Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Altarpiece in the Sacred Heart Pilgrimage Church in Velburg (Upper Palatinate): Jesus shows his burning heart

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an expression of Roman Catholic spirituality . Here, Jesus Christ worshiped in terms of its symbolized by his heart love. The corresponding basic text from the Gospel is Joh 19.34  EU or Joh 7.37 f. EU : the pierced heart of the crucified as the source of the sacraments of the Church . In the preface of the votive mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus it says:

“From its open side flow blood and water, from its pierced heart spring the sacraments of the Church. The heart of the Savior is open to all, so that they may draw joyfully from the wells of salvation. "

Origin and form of devotion to the Sacred Heart

St. Gertrud von Helfta with a representation of the heart of Jesus
Stained glass window depicting the Heart of Jesus in a former monastery church in El Cajon

Already in the early church, there was the idea of a company resulting from the Heart of Jesus Church . In the transition from Christian antiquity to the Middle Ages, a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus took shape. Statements about the heart of Jesus can be found in Beda Venerabilis , Alcuin and in Heliand .

In the Middle Ages there was a pronounced devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus among Anselm of Canterbury , Bernhard of Clairvaux , Albertus Magnus , Francis of Assisi (vision of San Damiano ) and Bonaventure .

The impulses for devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus came from the German mystics of the high and late Middle Ages , such as Lutgard von Tongern , Mechthild von Magdeburg and Gertrud von Helfta, as well as from the likewise late medieval German mystics , such as the Dominicans ( Heinrich Seuse , Albertus Magnus, Meister Eckhart , Johannes Tauler and others). Gertrud von Helfta, called the Great, wrote down the apparitions of the “ Redeemer ” in Messenger of Divine Love . In the high Middle Ages , devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was also promoted by the Franciscans in German-speaking countries, especially in southern Germany . At the end of the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the modern age, the Cologne Carthusians , among them especially Ludolf von Sachsen , Dionysius der Karthus and Johannes Justus von Landsberg (Lanspergius), were the most important supporters of the Sacred Heart veneration, with them being influenced by the Dominicans and the mystics (Lanspergius edited the writings of Gertrude the Great) was very pronounced. The Carthusians, for their part, influenced important figures of Catholicism of the time, such as St. Petrus Canisius . The thought of atonement, which was later mentioned in St. Margareta Maria Alacoque was in the foreground, began to emerge with the Carthusians rarely, but clearly and distinctly. The development of the Apostolate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by the Carthusians was the last significant period up to the visions of Margareta Maria Alacoque. The influence of the Carthusian monastery in Cologne extended to the school of Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle , which had a decisive influence on the education of the French clergy.

Coat of arms of the Order of the Visitation of Mary (Salesian Sisters): the pierced Heart of Jesus, which is crowned with a crown of thorns

St. Francis de Sales is considered a "mystic of the Heart of Jesus" and applied this idea to him together with Jane Frances de Chantal founded Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (Salesian Sisters). The French people's missionary Johannes Eudes , influenced by the school of Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle , built the first chapel consecrated to the Heart of Jesus (consecrated on September 4, 1655) and founded hundreds of lay brotherhoods under the patronage of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary ; he is also the author of the first measurement form . The festival was celebrated in October. Thanks to the French Salesian Margareta Maria Alacoque, whose visions between 1673 and 1675 revolved around the idea of ​​atonement , the frequent reception of Communion and a Sacred Heart Festival, the Sacred Heart of Jesus finally became a form of piety that was widespread worldwide . The church officially recognized the Sacred Heart of Jesus and made it part of the liturgy .

In recent times, the mystics Maria of the Divine Heart , Josefa Menéndez and Maria Faustyna Kowalska have been important for the further development of the Sacred Heart . A special form of devotion to the Sacred Heart is devotion to the five wounds of Christ .

A new variant of the veneration of the Sacred Heart shows the thinking of the French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin : For him, the Sacred Heart is the “engine of evolution” and the “dynamic principle of the world”.

