The Legion of Mary and the Sacred Heart

Frank Duff, our founder was born on June 7th 1889 and died on November 7th 1980. What those dates have in common is the fact that they were both First Fridays, days that are probably devoted to the Sacred Heart in the life of the Church. Probably the last thing Frank Duff saw before he died was the picture of the Sacred Heart hanging on the wall opposite his bed. Of course, the picture of the Sacred Heart played a significant role in many stages in the life of the Legion and it still does in the prayer life and apostolate of the Legion.

The picture of the Sacred Heart presided at the first meeting of the Legion in 1921 along with Mary represented by her statue on a little altar. The headquarters of the Legion were consecrated to the Sacred Heart and the Concilium Officers were also consecrated to Him during a special Mass. The first invocation the Legionary makes in the opening prayers is: “Most Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on us”. The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart is one of the oldest and most treasured apostolates of the Legion and one that Frank Duff himself personally engaged in. The month of June would be a good time to reflect on the and renew our devotion to the Sacred Heart.

In Sacred Scripture the heart is the symbol of the deepest centre and identity of a person. In the case of Jesus it means that it is love that defines Him. Loves is His most specific characteristic. The Sacred Heart is the human language for revealing the basic fact that God is Love. In devotion to the Heart of Jesus we are honouring the human and divine love that Jesus has for each one of us. That is essentially what the Gospel is: that God loved us while we were still sinners. In a few words, devotion to the Sacred Heart means that we have a practical understanding and realisation of the place that Jesus has in our lives as God and man and especially His Love for us. And we try to respond to Him by dedicating and entrusting ourselves to His Sacred Heart as the symbol of His infinite and personal love for us. This devotion goes to the very heart of evangelisation. What else are we called to but to let every one that we meet know that they are infinitely important to God and eternally loved by Him.

Pope Leo XIII is remembered for many great things: we think, for example, of his great social encyclicals, his preaching of the Rosary, his promotion of the teaching of St. Thomas in Universities, seminaries and houses of religious formation. But he said that his act of Consecrating the human race to the Sacred Heart was the greatest act of his pontificate. It would be a beautiful thing for a legionary to be able to say that he or she was instrumental under God for enthroning the Sacred Heart in the centre of a family home. To enthrone or consecrate a home to the Sacred Heart means to put Gods love at the centre of the home, to place a reminder of the central teaching of the Gospel in the midst of the family. The Handbook tells us that this apostolate would mean that we could take to ourselves the fullness of the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart. Even the tenth: ‘I will give to Priests the grace to touch the most hardened hearts’. Because we go everywhere, even to the most difficult and forbidding places as representatives of the Priest. For this reason legionaries will go with perfect confidence to grapple with cases branded ‘hopeless’. It would be wonderful if every praesidium in every part of the world would make the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in homes an important part of its apostolate.

To really undertake this particular Legion work fully it would be good to read and study and pray about devotion to the Sacred Heart and practice some concrete way of showing our love and gratitude for the infinite gift of Himself that he gives us as symbolised by the Sacred Heart.

Of course, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is intimately associated with devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pope Pius XII wrote: ‘By the will of God, the most Blessed Virgin Mary was inseparably joined with Christ in accomplishing the work of man’s redemption, so that our salvation flows from the love of Jesus Christ and His sufferings, intimately united with the love and sorrows of his Mother. It is then, highly fitting that after due homage has been paid to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Christian people, who have obtained divine life from Christ through Mary manifest similar piety and the love of their grateful souls for the most loving heart of our Heavenly Mother’.

I leave the last words to the Handbook once more: ‘As it is the mission of Mary to bring about the reign of Jesus, so there is a special appropriateness (which should attract the special graces of the Holy Spirit) in the Legion of Mary propagating the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart.