Home Page

   Msgr Calkins - Home Page

The Teaching of Pope John Paul II

on the Sacred Heart of Jesus

and the Theology of Reparation


Arthur Burton Calkins

Part 2

VII.  John Paul II’s Teaching on the Reparation We Offer to the              Heart of Jesus

            A.  Preliminary Considerations

            Before we begin to consider the explicit texts of Pope John Paul II, which assume and support the classical doctrine on Christ's beatific and infused knowledge as enunciated by Pope Pius XII, let us take note of some very significant statements, which provide a doctrinal basis for what we will subsequently consider.

            First, if John Paul II has not used the classical language of “beatific” and “infused” knowledge in teaching about Christ’s human knowledge and consciousness, neither has he avoided the issue.  In an illuminating discourse which he gave at his general audience of 30 November 1988 on Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, the Pope commented:

            Dominant in his mind Jesus has the clear vision of God and the certainty of his union with the Father.  But in the sphere bordering on the senses, and therefore more subject to the impressions, emotions and influences of the internal and external experiences of pain, Jesus' human soul is reduced to a wasteland, and he no longer feels the “presence” of the Father, but he undergoes the tragic experience of the most complete desolation. ...

              In the sphere of feelings and affection this sense of the absence and abandonment by God was the most acute pain for the soul of Jesus who drew his strength and joy from union with the Father.  This pain rendered more intense all the other sufferings.  That lack of interior consolation was his greatest agony. 76

If the Pope does not use the technical language of “beatific vision” here, one can hardly doubt that he is referring to it.  In effect, he is presenting the classical doctrine from a psychological perspective, which at once respects the teaching of the previous magisterium while striving to penetrate into the human experience of Christ’s dereliction during his agony and on the cross.  At the same time, however, he is quite clear that no human explanation of this intense suffering of Christ in his passion can ever do more than lead us to the threshold of the mystery:”

            On Jesus’ lips the “why” addressed to God was also more effective in expressing a pained bewilderment at that suffering which had no merely human explanation, but which was a mystery of which the Father alone possessed the key. 77

This is an extremely important insight.  No human analysis, neither the most profound theological penetration of an Aquinas or a Bonaventure nor the mystic insight of a Teresa of Avila or a Thérèse of Lisieux can bring us to more than the brink of the mystery.  And this, I humbly believe, is the great failing of so many modern theologians, who are not satisfied to lead us to the brink of the mystery, but think that they can somehow explain it.  This has direct bearing on their refusal to accept the Church's traditional doctrine on the human knowledge of Christ, explicitly his infused knowledge and beatific vision, and their misleading others into believing that the whole theological, mystical and magisterial tradition which has developed on this matter in the course of two thousands years is mistaken.

            Another background factor to be kept in mind is that one of the great achievements of John Paul II's pontificate for solidifying Catholic doctrine has been the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which contains a text bearing specifically on Christ’s vision of us during his life and passion and touching on the theology of the Heart of Jesus:

            Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us:  “The Son of God ... loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).  He has loved us all with a human heart.  For this reason the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation (Cf. Jn. 19:34) “is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that ... love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings” without exception. 78

The footnote appended to the end of this important passage refers us to the two fundamental texts of Pius XII which we have already considered above, that from Haurietis Aquas which speaks of the beatific and infused knowledge of Christ 79 and that from Mystici Corporis which speaks of Christ's seeing and loving each of us by virtue of the beatific vision. 80  Dr. Stackpole, commenting on the bearing of this text on the theology of reparation to the Heart of Jesus, states that it does not “explicitly require us to believe that the earthly Jesus enjoyed universal beatific and/or universal infused knowledge in his human soul”. 81  Evidently he is putting all of the emphasis here on the difference between “explicitly” and “implicitly” because it seems hard to grasp how this passage, in the light of the two Denzinger references, does not require us to believe “that the earthly Jesus enjoyed universal beatific and/or universal infused knowledge in his human soul”.  Further, if this teaching is not directly from the ordinary magisterium of Pope John Paul II, there can be no doubt that he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church, from which it comes, with the full weight of his pontifical authority.

            A third highly significant background factor which needs to be taken into consideration in order to grasp John Paul's teaching on the reparation which we offer to the Heart of Jesus is this lengthy, but dense and very important passage from the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte of 6 January 2001:

            In contemplating Christ’s face, we confront the most paradoxical aspect of his mystery, as it emerges in his last hour, on the Cross.  The mystery within the mystery, before which we cannot but prostrate ourselves in adoration.

              The intensity of the episode of the agony in the Garden of Olives passes before our eyes.  Oppressed by foreknowledge of the trials that await him, and alone before the Father, Jesus cries out to him in his habitual and affectionate expression of trust:  “Abba, Father”.  He asks him to take away, if possible, the cup of suffering (cf. Mk. 14:36).  But the Father seems not to want to heed the Son's cry.  In order to bring man back to the Father’s face, Jesus not only had to take on the face of man, but he had to burden himself with the “face” of sin.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

              We shall never exhaust the depths of this mystery. All the harshness of the paradox can be heard in Jesus’ seemingly desperate cry of pain on the Cross: “‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mk. 15:34). Is it possible to imagine a greater agony, a more impenetrable darkness?  In reality, the anguished “why” addressed to the Father in the opening words of the Twenty-second Psalm expresses all the realism of unspeakable pain; but it is also illumined by the meaning of that entire prayer, in which the Psalmist brings together suffering and trust, in a moving blend of emotions.  In fact the Psalm continues:  “In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you set them free ... Do not leave me alone in my distress, come close, there is none else to help” (Ps. 22:5, 12).

