On Consoling the Heart of Jesus

“More Brilliant than the Sun," a weekly series by Robert Stackpole, STD, Director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy 

The series so far:
PART 1: The Plan of the Heart of Jesus to Drive Back the World's Darkness
PART 2:  What Do We Really Mean By “The Heart of Jesus”?
PART 3:  Devotion to the Heart of Jesus and its Roots in Holy Scripture
PART 4: The Heart of the Savior in the New Testament
PART 5: 
 The Heart of Jesus Manifest in His Tender Affections and Compassionate Love
PART 6: 
 The Heart of Jesus in the Garden and on the Cross
PART 7:  From Easter Onward: The Heart of Jesus Lives in His Church
PART 8:  The Flowering of Love for the Heart of Jesus in the Middle Ages
PART 9:  Saint Gertrude the Great on Bringing Comfort and Joy to the Heavenly Christ
PART 10:  Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and Reparation to the Sacred Heart

PART 11: On Consoling the Heart of Jesus

As we saw in the previous installment of this web series, one of the new things that our Lord gave to the Church through St. Margaret Mary was an emphasis on the importance of acts of reparation to His Heart. These devotional acts form part of our duty to make a return of love to Jesus, for all of His gracious and merciful love for us — especially to make up in some way for our failure to return His love in the past.

If we probe this mystery even deeper, however, we can find an aspect of “reparation” that had hardly been appreciated at all in the Church prior to the revelations given to the Saint of Paray. In particular, Jesus revealed to her that during His life on earth, in His human soul, He had clear, specific, and perfect foreknowledge of all the sins that would be committed in the future, and of all the works of reparation and love that would be offered to His Heart, as well — and these latter acts afforded Him consolation during His earthly life. Theologians sometimes call this way of comforting our Lord “retroactive consolation,” because our works of love performed today actually have an affective effect on the Heart of Jesus our Savior then, throughout His earthly life, and even during His agony and Passion for us.

True retroactive consolation
The words of our Lord in His third apparition to St. Margaret Mary (in 1674; see Autobiography, p. 70-71) revealed the possibility of bringing Him true retroactive consolation:

On one occasion, whilst the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, feeling wholly withdrawn within myself by an extraordinary recollection of all my senses and powers, Jesus Christ, my sweet Master, presented Himself to me all resplendent with glory, His five wounds shining like so many suns. Flames issued from every part of His Sacred Humanity, especially from His Adorable Bosom, which resembled an open furnace and disclosed to me His most loving and amiable Heart, which was the living source of these flames. It was then that He made known to me the ineffable marvels of His pure (love) and showed to me to what an excess He had loved men, from whom He received only ingratitude and contempt. “I feel this more,” He said, “than all I suffered during My Passion. If only they would make Me some return for My love, I should think but little of all I have done for them and would wish, were it possible, to suffer still more. But the sole return they make for all My eagerness to do them good is to reject Me and treat Me with coldness. Do thou at least console Me by supplying for their ingratitude as far as thou art able. ...

Every night between Thursday and Friday I will make thee share in the mortal sadness which I was pleased to feel in the Garden of Olives, and this sadness, without thy being able to understand it, shall reduce thee to a kind of agony harder to endure than death itself. And in order to bear Me company in the humble prayer that I then offered to my Father, in the midst of My anguish, thou shalt rise between eleven o’clock and midnight, and remain prostrate with Me for an hour, not only to appease the divine anger by begging mercy for sinners, but also to mitigate in some way the bitterness which I felt at that time on finding Myself abandoned by My apostles, which obliged me to reproach them for not being able to watch one hour with me.

There is no clear precedent in the history of the Church for what had been revealed to St. Margaret Mary here: that we can console the Heart of the Lord Jesus retroactively, during His agony and Passion for us, by reason of His prevision at that time of our works of loving reparation. The history of the explicit intention to bring solace to Jesus Christ in this special way begins with her; she does not seem to have derived it from others. The notion was not a product of her own pious imagination, either: It was largely based on approved private revelations from Jesus Christ Himself.

The "Holy Hour"
This apparition of our Lord to St. Margaret Mary became the foundation for the devotional practice of keeping a “Holy Hour” before the Blessed Sacrament. To be sure, Christ nowhere expressed any desire that this “Holy Hour” should be practiced by all the faithful. It appears at first to be a command for the saint alone: an invitation to her, as part of her intimate relationship with our Lord, to enter more deeply into His agony and Passion, and thereby to console Him. But in time, it became commonplace among the devout worshippers of the Sacred Heart to keep Him company in the Garden of Gethsemane with the same loving intention as their patron saint, and there is certainly nothing in the words of our Lord that would forbid such access to His Heart by all the faithful with the proper intentions.