Spreading the veneration of the Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart of Jesus representation of St. Margareta Maria Alacoque

The spread of the veneration of the Sacred Heart goes back above all to the Jesuits , who, based on Margareta Maria Alacoque and her confessor Claude de la Colombière SJ, adopted this form of piety. The Jesuits spread the devotion to the Sacred Heart especially through popular missions they led . The oldest post-medieval German sermon on the Sacred Heart of Jesus was written by the Jesuit Philipp Kisel (Mainz, 1666).

After the Jesuit order was abolished in 1773, the veneration of the Sacred Heart was fought against by Josephinism and the Enlightenment . The veneration of the Sacred Heart received a political accent through the Tyrolean struggles for freedom and the vow of Andreas Hofer . The restoration of the Jesuits gave it new impetus. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus received a strong boost in the late 18th and 19th centuries when the feast of the Sacred Heart was included in the liturgical calendar of the universal Church. In Germany, the veneration of the Sacred Heart was widespread during the Kulturkampf . When the Kulturkampf reached its climax in 1875, all Catholics in Germany were consecrated to the Sacred Heart. In the second half of the 19th century, thanks to the prayer apostolate initiated by French Jesuits, devotion to the Sacred Heart became very widespread . The monthly newsletter of the apostolate of prayer was the Messager du Cœur de Jésus - Bulletin mensuel de L'Apostolat de la Prière (German: "Sendbote des Herzens Jesu"), which was published by Henri Ramière and has been translated into many languages. Thanks to Father Ramière, the apostolate of prayer spread around the world, and many religious orders also joined him. At the time of his death, there were 35,000 contact points worldwide with around 13,000,000 members. In the early 1930s the apostolate of prayer had around 30,000,000 members, in Germany over 500,000. The organs of the association in Germany were the messenger of the Divine Heart , the men's apostolate , Mother's Sunday and wife and mother .

In the first half of the 20th century, those of Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey SS.CC. "Exaltations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" brought into being very popular.

Liturgy and Customs

Depiction of the Savior with the opened heart, chalice and instruments of suffering

The first liturgical celebration was the Feast of the Holy Lance , which was celebrated by Pope Innocent VI in 1353 . in the Roman Empire of the German Nation for the second Friday after Easter. The German Dominicans already celebrated the festival of the five wounds in the Middle Ages. A feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the 15th century is documented among the Dominican Sisters in Unterlinden / Colmar. The first votive mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was celebrated by St. John Eudes in 1672.

On the third Friday after Pentecost , the Friday after the earlier octave of Corpus Christi , the Catholic Church celebrates the solemn festival of the Sacred Heart of Jesus , a festival of ideas that Pope Pius IX. Introduced in 1856 for the whole Church. The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is thus one of the feasts that depend on the date of Easter, its festival secret and the date is derived from the older feast of Christ's side wound . As the Feast of Corpus Christi relates to Maundy Thursday , the Feast of the Sacred Heart takes up an aspect of Good Friday .

In addition, the first Friday of every month is Sacred Heart Friday . It is a preferred day for receiving Holy Communion and Eucharistic adoration with the dispensation of the sacramental blessing . The missal contains a votive mass from the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In 1899 Pope Leo XIII consecrated the whole world to the heart of Jesus and gave his reasons for doing so in the encyclical Annum sacrum . In 1928 Pope Pius XI published his encyclical Miserentissimus redemptor , on reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus . To mark the centenary of the day of remembrance (1856), Pope Pius XII published on May 13, 1956, the encyclical Haurietis aquas ("You will draw water"). In the Catechism of the Catholic Church , the veneration of the Sacred Heart is summarized on a Christ-centered basis and recommended again. Pope Benedict XVI In his first encyclical Deus Caritas est explicitly referred to the pierced Heart of Jesus and called for a renewal of Sacred Heart piety in June, the month of June.

Although historical developments show that devotion to the Sacred Heart is not a purely Catholic phenomenon, it is often seen as a specifically Catholic form of piety. However, thanks to its Christ-centered accent, it also offers ecumenical points of contact.