              Jesus’ cry on the Cross, dear Brothers and Sisters, is not the cry of anguish of a man without hope, but the prayer of the Son who offers his life to the Father in love, for the salvation of all.  At the very moment when he identifies with our sin, “abandoned” by the Father, he “abandons” himself into the hands of the Father.  His eyes remain fixed on the Father.  Precisely because of the knowledge and experience of the Father, which he alone has, even at this moment of darkness he sees clearly the gravity of sin and suffers because of it.  He alone, who sees the Father and rejoices fully in him, can understand completely what it means to resist the Father’s love by sin.  More than an experience of physical pain, his Passion is an agonizing suffering of the soul.  Theological tradition has not failed to ask how Jesus could possibly experience at one and the same time his profound unity with the Father, by its very nature a source of joy and happiness, and an agony that goes all the way to his final cry of abandonment.  The simultaneous presence of these two seemingly irreconcilable aspects is rooted in the fathomless depths of the hypostatic union.

              Faced with this mystery, we are greatly helped not only by theological investigation but also by that great heritage which is the “lived theology” of the saints.  The saints offer us precious insights which enable us to understand more easily the intuition of faith, thanks to the special enlightenment which some of them have received from the Holy Spirit, or even through their personal experience of those terrible states of trial which the mystical tradition describes as the “dark night”.  Not infrequently the saints have undergone something akin to Jesus’ experience on the Cross in the paradoxical blending of bliss and pain. In the Dialogue of Divine Providence, God the Father shows Catherine of Siena how joy and suffering can be present together in holy souls:  “Thus the soul is blissful and afflicted:  afflicted on account of the sins of its neighbour, blissful on account of the union and the affection of charity which it has inwardly received.  These souls imitate the spotless Lamb, my Only-begotten Son, who on the Cross was both blissful and afflicted”.  In the same way, Thérèse of Lisieux lived her agony in communion with the agony of Jesus, “experiencing” in herself the very paradox of Jesus's own bliss and anguish:  “In the Garden of Olives our Lord was blessed with all the joys of the Trinity, yet his dying was no less harsh.  It is a mystery, but I assure you that, on the basis of what I myself am feeling, I can understand something of it”.   What an illuminating testimony!  Moreover, the accounts given by the Evangelists themselves provide a basis for this intuition on the part of the Church of Christ's consciousness when they record that, even in the depths of his pain, he died imploring forgiveness for his executioners (cf. Lk. 23:34) and expressing to the Father his ultimate filial abandonment:  “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk. 23:46).82

            The first very important point made by the Pope and consistently repeated in various ways is that in approaching the question of Christ’s human consciousness during his agony and passion we are dealing with a profound mystery of the faith, indeed, he calls it “the mystery within the mystery” and says that before it “we cannot but prostrate ourselves in adoration”.

            Secondly, his teaching about Jesus’ enjoyment of the beatific vision, even in the bitter experience of his passion, is unmistakable.  He says that Jesus’ “eyes remain fixed on the Father” and is emphatic about “the knowledge and experience of the Father which he alone has, even at this moment of darkness”.  With this affirmation he ratifies and synthesizes the theological, mystical and magisterial tradition of which he is the heir.

            Thirdly, Pius XI had broached the question of how we can offer consolation to Christ now for what he suffered then in these terms: “But how can these rites of expiation bring solace now, when Christ is already reigning in the beatitude of heaven?” 83  John Paul II presents an analogous query in this way:

            Theological tradition has not failed to ask how Jesus could possibly experience at one and the same time his profound unity with the Father, by its very nature a source of joy and happiness, and an agony that goes all the way to his final cry of abandonment.

Now it is true that John Paul II did not present the theological question with the specific finality of seeking to know how our “retroactive” reparation could bring consolation to Jesus in his passion; his is the even more fundamental question of how Jesus could experience “at one and the same time his profound unity with the Father” and an unspeakable agony.  His answer i.e., that “The simultaneous presence of these two seemingly irreconcilable aspects is rooted in the fathomless depths of the hypostatic union”, in no way invalidates the response of Pius XI in Miserentissimus Redemptor, but further confirms it.

            Fourthly, even though the depths of the hypostatic union are truly fathomless, as the Pope insisted, they can nonetheless be illuminated by what he refers to as the “lived theology” of the saints.  If it is possible for the saints to experience profound desolation in their souls without losing the experience of God’s presence in their spirits, 84 a fortiori such is possible in the God-man, the Saint of saints.  He offers examples of this by citing from two great mystics and Doctors of the Church, Catherine of Siena and Thérèse of Lisieux.  In the case of the latter Father François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D. illustrates how Thérèse was convinced not only that Jesus looked upon her with love from the beginning of his earthly existence and during his passion, but also how she constantly sought to respond to his love with her love and thus to offer him consolation in his suffering. 85  In this way she illustrates and unites in her person the teaching of John Paul II and Pius XI.

            A final factor to be kept in mind is that John Paul II was conscious of being the inheritor and custodian of the magisterium of his predecessors on the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  He has manifested this on numerous occasions such as at the audience, which he gave to the Superior General of the Jesuits and the National Secretaries of the Apostleship of Prayer on 12 April 1985.  In his address to that group he referred to the duty of reparation to the Heart of Christ inculcated by Pius XI in his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor and also recalled

            my great predecessor, Paul VI who, in the Apostolic Letter Investigabiles Divitias, stressed the centrality of the devotion to the Heart of Jesus:  “Since the Ecumenical Council strongly recommends the pious exercises of the Christian people ... especially when they are accomplished in accordance with the Apostolic See, this form of devotion seems to be above all other devotions.  In fact ... it is a cult that consists essentially in the adoration and reparation due to Christ Our Lord and it is founded principally on the august Eucharistic Mystery from which – like the other liturgical actions – derive the sanctification of people and the glorification of God, in Christ, to which converge, as to their end, all the Church’s activities.” 86