Again, it is important to recognize that Christ spoke to St. Margaret Mary here about what we have called “retroactive” consolation. For example, He stated that now He would be willing even to suffer more for souls than He did in His agony and Passion “if it were possible” (which, of course, is not possible, because He reigns now in heavenly glory). But the saint was invited, by keeping the Holy Hour, “to mitigate in some way the bitterness which I felt at that time on finding myself abandoned by My apostles.” Her Holy Hour in the present, therefore, would effect some measure of consolation of the Savior’s Heart retroactively in the Garden of Gethsemane.

In an encyclical titled Miserentissimus Redemptor (Most Merciful Redeemer, 1928), Pope Pius XI drew the connection between what we know of the scope of the human knowledge of Jesus Christ during His sojourn on earth, and the affections of His loving Heart during His agony and Passion. In other words, if the earthly Jesus really did foresee, in the depths of His human soul, each and every sinner for whom He was giving His life on the Cross, and if that prevision brought Him immeasurable sorrow when He beheld how little His sufferings would avail for so many, nevertheless, that prevision also would have brought Him some comfort and strength along the way of the Cross when He clearly beheld all those souls who would, in the future, receive and return His love. As Pope Pius XI wrote:

Now if, because of our sins also which were as yet in the future, but  were foreseen, the soul of Christ became sorrowful unto death, it cannot be doubted that then, too, already He derived somewhat of solace from our reparation, which was likewise foreseen, when “there appeared to Him an angel from heaven” (Luke xxii, 43), in order that His Heart, oppressed with weariness and anguish, might find consolation. And so even now, in a wondrous yet true manner, we can and ought to console that most Sacred Heart, which is continually wounded by the sins of thankless men. (13)

"Some little solace"
Pope Pius XI wrote here that our acts of loving reparation to the Heart of Jesus “for all our poverty may offer Him somewhat of solace (or, it could be translated ‘some little solace’).” Clearly, the notion of retroactive consolation does not cancel out Christ’s agony in the Garden or the sorrows of His Passion. At most, when Jesus foresaw the response of love that would be made by a relatively small number of souls, down through the ages, to His own loving sacrifice on the Cross, this prevision brought Him a measure of comfort that strengthened Him to carry on.

Notable theologians have echoed papal teaching in this regard. One of these was Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, in his essay “Consolare il Cuore di Gesù?” (Vita Cristiana, no. 16, 1947, p. 31-32):

During his earthly life, and particularly while in Gethsemane, Jesus suffered from all future acts of profanation and ingratitude. He knew them in detail with a superior intuition that governed all times; He could see them much better than the saints, who sometimes can read the secret plagues of the human heart. Thus, his suffering encompassed the present instant and extended to future centuries. “This drop of my blood, I shed it for you.” So, in the Garden of Olives, Jesus suffered for all, and for each of us in particular, because he foresaw our ingratitude; but in that painful hour he was also consoled by the sight of those souls, who would take part with Him, for Him, and in Him in the work of redemption. He was consoled by the sight of such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Benedict Joseph Labré, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Gemma Galgani.

Making amends
A similar perspective can be found in Louis Vereheylezoon, SJ, Devotion to the Sacred Heart. He saw the loving intention to make amends or reparation to our Savior as having a real, retroactive effect upon the Heart of Jesus:

The fruit of this reparation is not lost for Jesus. Our making amends consoled and rejoiced His Heart during His mortal life. That we were able to do so, before we existed, is owing to His prescience, His foreknowledge of the future. Theologians hold for certain that by the infused prescience with which God invested His soul, Jesus knew all that was in any way connected with the work of Redemption. He foresaw, then, all the good and evil which would occur in the course of time, and hence also whatever would be done for or against Him. He knew then, in particular, how men would repay His love. One may even say that this prevision was one of the causes of His deadly sorrow at Gethsemane. But at the same time He foresaw the tokens of love which He would receive from His faithful followers, and particularly the reparation they would make to Him for the ingratitude of others. It cannot but be that this prospect consoled, encouraged, and fortified Him, and helped Him to give Himself up to suffering and death in spite of His prevision of the ingratitude of so many. Whenever, then, we pay to Jesus some homage of reparation, we may cherish the gratifying conviction that, especially during His agony in the Garden, He saw us in the far off distance of time, that He gratefully looked upon us, and that our reparation really soothed His sorrow to some extent, and comforted and strengthened Him in His agony. (p.88)

This series continues next week with Part 12: "Saints and Servants of Consoling Reparation to the Sacred Heart."
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