Christ reveals his heart to Margareta Maria Alacoque (right) and Mary of the Divine Heart ( devotional image )
Devotional image for the vision of Sr. Mary of the Divine Heart : The love of the Heart of Jesus illuminates the whole world

The date of the solemn festival depends on the date of the moving Easter (third Friday after Pentecost ) and therefore falls on May 29th at the earliest and on July 2nd at the latest. In Austria and South Tyrol one celebrates the Sacred Heart Sunday , that is the Sunday after the actual Sacred Heart Feast, i.e. the second Sunday after the Corpus Christi feast. Numerous processions take place on this day . Sacred Heart Fires are lit in the Bozen area, among others .

Date of the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

  • 2020: June 19th
  • 2021: June 11th
  • 2022: June 24th

Visions of Margareta Maria Alacoque

Four visions of the French nun Margareta Maria Alacoque between December 27, 1673 and 1675 were significant for the veneration of the Sacred Heart. At the request of her ecclesiastical superiors, she passed on the messages in a total of 35 letters which, according to her, had been conveyed to her by the Sacred Heart. These promises were spread worldwide on devotional pictures after Alacoque's death until the end of the 19th century and translated into more than 238 languages.

The visions contained promises to all who venerate the heart of Jesus. In 1890, Adolphe Cardinal Perraud , Bishop of Autun , lamented the form of the spread. As a historian, he made it a point to publish the promises in the wording used in the original letters of Saint Marie Marguerite, namely:

  • I will give them all the graces necessary for their status.
  • I will give peace to your home.
  • I will comfort her in all her sorrows.
  • I will be their reliable home in life and especially in death.
  • I will abundantly bless their ventures.
  • Sinners will find the source and the infinite sea of ​​mercy in my heart.
  • Lukewarm souls will become eager.
  • Zealous souls will quickly attain great perfection.
  • I will bless every home where the image of my Sacred Heart is placed and venerated.
  • I will give priests the gift of touching even the hardest of hearts.
  • The names of all who spread this devotion will be inscribed in my heart and will never be erased from it.
  • I promise you, out of the abundant mercy of my heart and all-embracing love, that all who communicate on the first Friday for nine consecutive months will be graced with a penitent ending so that they will not die in disgrace or without receiving the sacraments . My Sacred Heart will be your safe home at the last moment.

In addition to the promises to all Christians, Margareta Maria Alacoque's letters of June 17 and August 1689 also contained concerns that were addressed to the French king and that are believed to have had an impact on government policy.

Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre Basilica in Paris
The French flag with the representation of the Heart of Jesus in front of the Heiho Niten Ichi Ryu Memorial in Gleizé
  • “He (Jesus Christ) wishes to enter the royal houses with pomp and splendor, in order to be honored there as he was cast out, despised and humiliated in his suffering. He wants to establish his kingdom in the heart of our great monarch, so that he may serve him in the fulfillment of his purposes.
  • Furthermore, the king is urged to have the image of the Sacred Heart written on his flags and arms, so that he may gain victory over all his enemies and that the heads of his proud and arrogant enemies may be laid at his feet, so that he may be above all Enemies of the Holy Church will triumph. "
  • Finally, "a building" should be erected where the image of the Sacred Heart is to receive the consecration and the honors of the king and the whole court.

On June 16, 1875, the last request brought by Margareta Maria Alacoque was fulfilled when Cardinal Joseph Hippolyte Guibert , the Archbishop of Paris, laid the foundation stone for the Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre basilica , whose construction was ideally and financially a national concern of the French state was supported.

The promise of peace for France is seen in the joint establishment of the Heiho Niten Ichi Ryu Memorial in the French city of Gleizé by France , Japan , Cambodia , the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Russia on December 8, 2014. In addition to the flags of these nations and associations, the tricolor with the representation of the most sacred heart and the flag of the Holy Spirit also fly in front of him .