            Let us simply note here that John Paul II explicitly quoted his predecessor Paul VI on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as consisting “essentially in the adoration and reparation due to Christ Our Lord”.  In this assertion the Venerable Paul VI was following in the footsteps of his predecessor Pius XII who wrote in Haurietis Aquas of the efforts of Saint Margaret Mary to establish the devotion to the Sacred Heart which is to “be distinguished from other forms of Christian piety by the special qualities of love and reparation” 87 In that statement he was deliberately echoing what his predecessor Pius XI had declared in Miserentissimus Redemptor:

            To all these acts of devotion, and particularly to this most fruitful act of consecration, confirmed by the institution of the feast of Christ the King, another should be added, of which We desire to speak to you, Venerable Brethren, at greater length:  We mean the act of expiation or reparation, as it is called, offered to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  For 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 offences of mankind.  This duty is commonly called by the name of “reparation”. 88

            In the same address of 12 April 1985 to the National Secretaries of the Apostleship of Prayer cited above the Pope went on further to emphasize that

            The various editions of the “Sacred Heart Messengers”, the organ of the Apostleship of Prayer, have been and are a great and precious instrument for the diffusion in all languages of the spirituality of “consecration” and “reparation”, essential for an authentic living of the mystery of the Heart of Christ. 89

Commenting on that address, Father Édouard Glotin, S.J. pointed out that the Pope made no less than five references in it to “consecration and reparation” as fundamental components of the spirituality promoted by the Apostleship of Prayer which he praised so highly.90

            Pope John Paul II made another confirmation of his role of continuing to promote devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the line of the magisterium of his predecessors in his Message of 11 June 1999 for the Centenary of the Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

            The value of what took place on 11 June 1899 was authoritatively confirmed in the writings of my predecessors, who offered doctrinal clarifications on the devotion to the Sacred Heart and mandated the periodic renewal of the act of consecration.  Among these I am pleased to recall the holy successor of Leo XIII, Pope Pius X, who directed in 1906 that it [the consecration] be renewed every year; Pope Pius XI of revered memory, who recalled it in his Encyclicals Quas Primas, in the context of the Holy Year of 1925, and in Miserentissimus Redemptor; his successor, the Servant of God Pius XII, who treated it in his Encyclicals Summi Pontificatus and Haurietis Aquas.  The Servant of God Paul VI, then, in the light of the Second Vatican Council, wished to make reference to it in his Apostolic Epistle Investigabiles divitias and in his Letter Diserti Interpretes addressed on 25 May 1965 to Major Superiors of Institutes named after the Heart of Jesus.

              I too have not failed on several occasions to invite my Brothers in the Episcopate, priests, religious and the faithful to cultivate in their lives the most genuine forms of devotion to the Heart of Christ. 91

There can be no reasonable doubt, then, that John Paul II had any intention of distancing himself from the teaching of his predecessors on consecration and reparation to the Heart of Jesus as being the most constitutive characteristics and genuine forms of this devotion or that of the possibility of “consoling” the Heart of Christ in his agony as authoritatively taught by Pius XI in Miserentissimus Redemptor.


B.  John Paul on Consoling the Heart of Jesus

            In his very first Angelus address devoted to the Heart of Jesus the Pope made these remarks:

            The Heart of the Redeemer vivifies the whole Church and draws men who have opened their hearts to the “unfathomable riches” of this one Heart.

              By means of today’s meeting and by means of the Angelus of this last Sunday of the month of June, I wish, in a special way, to unite spiritually with all those whose human hearts are inspired by this Divine Heart.  This family is a large one.  Not a few Congregations, Associations and Communities develop in the Church and, in a programmatic way, draw the vital energy of their activity from the Heart of Christ.

              This spiritual bond always leads to a great awakening of apostolic zeal.  Adorers of the Divine Heart become men with a sensitive conscience.  And when it is granted to them to have relations with the Heart of our Lord and Master, in them also there then springs up the need of atonement for the sins of the world, for the indifference of so many hearts and their negligences.

              How necessary this host of watchful hearts is in the Church in order that the Love of the Divine Heart may not remain isolated and unrequited!  Among this host special mention deserves to go to all those who offer their sufferings as living victims in union with the Heart of Christ, pierced on the cross.  Thus transformed with love, human suffering becomes a particular leaven of Christ's work of salvation in the Church. 92

What is to be noted here in particular is how easily the Pope moves from the concept of making atonement to the Divine Heart for sins, indifferences and negligences, of responding with a watchful heart so “that the Love of the Divine Heart may not remain isolated and unrequited” to that of suffering “as living victims in union with the Heart of Christ”.  In other words he passes effortlessly from the concept of reparation to the Heart of Jesus to that of the reparation offered by the Heart of Jesus to the Father.  This, in fact, illustrates how fully he is in consonance with the whole tradition, which is represented in the “lived theology” of the saints.

            In his Angelus address of 8 June 1980 he spoke of “two moments of my recent visit to Paris, which are particularly engraved in my heart”, the first being his visit to the Chapel of the miraculous medal apparitions on the Rue du Bac, then

            The following Sunday, almost at midnight, the visit to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Montmartre, in which ceaseless adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has been going on for almost a century, without a break, day and night.  And without a break there are men who pray, who worship, who, in the spirit of St. Margaret Mary, offer atonement to that Heart, which so dearly loved the world, and man in this world, and which is outraged and forgotten so much by it. 93

Without hesitation, just as his predecessors Pius XI and Pius XII had done, he embraced the spirituality of reparation as it comes from the Visitandine saint of Paray-le-Monial.

