ, in a spirit of reparation for the sins of the world.  Mary of Jesus offered herself to the Lord, at the price of trial and in a constant purification.  She could truly say, “I have a passion for Jesus ... His life in mine; my life in him” (1884).

              At a very young age Marie was able to share with her neighbours her ardent desire to live the Saviour’s oblation through ardent participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass.  When she founded the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, she put Eucharistic adoration at the centre of their religious life.  Deeply understanding Christ’s sacrifice, she wanted people to unite themselves continually to the offering of the Blood of Christ to the Blessed Trinity.  With a correct understanding of the Eucharist, she included among the directives of the Institute both a “continual thanksgiving” to the Heart of Jesus for his benefits and mercy and “pressing supplication to obtain the coming of Jesus’ Kingdom into the world”.  Among her intentions she gave special place to priests, their holiness and fidelity.

              At the service of this demanding spirituality, Mary of Jesus instituted a simple and austere form of religious life, based on the rhythm of the Divine Office, imbued with adoration, and in which the consecrated life was a true gift of self so that Christ's love might be known and honoured.  One day she wrote:  “My heart is full of great things, namely, oblation, immolation, communion ... O God, if the sacrifice of my poor life can serve to spread this secret of love, take it” (Diary, 23 October 1874).  When her life was violently ended, she was ready to offer herself with Christ.

              Mary of Jesus contemplated the Mother of the Saviour at the foot of the Cross and present in the heart of the Church at its birth.  The Virgin Mary was her true model.  With Mary, the foundress of the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus prays and keeps watch so that God's children do not cease proclaiming to the world the wonders of his love. 48

            Within the limits allotted at the beatification of seven martyrs and another religious, the Holy Father managed to sketch a number of the salient features of the spirituality of Blessed Mary of Jesus and her institute.  She had a profound intuitive grasp of the self-offering of Jesus, symbolized in his Sacred Heart, the necessity of participating “in the redemptive suffering of Christ, in a spirit of reparation for the sins of the world”, of living “the Saviour’s oblation through ardent participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass”, of the great value of all the members of the Body of Christ uniting “themselves continually to the offering of the Blood of Christ to the Blessed Trinity”.  Her life of “oblation, immolation and communion” in union with the Heart of Jesus was crowned by assassination at the hand of an anarchist. 49

            Finally, let us note her profound intuition about the unique place of Mary in the life of oblation and immolation, 50 appropriately underscored by the Pope, a characteristic which she shares with other saints and blesseds of her era, each one of whom provides unique insights into Mary's coredemptive role vis-à-vis Jesus and the Church.

VI.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus as the Object of Reparation

             (Cor Iesu -- Saturatum Opprobriis)

            Thus far we have been exploring how the teaching of Pope John Paul II testifies to and illuminates the Church’s belief in Jesus’ work of reparation in the perfect sacrifice, which he offered on Calvary and renews in the Mass, and how his pierced Heart is the most perfect symbol of that reparation.  The Pope’s homily at Fatima on 13 May 1982 put it succinctly, poetically and accurately:  The pierced Heart of Jesus is a “Fountain” which “pours forth unceasingly redemption and grace.  In it reparation is made continually for the sins of the world.” 51  Now we wish to turn our attention to the Heart of Jesus as the object of our reparation or to what is sometimes referred to as our “consoling the Heart of Christ”.  This more recent emphasis in the history of spirituality is a direct result of the revelations made by the Lord to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a humble Visitation nun at the Monastery of Paray-le-Monial. 52

            While it is certainly true, as Father Édouard Glotin, S.J. points out in a recent and very insightful study, that there had been a gradual process of “reading the Passion in the Heart of Jesus” in the course of the centuries before Margaret Mary, 53 nonetheless, it cannot be denied that hers was the pivotal role in transmitting the appeal of the Heart of Jesus for consolation to the heart of the Church.  If this was her providential role in the plan of God, we can also say that the most solemn and authoritative transmission of this appeal on the part of the Church’s magisterium thus far has been Pope Pius XI’s classic encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor.  In fact, given the Church's well-known circumspection with regard to private revelations, 54 it is quite remarkable that this encyclical makes explicit reference to Saint Margaret Mary four times 55 and offers an unabashed theological rationale for the entreaty which was communicated to her by the Lord. 56  To my knowledge, this is unparalleled in the history of the papal magisterium.