Heart of Jesus (19th century)

Representations of the Heart of Jesus have been known since the 15th century, usually shown together with the Arma Christi , the holy lance and the wounds. There were also depictions of angels who caught drops of blood emerging from the heart in a chalice, or depictions of hearts with a host or a crown of thorns. Since the visions of St. Margaret Maria Alacoque there have been depictions of the flaming heart from which a cross loomed.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the most widespread iconographic type developed today, showing Jesus with a visible heart, usually with a gesture of blessing or by pointing to the heart. The representation of Jesus with his heart in his hands ( "Christ Cardiophorus" ) is no longer permitted by the Congregation for Rites, as are isolated representations of the Heart of Jesus. It is striking that in the ostensibly naturalistic pictures the heart is arranged in the middle of the body of the Jesus figure and not on the anatomically correct left side of the body. This expresses the fact that “Heart of Jesus” is not a medical term, but the “most expressive real symbol of love”, according to the theologian Leo Scheffczyk ; "As a corporeal heart it is and remains a reality-filled symbol for the invisible movements of God-human love"; the pictorial representation must be seen "as derived, secondary symbolism [...], the indicative power of which is to be judged according to the authenticity of the expression".

Popular piety

  • On the wood painting of the Wettinger baby Jesus , a heart-shaped ember hole can be seen in the left chest area, which was caused by the fire in the Wettingen monastery on April 11, 1507.
  • The Folklore and Open Air Museum Roscheider Hof has a large number of Sacred Heart figures that can be seen in the exhibition area Popular Piety . They are supplemented by a detailed description of the veneration of the Sacred Heart in the Trier area in the 19th century.
  • Since the state of Tyrol entrusted itself to the protection of the Sacred Heart in 1796, this consecration has been renewed every year at the Sacred Heart Festival. That is why the heart of Jesus is understood in popular piety as the real sovereign of the country. Sacred Heart fires are burned on the mountain slopes . The Herz-Jesu painting in Innsbruck's Jesuit Church is particularly well-known .

Religious communities (selection)

See also

Source texts

  • Jean Croiset : La devotion au Sacré Cœur de Notre Seigneur Jesus Christ . Lyon 1689.
  • Johannes (Jean) Eudes : Le Cœur admirable de la très Sainte Mére de Dieu . (The last of the twelve books is about the heart of Jesus.) (Also online: Books X-XII [1] PDF 3.98 MB)
  • Joseph de Gallifet : De Cultu Sacrosanti Cordis Jesu ac Domini Nostri Jesu Christi in variis christiani orbis provinciis jam propagato . Rome 1726
  • Pius XII. : Haurietis aquas from May 15, 1956.


  • Anna Coreth: love without measure. History of the devotion to the Sacred Heart in Austria in the 18th century . Salterrae, Maria Roggendorf 1994 (= Cor ad cor. Volume 4), ISBN 3-901297-04-9 .
  • Franz Seraph Hattler : The pictorial representation of the divine heart and the idea of ​​the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Discussed after the story, the church decisions and the demands of the arts. 2nd, increased edition. Rauch, Innsbruck 1894.
  • Ferdinand Holböck : Look to the pierced. Great devotees of the Sacred Heart of Jesus from all centuries. Christiana, Stein am Rhein et al. 1990, ISBN 3-7171-0924-3 .
  • International Institute of the Heart of Jesus (Ed.): Development and topicality of the veneration of the Sacred Heart. Published by Pattloch-Verlag, Aschaffenburg 1984, ISBN 3-557-91259-0 .
  • Lothar Lies : God's heart for people. Elements of the piety of the Sacred Heart of Jesus tomorrow. Tyrolia, Innsbruck et al. 1996, ISBN 3-7022-2041-0 .
  • John Moore: Adoration of the Sacred Heart in Germany. Religious, social and political aspects of a form of piety. Imhoff, Petersberg 1997, ISBN 3-932526-01-5 .
  • David Morgan: The Sacred Heart of Jesus: The Visual Evolution of a Devotion . Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2008, ISBN 9-789-0896-4019-2.
  • Nikolaus Nilles SJ: De rationibus festorum sacratissimi Cordis Jesu et purissimi Cordis Mariae e fontibus juris canonici erutis. Libri IV. 2 volumes. 4th edition. Wagner, Innsbruck 1875.
  • Christoph Nobs: The mass on Sacred Heart Friday. Liturgical-scientific reflection . Ottobrunn 2004 (pdf; 523 kB).
  • Karl Rahner : See this heart. Prolegomena to a theology of veneration of the Sacred Heart. In: Karl Rahner: Writings on theology. Volume 3: On the theology of spiritual life. 7th edition. Benziger, Zurich 1967, pp. 379-390.
  • Karl Rahner: The theological meaning of the veneration of the heart of Jesus. In: Karl Rahner: Writings on theology. 2nd Edition. Volume 7: On the theology of the spiritual life. Benziger, Zurich 1971, pp. 481-490.
  • Carl Richstätter : The veneration of the Sacred Heart of the German Middle Ages. 2nd, revised and enlarged edition. Kösel & Pustet, Munich et al. 1924.
  • Leo Scheffczyk (ed.): The mysteries of the life of Jesus and the Christian existence. Pattloch, Aschaffenburg 1984, ISBN 3-557-91293-0 .
  • Leo Scheffczyk (Ed.): Faith in Christ and Adoration of Christ. New approaches to the piety of Christ. Pattloch, Aschaffenburg 1982, ISBN 3-557-91205-1 .
  • Josef Schwendimann: Adoration of the Sacred Heart today? Veritas, Regensburg et al. 1974, ISBN 3-7748-0308-0 .
  • Josef Stierli (Ed.): Cor Salvatoris. Ways to adore the Sacred Heart. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1954.
  • Albert Walzer: The heart in the Christian faith. In: The heart. (Gedächtnisschrift für Ernst Boehringer) Ed. By Dr.-Karl-Thomae-GmbH, 3 volumes, Biberach an der Riß 1965–1969, pp. 107–150.