            Perhaps John Paul II’s most striking exposition on the theology of reparation to the Heart of Jesus occurs in his second encyclical Dives in Misericordia.  In that encyclical he stated that “The Church seems in a particular way to profess the mercy of God and to venerate it when she directs herself to the Heart of Christ”. 94  The most evocative passage of that encyclical which touches upon our theme, however, is one that does not mention the Heart of Christ directly or use the term “reparation” and yet, whether it was originally intended to do so or not, it illuminates and expands upon this theme with extraordinary eloquence:

            The events of Good Friday and, even before that, in prayer in Gethsemane, introduce a fundamental change into the whole course of the revelation of love and mercy in the messianic mission of Christ.  The one who “went about doing good and healing” (Acts 10:38) and “curing every sickness and disease” (Mt. 9:35) now Himself seems to merit the greatest mercy and to appeal for mercy, when He is arrested, abused, condemned, scourged, crowned with thorns, when He is nailed to the cross and dies amidst agonizing torments.  It is then that He particularly deserves mercy from the people to whom He has done good, and He does not receive it. ...

              In the eschatological fulfillment mercy will be revealed as love, while in the temporal phase, in human history, which is at the same time the history of sin and death, love must be revealed above all as mercy and must also be actualized as mercy.  Christ’s messianic program, the program of mercy, becomes the program of His people, the program of the Church.  At its very center there is always the cross, for it is in the cross that the revelation of merciful love attains its culmination.  Until “the former things pass away” (cf. Rev. 21:4), the cross will remain the point of reference for other words too of the Revelation of John:  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).  In a special way, God also reveals His mercy when He invites man to have “mercy” on His only Son, the crucified one.

              Christ, precisely as the crucified one, is the Word that does not pass away (cf. Mt. 24:35), and He is the one who stands at the door and knocks at the heart of every man (cf. Rev. 3:20), without restricting his freedom, but instead seeking to draw from this very freedom love, which is not only an act of solidarity with the suffering Son of Man, but also a kind of “mercy” shown by each one of us to the Son of the eternal Father.  In the whole of this messianic program of Christ, in the whole revelation of mercy through the cross, could man's dignity be more highly respected and ennobled, for, in obtaining mercy, he is in a sense the one who at the same time “shows mercy”? 95

            Father Glotin recognized the relevance of this marvelous text for our topic and spoke of it in terms of an admirabile commercium, of our begging for mercy from Christ and his from us. 96  Father de Margerie commented on this passage that

            Here John Paul II consolidates the great perspectives of the previous magisterium in an original manner:  the Heart of the Repairer is the object of our reparation full of compassion. 97

What the Pope presents is, indeed, a rather audacious idea:  that Jesus deserves our mercy, especially in Gethsemane and on Calvary and that we can show mercy to him by our reparative love.  But the idea is no more audacious than the Incarnation itself by which the Eternal Son wills to make himself equal to us and shows us our dignity by begging mercy from us.  This was a concept easily grasped by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux who well understood the audacity of divine love and the response which it elicits and who thus wrote of Jesus as begging for her love 98 and as “The Little Divine Beggar of Christmas”. 99

            The practice of the “holy hour” and the communion of reparation on the First Friday of the month flow directly from the revelations made to Saint Margaret Mary and were underscored as fundamental components of the practice of reparation by Pius XI in Miserentissimus Redemptor 100 and by John Paul II in his letter of 5 October 1986 on the promotion of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus addressed to Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, 101 as well as on numerous other occasions.

            The canonization of Saint Claude La Colombière on 31 May 1992 provided the Holy Father an appropriate occasion to explain the historical origin of the practice of the communion of reparation.  In his homily on that occasion he said of the new saint:

            He received from her [Saint Margaret Mary] the message which would have great repercussions:  “Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it spared nothing to exhaust and consume itself in testimony of its love” (Retraites, n 135).  The Lord asked that a feast be established to honour his Heart and that a “reparation of honour” be made to him in Eucharistic communion.  Margaret Mary passed on to “the faithful servant and perfect friend” whom she recognized in Fr. La Colombière, the mission of “establishing this devotion and of giving this pleasure to my divine Heart” (ibid.).  Claude, in the years left to him, interiorized these “infinite riches”.  His spiritual life then developed in the perspective of the “reparation” and “infinite mercy” so underscored at Paray.  He gave himself completely to the Sacred Heart “ever burning with love”. ...

              The call to “reparation”, characteristic of Paray-le-Monial, can be variously understood, but essentially it is a matter of sinners, which all human beings are, returning to the Lord, touched by his love, and offering a more intense fidelity in the future, a life aflame with charity.  If there is solidarity in sin, there is also solidarity in salvation.  The offering of each is made for the good of all.  Following the example of Claude La Colombière, the faithful understand that such a spiritual attitude can only be the action of Christ in them, shown through Eucharistic communion:  to receive in their hearts the Heart of Christ and to be united to the sacrifice which he alone can offer worthily to the Father. 102

Once again we note how easily the Pope moves from the “reparation of honor” to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to the reparation, which he offers to the Father.  Indeed, the reparation, which we offer to Jesus can never be understood in a limited sense, but must always ultimately include our reparation in union with his perfect sacrifice.

            In receiving the pilgrims who had come for Saint Claude’s canonization on the following day, the Holy Father spoke of

            the “munus suavissimum” which he himself received from the Lord, to spread and preach the mystery of his Sacred Heart.  It is the whole Society, which continues to have this charge, as I myself had the joy of confirming for you at Paray-le-Monial, near the tomb of St. Claude. 103

He further outlined how the practice of reparation is a fundamental dimension of the Apostleship of Prayer, which is entrusted to the Society of Jesus as a concrete way of carrying out this munus suavissimum:

            Justly, therefore, the movement of the “Apostolate of Prayer” has these three ideals and goals:  the proclamation of and witness to the infinite treasures of the Heart of Jesus, who wants only to love his creatures and be loved; the constant sense of Jesus’ true presence in the Eucharist, maintaining a deep, lively Eucharistic devotion through Mass, Communion, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; The commitment to reparation – including sacrifice and suffering, which Jesus himself expressed a desire for in his message to Margaret Mary.  Thus St. Claude La Colombière once wrote to a person whom he was directing:  “I do not recognize devotion unless there is mortification” (Letters, no. 74). 104

