Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pope Benedict and the Sacred Heart

I'm in St. Louis these days giving two retreats at a Jesuit retreat house called "White House." It's always interesting to see people's reactions when I tell them that I'm giving a retreat at the White House! Sixty-seven men were on retreat this weekend and there will be a similar number next weekend.

When I'm away from the office giving retreats like this I often have a chance to catch up on reading the various periodicals to which I subscribe and which keep piling up. I want to share part of an article that appeared in the April 12 issue of "Our Sunday Visitor." The author, Marie Pitt-Payne, writes about Pope Benedict's announcement that beginning June 19, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, we will be celebrating a special Year of the Priest. Pope John Paul II initiated a Day of Prayer for Priests which is celebrated on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Both Popes saw a strong connection between Priesthood and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here's a quote from the article:

"A priest united to the Heart of Christ lifts our minds and hearts beyond this present world. Pope Benedict spoke of the truly radical symbol of the Sacred Heart in his book 'Behold the Pierced One': 'The task of the heart is self-preservation, holding together what is its own. The pierced Heart of Jesus has also truly "overturned" this definition. This Heart is not concerned with self-preservation but with self-surrender. It saves the world by opening itself.'

"Self-preservation is normal for those whose minds are taken up with the cares of this life. Only a supernatural hope of things to come frees us from our futile attempts at self-preservation, as seen in the lives of the martyrs. The very person of a priest conformed to the Heart of Christ inspires us to hope, because we see in his life of self-surrender the overturning of worldly self-preservation, inspired by his goal of eternal happiness in heaven."

While the author writes about the connection between ordained priests and the Sacred Heart, we can extend this to the priesthood of all the faithful, the baptized. All who are baptized into Christ have, as St. Paul said, died with Christ and risen with Him. We live a new life because of baptism. We are members of the Body of Christ. His Heart beats within each of us and preserves each of us for eternal life. This allows us to live as He lived, making a total offering of ourselves to the Father.

May the Heart of Jesus help us all--priests, consecrated persons, and laity--to be faithful in living out our daily offerings.

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