Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sacred Heart?

Before we issue next week's Ordo, two questions to the readers:

1. Should the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as revised and extended by Pope Pius XI, be included in the CTO? Why or why not?

2. If yes to the first question, should it also have an octave or not?

Our commentary: Corpus Christi is one of the first ( if not the first) "idea" feast to be observed by the Western Church. To it was added an octave (of privileged status) which has been in continuous observance for over seven centuries. If Corpus Christi is a way to reflect on the overshadowed joys of Maundy Thursday, could not the Sacred Heart likewise be a way to focus on the glorious aspect of Christ's redemptive love overshadowed by the grief of Good Friday? There is a logic to instituting the feast of the Sacred Heart as the capstone to the Octave (and theme) of Corpus Christi. 

One priest once told me that the Sacred Heart is the essence of the entire Catholic Faith. Is it not true that the post-Tridentine era was also a time of a "cold" Catholicism? A coldness toward the Liturgy? A coldness in living a bold, integrated Catholic life? An era of Calvinist style Catholicism - individualistic, pietist, quietist, morally rigid? Cannot the Sacred Heart be the antidote to this, not as another sappy devotion supplanting the Liturgy but as a twin to Corpus Christi as a liturgical and liturgized devotion which can rekindle the Faith and practice of a warmer era?

As for an octave - this is perhaps too far an encroachment on the Liturgy. But then why allow an octave for Corpus Christi? On the other hand, the month of June is already loaded with octaves such that it will not be a question of the omitting the ferial psalms (these go back into hibernation again after today), but only of which festal offices will be celebrated in the coming weeks. 


  1. I would be in favor of keeping the feast with the Pius XI texts but without the octave. Having seen the older texts in a Missale Romanum of 1912 I can testify that the modern texts are far, far better. Still I would hesitate to give a feast for a devotion an octave, given that, as a feast of the Lord, it could overlap and displace the octaves of Ss Peter & Paul and St John the Baptist if Pascha fell late enough in the year.

    With reservations I would support keeping the feast for the reasons you highlighted. I think Robert Taft once said that the late first millennium Byzantine devotion to drinking from the chalice as from the merciful blood of the Lord's pierced heart bears remarkable resemblance to the Sacred Heart devotion. The Sacred Heart does make me leery though, with people calling for France's consecration to it, the FSSPX saying that in Confession one confesses to the Sacred Heart, and of course the kitsch, effete image of Christ that is often made of it. Like gin, devotions are good in moderation.

  2. I am inclined to agree with you about not according the Sacred Heart an octave, but why then give Corpus Christi an octave as a matter of principle? This year it will mask half of the octave of S. John the Baptist.

    I think the Sacred Heart devotion/imagery can be and should be divested from its saccharine side (which has more to do with how any devotion has devolved in 18-20th. century Catholic practice) and likewise liturgized as Pius XI did. My own family is consecrated to the Sacred Heart, and our image of Him is quite noble and masculine. I don't see why a country, especially France, couldn't be, but that doesn't have to mean that it becomes everything. "I came to set the earth on fire" is the passage from Scripture (and I Vespers Magn. ant). which I see as the salutary purpose behind this feast.

    1. Yes, but Corpus Christi celebrates the institution of the Mass and the Eucharist, the greatest Sacrament. It celebrates Christ's continued presence among the faithful and in His Church. Moreover, the Eucharist did not become a source of devotion in isolation from the Mass until centuries after the institution of the feast (adoration and Benediction are Counter-Reformation phenomena), confirming that the feast and octave are geared towards something else. The Eucharist is certainly part of that new life, that 8th day of creation Christ bestows. Being a feast so universal in its content I cannot see why it should not have an octave.... Or perhaps Urban IV thought "I didn't listen closely enough the first time. I had better make up for it with an octave now!"

      The Sacred Heart, no matter how we look at it, is still a devotion. Perhaps the purported visions of St Margaret Mary did indeed demand the devotion, but not a feast. Corpus Christi on the contrary was established as a feast by a miracle. The Sacred Heart, I think, receives great generosity from the Church just by having a feast at all.

      My comment about the Sacred Heart and France was an allergic reaction to a sermon by one FSSP priest in the area who said that the French Revolution happened because King Louis would not consecrate his country to the Sacred Heart, a baroque era Fatima if ever there was one. I was not mocking the idea of family patronage.