            Pope John Paul II has not limited himself to encouraging the Jesuits to carry out their special mandate.  He also carries it out himself.  Here is an example of how he did this during his pastoral visit to the Roman parish of the Sacred Heart at Pontemammolo on 9 November 1986:

            Jesus, appearing to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, wanted to manifest his infinite love for humanity, and his desire to be loved.  You should then make it your duty to love Jesus Christ totally and constantly:  you are drawn to this love by devotion to the Sacred Heart and by the light derived from an important religious culture; I recommend to you then the consecration of your families to the Heart of Jesus and the practice of the First Fridays of the month.  I most ardently wish that your parish be a centre of fervent spirituality.  Work with commitment and with confidence to make the Sacred Heart of Jesus reign in every family of your parish! 105

            On the occasion of the beatification of Blessed Maria Bernardina JabBonska and Blessed Maria KarBowska, which took place on 6 June 1997 in Poland on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus the Pope commented on the Gospel passage about the piercing of the Heart of Jesus [Jn. 19:37], which had just been read:

            This Gospel passage is at the foundation of the whole tradition of devotion to the Divine Heart.  It developed in a special way from the 17th century onwards, in connection with the revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French mystic.  Our own century testifies to an intense development of devotion to the Heart of Jesus, attested to by the magnificent “Litany of the Sacred Heart” and linked to it, “The Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart” with the added “Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart”.  All this has profoundly pervaded our Polish piety; it has become part of the life of many of the faithful who feel the need to make reparation to the Heart of Jesus for the sins of humanity and also of individual nations, families and people. 106

            While in Poland for another celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus the Pope made this moving exhortation:

            Dear brothers and sisters, let us contemplate the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is the source of life, since by means of it victory over death was achieved.  It is also the source of holiness, since in it sin – the enemy of man’s holiness, the enemy of his spiritual development – is defeated.  The Heart of the Lord Jesus is the starting-point of the holiness of each one of us.  From the Heart of the Lord Jesus, let us learn the love of God and understanding of the mystery of sin – mysterium iniquitatis.

              Let us make acts of reparation to the Divine Heart for the sins committed by us and by our fellow men.  Let us make reparation for rejecting God’s goodness and love. 107

            Our final example of the Pope’s exhortations to offer reparation or to console the Divine Heart come from the beatification of Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto which took place in Fatima on 13 May 2000.  These descriptions and entreaties, which closely follow the message of Fatima, envision retroactive reparation offered to Jesus as being at the same time effective for the salvation of sinners.  Here is an excerpt of the Holy Father’s homily that day:

            According to the divine plan, “a woman clothed with the sun” (Rv. 12:1) came down from heaven to this earth to visit the privileged children of the Father.  She speaks to them with a mother’s voice and heart:  she asks them to offer themselves as victims of reparation, saying that she was ready to lead them safely to God. ...

              But God told only Francisco “how sad” he was, as he said.  One night his father heard him sobbing and asked him why he was crying; his son answered:  “I was thinking of Jesus who is so sad because of the sins that are committed against him”.  He was motivated by one desire – so expressive of how children think – “to console Jesus and make him happy”.  ...

              Francisco bore without complaining the great sufferings caused by the illness from which he died.  It all seemed to him so little to console Jesus:  he died with a smile on his lips.  Little Francisco had a great desire to atone for the offences of sinners by striving to be good and by offering his sacrifices and prayers.  The life of Jacinta, his younger sister by almost two years, was motivated by these same sentiments. ...

              My last words are for the children:  dear boys and girls, I see so many of you dressed like Francisco and Jacinta.  You look very nice!  But in a little while or tomorrow you will take these clothes off and ... the little shepherds will disappear.  They should not disappear, should they?!  Our Lady needs you all to console Jesus, who is sad because of the bad things done to him; he needs your prayers and your sacrifices for sinners. 108

Here the Holy Father did not resort to theological explanations of how it is possible to console Jesus now that he is in glory.  That had already been done in Miserentissimus Redemptor.  For him it was enough to present the message.  He knew, as did his predecessor Pius XI, that those who love would understand. 109

VIII.  Reparation to the Heart of Jesus in Service to Our

              Neighbor (Cor Iesu – Patiens et Multæ Misericordiæ)

            In his letter of 5 October 1986 on the promotion of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus addressed to Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the Pope made this striking remark:

            In the Heart of Christ, man’s heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love for God and the love of neighbour.  The true reparation asked by the Heart of the Saviour will come when the civilization of the Heart of Christ can be built upon the ruins heaped up by hatred and violence 110

Now, it is easy to take these words of the Pope and to turn them into a totally horizontal perspective, insisting that the real commitment to reparation to the Heart of Jesus in our day must be the restoration of “the image of God in man". 111  Father de Margerie, only too aware of this tendency, offers these precious insights:

            As L. M. Mendizabal observes, this interpretation of reparation has sometimes been badly understood, in a totally "horizontal” sense, as if the Pope had said:  “The true reparation does not consist in a painful expiation of the sins of the world, but in establishing peace and well-being in the world.”  They forget the declaration made two weeks before this letter, on the occasion of an international symposium:  “The consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is practiced essentially by a life of grace, of purity, of prayer, of penance that is joined to the fulfillment of all the duties of a Christian, and of reparation for our sins and the sins of the world”. 112

              Actually, the declaration of the Pope to the Society of Jesus means that in the eyes of the Lord the order violated by violence and hatred will only be able to be restored in the world by supernatural love for neighbor and it is this restoration, this recovery of loving justice which constitutes the essence of reparation.  Prayer, penance, the carrying out of the duty of one's state in life should be lived in the horizon of the establishment of a civilization of love in order to accomplish the complete social reparation which the Heart of Jesus desires. 113

