Last Friday I drove to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to St. Lambert Parish where I gave two talks on Family Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On Friday night I told what I like to call "The True Love Story." It's the story of the love of God revealed in the Sacred and Pierced Heart of His Son. We often think of devotion to the Sacred Heart as something that we do, but the reality is that it begins with God. It begins in the Heart of God, the Communion of Persons that is the Most Holy Trinity. God in His very nature is Love, a loving Communion. The mysterious nature of love is to share. Though God was complete in this Trinitarian love, God wanted to love beyond Himself. Sacred Heart devotion really begins with God's devoted love for His human creatures whom He created for union with Himself. Sacred Heart devotion is really God's devotion and our response to it.
When humanity rejected God's marriage proposal and decided to seek a future outside of God's loving plan, God did not give up on us. The Son of God came to overcome the sin that broke the relationship for which we were created. From His Heart pierced on the cross gushed forth the water and the blood that overcame sin and united us to God. Through the sacramental life flowing from His side--water representing Baptism and blood representing the Eucharist--we are joined to the Body of Christ, to God.
Jesus ascended to heaven but has continued to appear from time to time to reveal His love in special ways. He gave all and He has appeared periodically to remind humanity of that fact and to invite our response. The natural desire when one knows he or she is loved is to want to return love for love. Jesus loved completely, not partially, and when we really appreciate that fact it is natural to want to love completely in return.
This is the meaning of consecration, about which I talked on Saturday morning. Through Baptism we are already consecrated to God, anointed with sacred chrism and set apart as sacred and holy persons, members of Christ's own Body. Individual or family consecration to the Sacred Heart is, in a way, a renewal of that initial consecration.
Where did the practice of family consecration come from? A letter of St. Margaret Mary, to whom Jesus appeared and revealed His Heart all on fire with love for humanity, has these words:
"No one who has a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart will ever lose his soul. Since all blessings come from our Lord, they will be lavished especially on those places where an image of the Sacred Heart is displayed to win him love and honour. In this way, he will mend broken homes, help and safeguard families in time of need."
Contained in those words are two of what are known as the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Almost 200 years after St. Margaret Mary an Ohio businessman named Philip Kemper went through her letters and pulled out twelve promises which he had printed on cards and distributed. They became very popular. Promise 2 for those who are devoted to the Heart of Jesus states: "I will give peace in their families." Promise 9 states: "I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated." From these two Promises came the inspiration to consecrate one's family to the Sacred Heart and to "enthrone" an image of the Sacred Heart in a central place in the home.
Family consecration really took off through the efforts of one man, Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SSCC, the son of a Peruvian mother and a British father. He was born in 1875, ordained in 1898, and helped found the Catholic University in Valparaiso, Chile in 1905. A year later an earthquake destroyed the university and Fr. Mateo's health broke under the strain of the loss of his hard work. He went to Europe to recuperate and made a promise at Paray-le-Moniel: if his health returned he would devote the rest of his life to promoting the consecration of families to the Sacred Heart. His request was answered almost immediately and he fulfilled his promise, working for family consecration until his death in 1960.
As he began this work, though, he wanted to make sure that he had the Church's approval. He asked Pope Pius X, who was later canonized, if he could promote family consecration. The pope is quoted as saying to him: "No, no, my son. I do not permit you, I command you, do you understand? I order you to give your life for this work of salvation. It is a wonderful work; consecrate your entire life to it."
Family consecration is not magic. The ceremony of enthroning Jesus as the Head and Heart, the King and Center of one's family is not enough. Just as a marriage is more than the wedding ceremony, so family consecration is more than the enthronement ceremony. It must be lived. How?
First, it is important to prepare for the actual ceremony. The family should discuss the meaning of its consecration and be in agreement. They might go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation before the ceremony as a way of making this new beginning. They could meet, discuss, and decide upon a particular image of the Sacred Heart and the location for its placement.
Then, with the enthronement, the family declares its intention to live with Jesus as its King. He is no longer simply a guest in the house but the Lord of the household. Is there anything unworthy of Him in the house? Is there anything that is incompatible with His reign?
This consecration should be renewed from time to time, perhaps on special feast days like the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart and the Feast of Christ the King, or on the First Friday of each month. Each member of the family, before leaving the house and upon returning, can acknowledge the Kingship of Jesus by pausing in front of the picture or statue and offering a prayer. The "Our Father" is a perfect prayer for it is the prayer Jesus taught and in it we ask Jesus to reign: "Thy Kingdom come!" The Morning Offering can be prayed together in front of the image. When arguments break out between spouses, among the children, between parents and children, the family members should go in front of the image and pray. After prayer, under the image, the difficulties can be discussed in a way that seeks a solution in light of that Heart which is "meek and humble."
Pope Benedict XV wrote to Fr. Mateo in 1915 and also encouraged him:
"You do well, then, dear son, while taking up the cause of human society, to arouse and propagate above all things a Christian spirit in the home by setting up in each family the reign of the love of Jesus Christ. And in doing this you are but obeying our Divine Lord Jesus who promised to shower His blessings upon the homes wherein an image of His Heart should be exposed and devoutly honored."