Web links

Commons : Herz Jesu  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hugo Rahner : The beginnings of the Sacred Heart veneration in the father's time. In: Josef Stierli (Ed.): Cor Salvatoris. Ways to adore the Sacred Heart. P. 65.
  2. Josef Schwendimann: Adoration of the Sacred Heart Today? P. 97.
  3. Josef Stierli (Ed.): Cor Salvatoris. Ways to adore the Sacred Heart. P. 85.
  4. The glories of the divine heart of Jesus in his worship as it is and should be according to the revelations of the blessed MM Alacoque. Conversions and suggestions from and according to the writings of the blessed together with a compilation of the various Sacred Heart devotions. With an "Approbation" from Eugenius (Bishop of Basel), Einsiedeln / New York / Cincinnati / St. Louis 1884.
  5. Josef Schwendimann: Adoration of the Sacred Heart Today? P. 103.
  6. See Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Hymne de l'univers: la messe sur le monde trois histoires comme benson la puissance spirituelle de la matière. Édition du Seuil, Paris 1961. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Le Cœur de la Matière. Édition du Seuil, Paris 1976, ISBN 2-02-004427-7 .
  7. ^ Josef Lenzenweger : Ecclesia Peregrinans: Josef Lenzenweger for his 70th birthday. Vienna 1986, ISBN 3-8536-9623-6 , p. 226; (Detail scan) .
  8. John Moore: Sacred Heart Adoration in Germany. P. 77.
  9. ↑ Number of members and importance in Germany: LThK Edition 1932, Sp. 318.
  10. Pope Benedict XVI. calls for a renewal of the piety of the Sacred Heart .
  11. ^ Marguerite-Marie Alacoque: Sa vie par elle-même . Ed .: Saint-Paul. Paris-Friborg 1993, ISBN 2-85049-153-5 , p. 152 .
  12. a b Wenisch, Fr. Paul: Promises of Our Lord to Saint Margaret . 1920.
  13. Raymond Darricau, Bernard Peyrous: Sainte Marguerite-Marie et le message de Paray-le-Monial, congrès de Paray-le-Monial in 1990 . Ed .: Desclée. 1993, ISBN 978-2-7189-0607-2 , pp. 550 .
  14. ^ Père Jacques Benoist: Le Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre, Un vœu national . Ed .: Délégation à l'action artistique de la ville de Paris. 1995, ISBN 2-905118-79-2 .
  15. Dieter Harmening: Herz Jesu IV. Iconographically . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 5 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1996, Sp. 54 f .
  16. ^ Leo Scheffczyk: Heart of Jesus II. Systematic-theological . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 5 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1996, Sp. 53 f .