            Father de Margerie is absolutely right that the Pope’s words must not be taken in a merely horizontal perspective, but within the larger context of his entire magisterium.  In fact, this horizontal perspective is not lacking in Miserentissimus Redemptor either:

            It should be remembered that the expiatory Passion of Jesus Christ is renewed and, in a manner, continued in his mystical body – the Church.  To use once more the words of St. Augustine:  “Christ suffered all that he had to suffer, and to the number of his sufferings nothing is wanting.  Hence the Passion is complete; but in the Head only.  There still remained the sufferings of Christ to be completed in his body.”  Jesus Christ himself taught the same truth when to Saul, “as yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples” he said:  “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”  By these words he clearly meant that persecutions directed against the Church are a grievous attack upon her divine Head.  Christ then, as he still suffers in his mystical body, rightly desires to have us as his companions in the work of expiation.  In this manner he desires us to be united with him, because, since we are “the body of Christ and members of member,” what the head suffers the members should suffer with it. 114

If Pius XI saw this kind of reparation primarily in terms of persecutions directed against the Church, John Paul II has further expanded this outlook, as we shall now see.

            His illustrations in this area come largely from the “lived theology” of the saints.  In this instance he was speaking to the 1979 General Chapter of the Priests of the Sacred Heart founded by the Venerable Léon-Jean Dehon who made reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus a principal end of his institute while at the same time working strenuously to promote and apply the social teaching of the Church:

            You are – and must always be – “Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”.  This is what your Founder, the Servant of God Father Léon Jean Dehon, wanted you to be, when he set up a Congregation entirely dedicated to the love and atonement of the Sacred Heart ...

              “The spirit of the Congregation”, Father Dehon wrote to his sons in a Circular Letter, “is ardent love for the Sacred Heart, faithful imitation of its virtues, above all, humility, zeal, gentleness, and the spirit of sacrifice; and indefatigable zeal in bringing forth for it friends and atoners, who will console it with their own love.”  These are words that sum up admirably the whole programme of your Institute, and they keep intact their strong emotional charge and their perfect relevance today ...

              Reproduce in your hearts – according to Father Dehon’s happy expression – the “holiness of the Heart of Jesus!”. 115

Here there is a beautiful and subtle progression.  The Priests of the Sacred Heart are to be imbued with a spirit of “love and atonement” so that in their active apostolate they may bring forth friends and atoners of the Heart of Christ, who will console it with their own love.  Thus their apostolic work, according to the mind of the founder, is also an act of reparation offered to the Heart of Christ.

            Here is an excerpt from a homily at a beatification, which stresses the reparative vocation of one of the new blesseds:

            The power of the message of charity was understood by Mary Margaret Caiani [1863-1921] through contemplation of Christ and his pierced heart. ... She taught her spiritual daughters, the Minim Sisters of the Sacred Heart, to serve their neighbour with the intention of making reparation for the offenses committed against Christ's love and always to be inspired by his love in the exercise of their charity. ...

              In meditating on the suffering and the mystery of the pierced Heart of Christ, Mary Margaret Caiani was able to understand that it was necessary to “make reparation”, that is, to compensate by her deeper awareness of the precept of charity, for humanity's lack of understanding of God’s infinite and merciful love.  Among the basic counsels she gave her sisters, there is this: 
“You will console our sweet Jesus and make reparation for the many injuries inflicted upon his most loving heart”
(cf. Circular letter of 27 December 1918). 116

Service of neighbor with the intention of making reparation is presented here as a particular charism of the Minim Sisters of the Sacred Heart, but it requires no genius to see that this is something that can be practiced by every serious Catholic who formulates the intention of consoling Jesus in his charitable outreach to his neighbor.

            The Pope illustrated this reparatory intention again in a discourse to the Little Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus founded by Blessed Anna Michelotti (1843-1888):

            As your foundress liked to recommend:  “Do not say ‘I go to the sick’, but ‘I go to console the heart of the suffering Jesus’.  If you go with this spirit of faith, be calm and certain that you are serving them well” (Parole vissute, p. 43). 117

            It is precisely this concept of consoling the Heart of Jesus by identifying with the neighbor in need that enables us to understand a series of evocative quotations from one of the Pensées of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), which the Pope has been making since 1993.  Here is the first one, which comes from the Pope’s homily at the ecumenical Prayer Vigil in Assisi on 9 January 1993, which was held to pray for an end to the fratricidal wars then raging in the ex-Yugoslavia:

            That was the first aim of this Vigil:  that all men and women in Europe who are open to religious values might feel the wounds of war as if they were inflicted on their own flesh – anguish, loneliness, powerlessness, grief, pain and death.  Perhaps even despair.  We thus became more firmly convinced that these evils are something weighing on our shoulders, oppressing our hearts.  In the face of such a tragedy we cannot remain indifferent; we cannot sleep.  We must, in fact, watch and pray, like the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Olives, when he took upon himself our sins even to the point of sweating blood (cf. Lk. 22:44).  Indeed, Christ, “is in agony even to the end of the world” (Pascal, Pensées, 736).  And we desire to accompany him, tonight, by watching and by praying. 118

Here, quite clearly the context is one of keeping vigil and suffering with Christ who suffers with the members of his mystical body.  The Heart of Jesus is not explicitly mentioned nor is the concept of reparation or consolation, but the reference to the Agony in the Garden calls them readily to mind.