            We have already explored some significant principles from Miserentissimus Redemptor.  Let us now consider its most fundamental thrust.  After having expounded the dogmatic basis for devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and outlined the practices of consecration to it and the need for reparation, Pius XI quotes what has come to be known as the “great revelation” which was made to Saint Margaret Mary in June of 1675:

            Behold this Heart that has so loved men and loaded them with benefits, but in return for its infinite love, far from finding any gratitude, has met only with neglect, indifference and insult, and these sometimes from souls that owe him a special duty of love. 57

Following this, the Pope considered the practice of the “communion of reparation” and the “holy hour” as particular means of responding to this loving plaint of Christ.

            All of this was prelude to the following theological question:  “But how can these rites of expiation bring solace now, when Christ is already reigning in the beatitude of heaven?” 58  As a preliminary response Pius XI first cited a very apposite quotation from St. Augustine:  “Give me one who loves, and he will understand what I say,” 59 and then gave the following reply:

            If, then, in foreseeing the sins of the future the soul of Jesus became sorrowful unto death, it cannot be doubted that he already felt some comfort when he foresaw our reparation, when “there appeared to him an Angel from heaven” (Lk. 22:43) bearing consolation to his heart overcome with sorrow and anguish.  Hence even now in a mysterious, but true, manner we may and should comfort the Sacred Heart, continually wounded by the sins of ungrateful men. 60

            The possibility of our offering “retroactive” reparation or consolation to the Heart of Jesus is something that had long been held in the Catholic mystical tradition 61 and was fully compatible with the Catholic theological tradition on the threefold human knowledge of Christ. 62  It was only in the next pontificate, however, that the Venerable Pius XII in his encyclical letter Mystici Corporis offered an explicit corroboration on the magisterial level of what his predecessor had already taught:

            The loving knowledge with which the divine Redeemer has pursued us from the first moment of his incarnation is such as completely to surpass all the searchings of the human mind; for by means of the beatific vision, which he enjoyed from the time when he was received into the womb of the Mother of God, he has for ever and continuously had present to him all the members of his mystical Body, and embraced them with his saving love. 63

            While it is true that Pius XI did not explicitly refer to Christ’s beatific vision in the citation from Miserentissimus Redemptor given above, it seems the most obvious and direct way to understand his statement about Christ's foreknowledge of our sins and of our acts of reparation.  His successor’s assertion in Mystici Corporis provided an excellent hermeneutic key to illuminate what he had already taught.  It should also be noted that Pius XII offered a further precision on this matter in his great Sacred Heart encyclical Haurietis Aquas by stating that the “Heart of the Incarnate Word”

            is the symbol of that burning love which, infused into His soul, enriches the human will of Christ and enlightens and governs its acts by the most perfect knowledge derived both from the beatific vision and that which is directly infused. 64

Here Pius XII was distinguishing between the human knowledge of Christ insofar as it derived directly from the beatific vision 65 and that which was directly infused for the sake of his mission. 66  The distinction between these two modes of knowing in Christ was based on the traditional doctrine of the threefold human knowledge of Christ, which was given classic form in the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas. 67 

            With regard to the interpretation of what Pius XI stated in Miserentissimus Redemptor about Christ’s foreknowledge of our sins and also of our loving acts of reparation, two schools of thought developed.  One held that this foreknowledge derives directly from Christ’s beatific vision 68 while the other held that it derives from his infused knowledge. 69  Both of these positions seem entirely compatible with the teaching of Pope Pius XI and within the parameters of the teaching of the papal magisterium. 70

