Monday, April 27, 2015

St. Peter Canisius and The Sacred Heart

The liturgical calendar the Jesuit St. Peter Canisius on December 21, the date of his death in 1597, but today the Society of Jesus celebrates his feast day. After he was canonized and declared a doctor of the Church in 1925 his feast was assigned to this date and was so celebrated until the calendar was changed in 1969.  Jesuits continue to honor him on this day because the days right before Christmas focus on the coming celebration of the Nativity and give less attention to the saints.

St. Peter Canisius shows that the Church had a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus before the apparitions to St. Margaret Mary in the 1670's.  St. Mechthilde of Hackeborn, a Benedictine nun who lived in the 1200's, wrote a book of prayers to the Sacred Heart.  St. Peter Canisius made a copy of these prayers, carried them with him wherever he went, and held fast to them on his deathbed.

He is known as the second apostle of Germany (after St. Boniface) and when he was about to set out to begin his mission there he wrote the following prayer:

"My Savior, I seemed to be gazing at the Heart of your Sacred Body with my own eyes. It was as if you opened it to me to drink from it as from a spring, inviting me to draw the waters of salvation from these springs of yours. I was filled with longing that the waters of faith, hope, and charity would flow from your Heart into me. ... Then I dared to touch your beloved Heart and bury my thirst in it; and you promised me a robe woven in three parts to cover my naked soul and help me greatly in my undertaking. These three parts were peace, love, and perseverance. Secure in the protection of this garment, I was confident that I would lack nothing, and that everything would turn out for your glory."

Peace, love, and perseverance: gifts from the Heart of Jesus. They allowed St. Peter to write a popular catechism and to explain the doctrines of the Catholic faith to Protestants and Catholics alike during a time of upheaval in Germany.  May the Church today receive these same gifts from the Sacred Heart of Jesus!


  1. Thank you Fr. Jim, Peace, love and perseverance the super gifts! Love reading about the Book of Prayers to the Sacred Heart from the 1200's, did those prayers get lost over time? I am glad to be connected to Offer it Up! Truly a gift. Mary Kay (SD)

  2. Great question, Mary Kay. I'm glad we can stay somewhat connected this way. I did a brief search of the internet to see if her book of prayers is published in English but I couldn't find anything. In his weekly Wednesday audience on September 29, 2010, Pope Benedict talked about St. Mechthilde. You can read it here: .