            He quoted this Pensée in his Letter to Families of 2 February 1994 119 and in an address to university students that same year with particular reference to armed conflicts raging in the Holy Land and in other parts of the world. 120  He quoted it again during the Way of the Cross at the Coliseum on 2 April 1999:

            The prophetic words of the Book of Isaiah resound in our hearts this evening, at the end of the Way of the Cross, here at the Coliseum, eloquent reminder of the suffering and martyrdom of many believers who paid with their blood for their faithfulness to the Gospel.  They are words, which echo the Passion of Jesus “in agony until the end of the world” (Pascal, Pensées, Le mystère de Jésus, 553). 121

In this case he emphasized the suffering of the martyrs as an extension of the agony of Jesus in his mystical body, a suffering, which brings consolation to the Heart of Jesus while continuing to apply the benefits of the redemption to the whole world.  It is in this same sense that he made allusion to this thought without citing it explicitly regarding Saint Pio of Pietrelcina on the day after his beatification:

            And what can be said of his life, an endless spiritual combat, sustained by the weapons of prayer, centred on the sacred daily acts of Confession and Mass?  Holy Mass was the heart of his whole day, the almost anxious concern of all his hours, his moment of closest communion with Jesus, Priest and Victim.  He felt called to share in Christ’s agony, which continues until the end of the world. 122

            Perhaps the example which best illustrates the call to reparation to the Heart of Christ in service to the neighbor in need is the final one which occurred in the address of the Holy Father to the General Chapter of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Dying on 5 January 2001:

            What better witness can this trusting abandonment find than that of a life wholly consecrated to the service of God, known and loved in the Heart of his Son Jesus Christ, who “is in agony until the end of the world” (B. Pascal)?  And how can this consecration be expressed other than in generous and faithful service to our brothers and sisters, especially the neediest, for love of whom Christ willingly drank the bitter cup of the Passion. 123

IX.  Conclusion

            I believe that this presentation establishes beyond any serious doubt that Pope John Paul II not only takes his proper place in the line of his distinguished predecessors who taught about the importance of the theology of reparation as it pertains to the Heart of Jesus, but has also further and notably developed this teaching.

            I mentioned at the beginning of this study that I felt myself challenged to undertake it particularly by the very informative and fascinating doctoral thesis of Robert A. Stackpole.  I also indicated my conviction 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.  While it is true that studies of other theological aspects not touched upon here (because not germane to this topic) would still be highly desirable in order to offer further supplementary data, it is now possible for me to respond to some of Dr. Stackpole’s assertions.

            At the end of his fifth and last chapter prior to his conclusion, he states:

            All this is not to say that the reality of the retroactive consolation of the Heart of Jesus has been proven beyond all doubt.  Without a psychological plausible theory behind it, it remains a difficult notion.  But given the clear teaching of Pius XI, and the witness of several holy souls and eminent theologians, it is certainly a subject worthy of deeper theological exploration.  Moreover, the faithful surely are not acting imprudently if they include the intention to console the Heart of Jesus in His agony and passion as part of their devotional life, in accordance with papal teaching and following the example of these great saints, blesseds, and venerable souls of the Church. 124

            In the light of my exposition I would say that this statement is entirely too hesitant and tentative.  First of all I do not believe that the supposed lack of a “psychological plausible theory” can be put on a level such as to cast doubt on the authoritative teaching of the papal magisterium and the “lived theology” of the saints.  Who decides what is psychologically acceptable?  Theologians who dissent from the millennial tradition of the Church and its magisterium regarding the beatific vision in Christ the wayfarer?  I’m afraid that Dr. Stackpole gives them disproportionate space and weight in his treatment and assessment.  Secondly, I would respond with the words of Saint Augustine and Pius XI:  “Give me one who loves, and he will understand what I say”. 125  Thirdly, far more important than a psychological theory that would satisfy contemporary theologians is the recognition that we are dealing here with a mystery, which must be approached with adoration, as Pope John Paul II insists.  On this score alone I would give far greater weight to the testimony of saints and holy souls.  Fourthly, I believe that the Holy Father has shown remarkable psychological acumen in the texts, which I have cited above and goes a long way toward formulating a plausible psychological theory, even if this is not strictly the responsibility of the magisterium.

            After quoting from Pope John Paul II’s Message for the Centenary of the Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus with regard to “reparation” as “apostolic cooperation in the salvation of the world”, 126 Dr. Stackpole makes a further comment:

            Given the Holy Father’s strong emphasis here upon the apostolic and missionary dimensions of the work of reparation – aspects of reparation that were clearly underdeveloped in the teachings of Pius XI – one can predict a continued, relative silence by the magisterium on the subject of “consoling” the Heart of Jesus.  Until notable theologians can show that “consolation” has some authentic connection with the social and evangelistic dimensions of the work of reparation, dimensions which the magisterium has identified as an urgent need of the modern world, then, however much the intention of consoling the Heart of Jesus may be said in theory to be essential to this devotion, its pastoral importance, in the context of the modern world, would seem to be negligible. 127

            I believe that on the basis of my final section of “Reparation to the Heart of Jesus in Service to Our Neighbor” according to John Paul II, sufficient indications have been provided that John Paul II had not been silent on this issue, but, in fact, had developed it notably.  Further, it should be pointed out that Pope John Paul II’s ordinary magisterium 128 is of far more weight than the theories of theologians, even the most notable ones.

            These comments are not in any way meant to indicate a lack of appreciation on my part for the notable work of classification, which Dr. Stackpole has done and the enrichment, which he has brought to this field of study, which is at the same time a laboratory of prayer and Christian life.  They are simply meant to open up further horizons on a subject that is truly infinite:  the Heart of the God-man.

Laus Cordibus Jesu et Mariæ

Originally published in Francesco Lepore e Donato D’Agostino (eds.) Pax in Virtute.  Miscellanea di studi in onore del Cardinale Giuseppe Caprio (Vatican City:  Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2003) 271-323.

Minor modifications made 25 February 2014.


AAS                              Acta Apostolicæ Sedis (1909 –  ).

Carlen III                    Claudia Carlen, I.H.M., The Papal Encyclicals 1903-1939 (Raleigh, NC:  McGrath Publishing Co. “Consortium Books”, 1981).

CCC                            Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994).

