The Reign of the Heart of Jesus in Families

“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
PART 12:  Saints and Servants of Consoling Reparation to the Heart of Jesus
PART 13:  The Twelve Promises — and the Great Promise — of the Sacred Heart 
PART 14:  Holiness from the Heart of Jesus: St. Charles De Foucauld
PART 15:  Holiness from the Heart of Jesus: Blessed Dina Bélanger
PART 16:  The Social Reign of the Sacred Heart

PART 17: The Reign of the Heart of Jesus in Families

In the previous installment of this web series, we looked at one of the most important ways that devotion to the Sacred Heart has broadened in scope since the late 19th century: namely, the unfolding of the social implications of Catholic faith in the Heart of Jesus.

Before we proceed, however, we need to be sure we clearly understand the meaning of the expression “the social reign” of Christ. This phrase actually brings us back to Holy Scripture, where our Lord often speaks about “the Kingdom of God” (or “the Kingdom of Heaven” as St. Matthew records it) breaking into the world through His own ministry in Judea and Galilee. For example, He said to His disciples: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32), and He taught us to pray, saying “Our Father who art in Heaven … Thy kingdom come” (Mt 6:9-10).

God’s Kingdom comes wherever His will reigns supreme in every aspect of human life: in human minds by the virtue of faith; in human wills by love; in human hearts by hope; in human bodies by health and wholeness; and in human communities in rightful harmony, justice, and peace. Moreover, it is the will of our Heavenly Father for His beloved Son to reign over all of creation as the true Lord of all (see 1 Cor 15:24-28). Father Louis Verheylezoon, SJ, explains what this means in his classic work Devotion to the Sacred Heart (p. 107):

Consider: In what does the reign of Christ consist?

The prophets in the Old Testament had foretold that Christ should reign as King. The testimony of Isaiah (9:5), Jeremias (23:5), Daniel (7:13) and Zachary (9:9) is well known.

Jesus represented Himself as a king in the description of the Last Judgement: “When the Son of Man shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the seat of His majesty. And all nations shall be gathered before Him. … Then shall the King say to them that shall be on His right hand: Come ye blessed of My Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me to eat … . Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see Thee hungry, and feed Thee? … And the King answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25: 31-40).

Founded on love
Father Verheylezoon then quotes the same Scripture passage we cited last time in this regard, Matthew 28:18-20, where the Risen Lord tells His disciples that the Father has given Him “all authority in heaven and on earth.” The One who has been accorded such universal authority, however, is the same Jesus Christ who has revealed His Heart to us in the Gospels. Through His Incarnation, His teachings, His miracles of healing and exorcism, His saving Death and glorious Resurrection, He manifested His Heart to all humanity as a heart of pure, unbounded love and compassion. In this light, Fr. Verheylezoon concludes (p. 110):

Now then, in what does the “reign of the Sacred Heart” consist? Our Lord wishes us to submit to Him, not because we must, but because we are willing to do so; not under constraint, nor for fear, but for love; He wishes His reign to be founded on love. …

This reign, then, is nothing else than the reign of Christ … a reign founded on love, on His love for us and our love for Him ….

By the expression “the reign of the Sacred Heart,” therefore, we mean to signify that we consider Jesus Christ not only as having a right to reign over us, but also as justly claiming it because of His love, and that we submit to His empire out of love; in short, that we regard Him as the King of love.

In his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981), Pope St. John Paul II reminded the Church that every human being first learns what it is to be loved, and how to give love to others, in the intimacy of the family in which he or she is raised (or, sadly, in some families children are starved of such proper nurture in the virtue of love). Either way, the family life of each child is crucial. That is why the Church calls the family “the original cell of social life” (Catechism, 2207). Here the foundations are laid for each person on their life journey to become all that they were meant to be, through the love of God and neighbor.

Renewal of family life
It is not surprising, therefore, that the Holy Spirit would one day inspire in the hearts of Catholics a renewal of family life itself through devotion to the Heart of Jesus.

Early in the 20th century, our Lord called Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey, a priest from Chile, to initiate the movement for the solemn enthronement of the image of the Sacred Heart in families. When asked by Fr. Mateo for his approval of this mission, Pope St. Pius X answered, “I not only approve; I command,” and called his mission the “work of social salvation.” As a result, the enthronement movement spread rapidly throughout the world. Father Mateo described it as follows in his book, Jesus, King of Love:

What is the work of enthronement? It can be defined as the official and social acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the Heart of Jesus over the Christian family, an acknowledgment made tangible and permanent by the solemn installation of the picture of the Divine Heart in a place of honor, and by an act of consecration ...

The family is the source of life, the child’s first school. If the source of national life is poisoned, the nation will perish. What we long to do is to plant faith deep in families, and love for the Sacred Heart. If Jesus Christ is in the roots, the whole tree will be Jesus Christ.

This enthronement movement has lost none of its relevance today. All too often, families in the western world (even many Catholic families) are broken and wounded by social evils: by family members falling away from the faith; by adultery and divorce; by internet pornography addiction and substance abuse; by social acceptance of contraception and fornication; by greed and shallow materialism; by euthanasia and the killing of the unborn; by gender identity confusion and neglect of the elderly; by racism and hard-heartedness toward the poor. These assaults of evil, often promoted by modern culture, are simply overwhelming many families.

A century ago, Pope Benedict XV commended Fr. Mateo’s work of spreading the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart as a remedy especially suited to meet the urgent needs of our time (cited in O’Donnell, Heart of the Redeemer, p. 167-168):

[W]e have learned of the diligence and zeal with which for many years you have devoted yourself to the work of consecrating families to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, in such a way that while His image is installed in the principal place in the home as on a throne, our Divine Savior Jesus Christ is seen to reign at each Catholic hearth … .

Nothing, as a matter of fact, is more suitable to the needs of the present day than your enterprise. To pervert, both in private and in public life, the concept of morality engendered and fostered by the Church, and after having almost effaced the last vestige of Christian wisdom and decency, to lead human society back to the miserable institutions of paganism, such is the plan which too many are trying to realize today. Would that their efforts were fruitless! Moreover, the attacks of the wicked are directed primarily against the family, for, containing within itself as it does the principles and, as it were, the germ of all human society, they clearly see that the change, or rather the corruption, which they are trying to bring about in human society will necessarily follow, once the corruption of the family itself has been accomplished.

Center our lives
The antidote for the sickness of our society has been offered to the Church and the world in the revelation of the Heart of Jesus to all of humanity, through the Gospels and the saints. The Son of God will not compel us to take this antidote, of course, because He always respects the freedom He gave us to choose our own destiny. But He calls out to us to center our hearts and lives on His own Heart of love, beginning with our own families. Father Verheylezoon sums up for us the vital role that the Enthronement plays in the plan of the Sacred Heart for driving back the world’s darkness, one family at a time (Devotion to the Sacred Heart, p. 137):

“The Enthronement” says the Catechism of the Enthronement, “strives to establish the reign of the Divine Heart in the family, in order to prepare in this way the social reign of our Saviour; to cause Him to rule over the whole of society.”

In fact, the day on which Jesus reigns in all families, He will immediately become King of society, and will be recognized, revered, honoured and obeyed by the whole people in all the manifestations of social life.

This series continues next week with Part 18: "Jesus Unveils the Great Mercy of His Heart."
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