  3. [The following comment is polemic and not meant to be taken as my actual opinion]
    If the Sacred Heart is a fruitful devotion (and we shall presume it is, otherwise Margaret Mary Alocaque, John Eudes, et al. would not be canonized) then there is no reason for there not to be an octave. An octupular solemnity of the Sacred Heart might bring more laypeople to First Fridays devotions and therefore the eternal salvation of their souls, which--pragmatically speaking--is not something that an octave for John the Baptist or Peter & Paul would likely accomplish.

    The Sacred & Immaculate Hearts devotions might not be a characteristic of the ancient Roman rite, but hearkening back again to the canonized saints who revealed us these sublime practices, should we not take it to be God's will that they be magnified? For the same reason I think there should be an octave for Our Lady of the Rosary.

    1. I am not particularly fond of S. John Eudes. It is purported that he was a clericalist when it came to the Divine Office by saying something to the effect that one now has a "right" to the Breviary upon receiving major Orders (i.e. Subdiaconate). Such an attitude of shutting off the Divine Office to the laity is antithetical to our cause here at the CTO and to a restoration of a proper liturgical life in the Church at large. I think we are already past the point of approving and disapproving of particular practices based on canonizations of the people who gave yea or nay to them - e.g. Pius X and the Breviary. Let's judge the worthiness of particular devotions on their own merits.

    2. [polemics con't]
      Let me make a distinction regarding my argument pro hominem. Pius X was canonized because he lived a holy life, only a very uninformed person would suggest that this therefore implies divine inspiration behind his liturgical reforms. But, there are certain visionary saints (relevant here is Margaret Mary Alocaque but also in mind are St. Bernadette, St. Maria Faustina, etc.) who we can say with almost absolute certainty that the Church has canonized *because* of their private revelations, in conjunction with their holy lives. That is to say, the Church has implicitly endorsed their visions and the devotions they prescribed. Therefore we can reasonably say that there should be a magnification of practices such as the Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Fatima & Lourdes, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, et al. rather than modestly trimming them from the Universal Calendar on account of respect for the ancient Roman rite. In short: God said so through His saints, and therefore the Church should follow suit.

  4. I confess that I have for a long time had a strong devotion to Our Lord's Most Sacred Heart. As someone with a mind and temperament somewhat overly given to the cerebral and the analytical, the Sacred Heart is a powerful remedy against doubt and despair.

    Having admitted my own bias, it will come as no surprise that I support the inclusion of the Feast of the Sacred Heart in a revised Tridentine calendar, together with its Octave. Whether it would be treated identically to Corpus Christi, or in a somewhat reduced manner (along the lines of Divino afflatu) is a question that's open to debate.

    As others have said, the dangers of Jansenism, and, in America especially, a vision of Catholicism that's something like "Scientology with Rosaries," can be opposed liturgically in the feast and octave of the Sacred Heart, which has such wide appeal in the church, even today.

    Too, the feast of the Sacred Heart so neatly ties together the themes of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and is an excellent liturgical coda to the themes of the feast and octave of Corpus Christi.

    I realize that there are also good arguments against the inclusion of the Sacred Heart, and I certainly do not consider its inclusion to be a key element of a reformed Tridentine calendar.

    I conclude with some lines from a favorite hymn that I think illustrate the importance of the cultus of the Sacred Heart:

    The poorest, saddest heart on earth,
    May claim thee for its own;
    O burning, throbbing Heart of Christ,
    Too late, too little known.

    The hearts of men are often hard
    And full of selfish care;
    But in the Sacred Heart we find
    A refuge from despair.

    1. "As someone with a mind and temperament somewhat overly given to the cerebral and the analytical, the Sacred Heart is a powerful remedy against doubt and despair."

      Same here.. While I propose the feast without an octave for general CTO purposes, I will be observing the octave personally. Like I said, I have seen a lot of cold, Puritanical trends (really, does 19th. century Victorian British lack of emotional expression constitute angelic behavior?) among the Tradosphere (there's a new coinage) which is coupled with the Low Mass mentality and lack of any liturgical sense. And while these may pay homage to the Sacred Heart devotion (in cold, rote manner like everything else), they are entirely disconnected from the Liturgy of the Sacred Heart (the Office is beautiful), which I see as a redeeming quality to the saccharine, anti-liturgical expression thereof.