            Unfortunately it must be acknowledged that, since at least the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council – although not as a result of it – there has been a consistent rejection on the part of many theologians of the Church’s traditional belief in the threefold human knowledge of Christ and, in particular, of his possessing the beatific vision in his earthly life. 71  The primary reason for this rejection seems to be the assumption that the classical doctrine on the human knowledge of Christ is incompatible with contemporary psychological theory. 72  Such an assumption is particularly regrettable since in this area everything depends on what psychological theory a given theologian chooses to base himself.  A theory that dominates in the field today may be abandoned tomorrow.  Because of the instability which has been injected into the postconciliar theological scene as a result of this rejection and because the papal magisterium has not made any subsequent pronouncements on the level of those made by Pius XI and Pius XII, there has been a tendency on the part of some to assume that the teaching of these popes is no longer binding. 73

            I believe that such reasoning is clearly unacceptable for several reasons.  First, because, if a tenet of the faith has been continually taught and held with moral unanimity by pastors and theologians for a long period in the Church, 74 it simply cannot be jettisoned, even if no longer supported by a consensus of theologians.  Otherwise there is no absolute truth; everything is reduced to relativism on the basis of what is theologically fashionable and we know that fashions by their very nature change from one day to the next.  Secondly, it is not necessary for every pope to restate all Catholic doctrine.  “An authentic exercise of the ordinary papal magisterium need not be repeated on the same subject” as Stackpole rightly states. 75  Thirdly, not only has this doctrine never been rejected by the magisterium, but it has been reaffirmed in various ways, as we will now see.



1. Cf. Édouard Glotin, S.J., “L’expérience spirituelle de la réparation” in Bernard Peyrous (ed.), Le Cœur du Christ pour un monde nouveau:  Actes du congrès de Paray-le-Monial 13 au 15 octobre 1995 (Paris: Éditions de l’Emmanuel, 1998) 227.

2. Cf. Glotin, “L’expérience,” 228.

3. Father Bertrand de Margerie, S.J. speaks of “the permanent importance of Miserentissimus Redemptor” in HD 2:55-56.  See table of abbreviations at the end of this article.

4. Dissertatio ad Lauream in Facultate S. Theologiæ apud Pontificiam Universitatem S. Thomæ, Romæ 2001.

5. These were given in the summer months of 1985, 1986 and 1989 and were conveniently collected and published in their original Italian as Giovanni Paolo II, Le litanie del Sacro Cuore:  Riflessioni a cura di don Angelo Bonetti (Milano:  Edizioni Paoline, 1990) and in English as Pope John Paul II, Angelus Meditations on the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus ed. by Carl Moell, S.J. (Huntington, IN:  Our Sunday Visitor, 1992).

6. #8 & 9.  Cf. comments of de Margerie in HD 2:202-206.

7. #13.  Cf. commentary of de Margerie in HD 2:206-208.

8. Cf. also Inseg IX/2 (1986)     [ORE 960:7]; Inseg XI/1 (1988) 344 [ORE 1025:6]; Inseg XI/1 (1988) 1367 [ORE 1044:6-7]; Inseg XII/1 (1989) 633 [ORE 1083:12].

9. El Corazón de Jesús en la enseñanza de Juan Pablo II (1978-1988):  Antología de textos - Estudios (Madrid:  Instituto Internacional del Corazón de Jesús, 1990).

10. Timothy T. O’Donnell, S.T.D., Heart of the Redeemer:  An Apologia for the Contemporary and Perennial Value of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Manassas, VA:  Trinity Communications, 1989) 225-255.

11. HD 2:201-222.

12. Arthur Burton Calkins, “The Hearts of Jesus and Mary in the Magisterium of Pope John Paul II” in Acta Congressus Mariologici-Mariani Internationalis in Civitate Onubensi (Huelva - Hispania) Anno 1992 Celebrati IV:  De Cultu Mariano Saeculo XX a Concilio Vaticano II usque ad Nostros Dies (Vatican City State:  Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, 1999) 147-167.

13. Arthur Burton Calkins, Totus Tuus:  John Paul II’s Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment.  New Bedford, MA.:  Academy of the Immaculate “Studies and Texts,” No. 1, 1994 (second printing) 248-256.