D H                             Heinrich Denzinger, S.J., Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals, 43rd Edition (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 2012)

HA                               Haurietis Aquas revised translation by Francis Larkin, SS.CC. (Orlando, FL:  Sacred Heart Publications Center, 1974).

HD 1                           Bertrand de Margerie, S.J., Histoire Doctrinale du Culte au Cœur de Jésus t. 1:  Premières lumière(s) sur l'amour (Paris:  Éditions Mame, 1992).

HD 2                           Bertrand de Margerie, S.J., Histoire Doctrinale du Culte envers le Cœur de Jésus t. 2:  L’amour devenu Lumière(s) (Paris:  Éditions Saint-Paul, 1995).

Inseg                           Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, I (1978 2005) (Vatican City State:  Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979 2006).

OR                               L’Osservatore Romano, daily edition in Italian.

ORE                            L’Osservatore Romano, weekly edition in English. First number = cumulative edition number; second number = page.

Plus                             Raoul Plus, S.J., Reparation:  Its History, Doctrine and Practice (New York:  Benziger Brothers, 1931).

ST                                Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ.

Stackpole                    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 (Rome:  Pontificia Studiorum Universitas a S. Thoma Aq. in Urbe, 2001).


76. Inseg XI/4 (1988) 1694-1695 [ORE 1067:1].  Emphasis my own.

77. Inseg XI/4 (1988) 1693 [ORE 1067:1].  Emphasis my own.

78. CCC #478.  Emphasis my own.

79. D-H #3924.

80. D-H #3812.

81. Stackpole 342.

82. AAS 93 (2001) 282-284 [ORE 1675:V].  Emphasis my own.

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

84. Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins on the distinction between soul and spirit in “The Tripartite Biblical Vision of Man:  a Key to the Christian Life,” Doctor Communis XLIII (1990) 135-159; cf. also http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/calkins/biblanth.htm.

85. François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D., L'Amour de Jésus: La christologie de sainte Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus (Paris:  Desclée, 1997) 211-250.

86. Inseg VIII/1 (1985) 1028 1029 [ORE 883:5].  Emphasis my own.  The text of Investigabiles Divitias Christi cited is from AAS 57 (1965) 300-301.

87. AAS 48 (1956) 339 [HA #95].

88. AAS 20 (1928) 169 [Plus 95].  Emphasis my own.

89. Inseg VIII/1 (1985) 1029; ORE 883:5].  Emphasis my own.

90. Édouard Glotin, S.J., Il Cuore Misericordioso di Gesù (Rome: Edizioni Dehoniane; Edizioni Apostolato della Preghiera, 1993) 69.

91. Inseg XXII/1 (1999) 1294-1295 [ORE 1597:1].

92. Inseg II/1 (1979) 1617 [ORE 588:2].  Emphasis my own.

93. Inseg III/1 (1980) 1710 [ORE 637:2].  Emphasis my own.

94. Inseg III/2 (1980) 1520 [ORE 661:15].

95. Inseg III/2 (1980) 1503-1504, 1508-1509 [ORE 661:12, 13].  Except for “appeal for mercy” in the first paragraph and “invites man to have ‘mercy’ on His only Son, the crucified one” at the end of the second paragraph, emphasis my own.

96. Glotin, Le Cœur de Jésus 47-48.

97. HD 2:207 [my trans.].

98. Sainte Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus et de la Sainte-Face, Œuvres Complètes (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, Desclée de Brouwer, 1992) 721.

99. Œuvres Complètes 873-874.

100. AAS 20 (1928) 167, 173 [Plus 93, 100].

101. Inseg IX/2 (1986) 844 [ORE 960:7].

102. Inseg XV/1 (1992) 1662-1663 [ORE 1243:1].  Emphasis my own.

103. Inseg XV/1 (1992) 1676 [ORE 1244:9].

104. Inseg XV/1 (1992) 1675 [ORE 1244:9].

105. Inseg IX/2 (1986) 1378 [ORE 967:14].  Emphasis my own.

106. Inseg XX/1 (1997) 1424 [ORE 1496:8].  Emphasis my own.

107. Inseg XXII/1 (1999) 1221 [ORE 1596:5, 6].  Emphasis in final paragraph my own.

108. Inseg XXIII/1 (2000) 838-841  [ORE 1643:1, 3].  Emphasis my own.

109. Cf. AAS 20 (1928) 173 [Carlen III:325].

110. Inseg IX/2 (1986) 843 [ORE 960:7].  Emphasis my own.

111. Cf. Glotin, Il Cuore Misericordioso 70.

112. Inseg IX/2 (1986) 700; ORE 959:13].

113. HD 2:217 [my trans.].

114. AAS 20 (1928) 174 [Plus 101-102].  Emphasis my own.

115. Inseg II/1 (1979) 1602 [ORE 591:8, 10].  Emphasis my own.

116. Inseg XII/1 (1989) 901-902 [ORE 1088:5].  Emphasis my own.

117. Inseg XXII/2 (1999) 1070 [ORE 1626:7].  Emphasis my own.

118. Inseg XVI/1 (1993) 36-37 [ORE 1273:1].  Emphasis my own.

119. Inseg XVII/1 (1994) 321 [ORE 1329:XI].

120. Inseg XVII/1 (1994) 838 [ORE 1335:5].

121. Inseg XXII/1 (1999) 686 [ORE 1586:5].

122. Inseg XXII/1 (1999) 870 [ORE 1590:3].

123. Inseg XXIV/1 (2001) 24 [ORE 1677:4].  Emphasis my own.

124. Stackpole 350.

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

126. Inseg XXII/1 (1999) 1297 [ORE 1597:2].

127. Stackpole 376.

128. Cf. Lumen Gentium #25; Totus Tuus 267-269.

Copyright ©; Msgr Arthur Calkins 2014

Version 7th March 2014

Home Page

   Msgr Calkins - Home Page