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Catholic Dictionary




The subjective response of the faithful to the objective fact of Christ's love, divine and human, symbolized in his physical Heart. Historically the Devotion to the Sacred Heart is an outgrowth of devotion to Christ's sacred humanity, which the Church has more than once defended as adorable because the human nature of Christ forms one Person with the divine nature, and that Person is divine. A series of mystics over centuries contributed to the development of this devotion, notably St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), St. Bonaventure (1221-74), St. Mechtilde (1210-80), St. Gertrude (1256-1302), St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440), St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), and St. John Eudes (1601-80). But it was especially St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90), whose revelations before the Blessed Sacrament gave the devotion its modern aspect and importance. Through her Jesuit spiritual director, Claude de la Colombiére (1641-82), the Society of Jesus made promotion of the cultus of the Sacred Heart part of its institute, notably through the Apostleship of Prayer.