14. “La véritable réparation demandée par le Cœur du Sauveur” published in Réélaborer les Exercices ou se laisser recréer par l’Esprit, in C.I.S., Curia S.J., Rome, 1989, n. 2-3, pp. 54-63; Spanish translation in El Corazón de Jesús en la enseñanza de Juan Pablo II (1978-1988) 359-369; Italian translation in Édouard Glotin, S.J., Il Cuore Misericordioso di Gesù (Rome:  Edizioni Dehoniane and Apostolato della Preghiera, 1993) 63-76.

15. HD 2:216-218.

16. Stackpole 176-178, 375-376, 388.

17. AAS 20 (1928) 169 [Plus 95; unless otherwise indicated I will follow the translation given in Plus].  Pope Paul VI underscores the same fact in his Apostolic Letter Investigabiles Divitias Christi saying that the cultus of the Sacred Heart “consists essentially in the adoration and reparation due to Christ Our Lord” AAS 57 (1965) 300.

18. The Latin subtitle of this document is de communi expiatione Sacratissimo Cordi Iesu debita.

19. HD 2:55-107.

20. HD 2:55.

21. HD 2:98.

22. It would seem that one could just as easily refer to theocentric reparation as “subjective” in the sense that Christ is its “subject” and refer to Christocentric reparation as “objective” in the sense that Christ is its “object”.

23. Cf. Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences Indulgentiarum Doctrina #2 in Austin Flannery, O.P., ed., Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Collegeville, Minn.:  Liturgical Press, 1975) 63.

24. CCC #616.

25. D-H #1743.

26. AAS 20 (1928) 170-171 [Plus 97-98].

27. AAS 20 (1928) 172.

28. AAS 20 (1928) 174 [Plus 101-102].

29. AAS 20 (1928) 177.

30. AAS 20 (1928) 179, 185.

31. HD 2:59 [my trans.].

32. Inseg V/2 (1982) 1573; 1582 [ORE 734:3].  Emphasis my own.

33. Cf. HD 1:63-150.

34. Cf. Ignace de la Potterie, S.J., La passion de Jésus selon l’évangile de Jean (Paris:  Éditions du Cerf, 1986) 9-16; 186-196.

35. Louis Kondor, S.V.D. (Ed.), Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, Volume I trans. by Dominican Nuns of Perpetual Rosary (Fatima, Portugal:  Postulation Centre, 1976) 200.

36. Inseg VI/1 (1983) 966 [my trans.].  Emphasis my own.

37. Cf. Totus Tuus 82-85.

38. Inseg VII/2 (1984) 1684 [ORE 869:4].

39. Inseg X/1 (1987) 1309, 1320 [ORE 983:21].

40. Inseg XII/2 (1989) 498-499 [ORE 1107:1].  Emphasis my own.

41. AAS 48 (1956) 316; D-H #3922 [HA #21, 22].  Emphasis my own.

42. Inseg V/2 (1982) 2413 [ORE 741:2].  Emphasis my own.

43. Inseg XIV/1 (1991) 1840-1841 [ORE 1198:10].  Emphasis my own.

44. Cf. AAS 20 (1928) 178, 179 [Plus 106, 108].

45. Inseg XX/1 (1997) 1196-1197 [ORE 1499:9].

46. Inseg XXIV/1 (2001) 1188 [ORE 1697:3].  Emphasis my own.

47. Inseg VIII/1 (1985) 1783 [my trans.].  Emphasis my own.

48. Inseg XII/2 (1989) 993-994 [ORE 1114:2].  Emphasis my own.

49. Cf. L. Laplace, Immolation:  Life of Mother Mary of Jesus trans. J. F. Newcomb (New York:  Benziger Brothers, 1926); Lettres de Mère Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny (Paris:  P. Lethielleux, 1965); Lettere di Madre Maria di Gesù Deluil-Martiny (Belluno:  Tip. Piave, 1981); Henri Arnaud, Le Choix de l’Absolu (Marseille, 1990); Paolo Risso, La Mia Vita nel Tuo Cuore (Rome: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1996).

50. Cf. René Laurentin, Marie, L’Église et Le Sacerdoce I:  Essai sur le développement d’une idée religieuse (Paris:  Nouvelles Éditions Latines, 1953) 442-463.

51. Inseg V/2 (1982) 1573; 1582 [ORE 734:3].

52. Cf. HD 1:177-195.

53. Cf. Édouard Glotin, S.J., Le Cœur de Jésus: Approches anciennes et nouvelles (Namur, Belgium:  Collection Vie Consacrée #16, 1997) 111-162.

54. Cf. CCC #67.

55. Cf. AAS 20 (1928) 166, 167, 173, 177 [Plus 92, 94, 100, 105].

56. Cf. Stackpole 155.

57. AAS 20 (1928) 173 [Plus 100].  The original French text is found in F.-L. Gauthey (ed.), Vie et Œuvres de Sainte Marguerite-Marie Alacoque (Paris:  Ancienne Librairie Poussielgue, 1920) II:103.

58. AAS 20 (1928) 173.  Here I am using the English translation provided in Carlen III:325.

59. In Ioannis evangelium, tract. XXVI, 4; AAS 20 (1928) 173 [Carlen III:325].

60. AAS 20 (1928) 174 [Plus 101].  Emphasis my own.

61. Cf. Stackpole 71-149.

62. For an excellent general exposition of the traditional teaching on Christ’s acquired, infused and beatific human knowledge, cf. Bertrand de Margerie, S.J., The Human Knowledge of Christ (Boston:  St. Paul Editions, 1980).

63. D-H #3812.  Emphasis my own.

64. AS 48 (1956) 327-328; D-H #3924; [HA #56].  Emphasis my own.

65. Instead of speaking of the “beatific vision” the CCC #473 speaks of “the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father”, but it is arguable that this text is dealing with the same reality; cf. Stackpole 338-342.

66. #473 of the CCC seems to allude to this kind of knowledge in stating that “The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts”.

67. Cf. ST III, 9-12 and Stackpole 266-275.  On the richness and depth of the tradition about the beatific vision in Christ, cf. Doctor Communis 36, N. 2-3 (maggio-dicembre 1983), which was a special number dedicated to this topic.

68. The late Monsignor Antonio Piolanti was perhaps the most eminent representative of this position.  Cf. his article “Compresenza dei dolori del Cuore di Cristo ai peccati degli uomini e ripercussione sullo stesso divin Cuore delle soddisfazioni dei giusti” in Bea, Rahner, Rondet, Schwendimann (eds.), Cor Jesu:  Commentationes in Litteras Encyclicas Pii PP. XII “Haurietis Aquas” Vol, I:  Pars Theologica (Rome:  Casa Editrice Herder, 1959) 657-682.  Cf. comments in Stackpole 288-290.

69. Father de Margerie, S.J. held strictly to this position; cf. HD 2:90-102.  Stackpole presents summaries of the thought of a number of other distinguished theologians who took this position, pp. 283-288, 291-294.

70. On the twentieth century papal magisterium in the human knowledge of Christ, cf. Stackpole 278-282.

71. On the dissent, which has been mounting on this subject, cf. Stackpole 294-315.

72. Cf. Stackpole 302-315.

73. Cf. Stackpole 345-350.  On p. 345 Dr. Stackpole says:  “It is ironic that just when the idea of retroactive consolation became fully articulated in the Church, its theological foundations began to crumble” primarily because of its incompatibility with modern psychological theories.  I would rather say not that “its theological foundations began to crumble”, but that “its support by theologians began to crumble”.

74. In the case of the virtually unanimous acceptance of this doctrine, cf. Stackpole 254-278.

75. Stackpole 348.  Cf. his summary of the teaching of the papal magisterium on the question of Christ’s beatific and infused knowledge 278-283, 343-350.  I find his concluding paragraph on p. 350 too weak and hesitant.

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