Ask the Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart statue - image courtesy of Loretta Pehanich

Alone in the dimly-lit living room, I craned my child-sized neck up toward a shelf with a small drawer under it. A votive candle cast a moving shadow on the wall. In our home the red vigil light constantly burned in waking hours before a statue of the Sacred Heart.

When I was older, my mother would sometimes assign me the “chore” of lighting the candle in the morning. More often, I caught her or Dad at prayer as they dedicated our family to Jesus once again as they put flame to wick.

The shelf was the highest item on any wall, demonstrating its precedence.

When I went to Mom with a problem, she would say, “Go ask the Sacred Heart.” Today I wonder if she was stumped by a deep question, too busy to stop her chores, or wanted to teach me to pray.

If I did wrong, I might be sent to the living room with instructions to spend a few minutes before the Sacred Heart, reflecting on what I had done. I remember occasionally shouting to my mother in the kitchen, “Was that long enough?” Maybe she’d forgotten I was there. She mothered seven children, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this were true. Some days it felt like hours. Other days Mom would release me, but I would stay a little longer. Something was happening, but I didn’t realize it then. I can still picture that single crimson votive light glowing, the furnishings, the carpet I knelt or stood on, and the window to the left where natural light flooded in between floor-length drapes. Candles were never scented, yet I remember a faint aroma of wax and smoke. I experienced God moments there.

What’s behind the veneration of this image of Christ with his heart popping out? While it may seem too traditional or old-fashioned to some, its meaning is always contemporary.

I cannot grasp how wildly, deeply, mystically, and glowingly God is in love with all humanity—no exceptions. Jesus pumps Eucharistic Blood through the whole Body. Christ’s heart is gushing love on all humanity.

The love light shines so brightly from Christ that it’s as if his heart is bursting out physically from his chest. A newer rendition of the same idea, I believe, is the Divine Mercy. I like the version that shows rays pouring off the edges of the image. An endless supply of love shines out infinitely.

Mom took us to Mass monthly on First Fridays, because when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had visions of Jesus in the late 1600s, Jesus promised mercy and a happy death to people completing this devotion.

Fast-forward to my wedding date, October 16, which was selected based on the convenience of the parish, our families, and my husband’s college graduation. It happened to be the Feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Coincidence? Or a wink from God?

Some time after, my husband built us a small shelf with a drawer for petitions. We bought a statue and dedicated our family to the limitless love of Jesus, who offers us his loving, Sacred Heart.

“Follow me,” Jesus says. What would it look like, what would it take, for my heart to feel like it was bursting out with love?

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Loretta Pehanich
Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and the author of 2022: A Book of Grace-Filled Days, Women in Conversation: Stand Up!, and Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. A spiritual director since 2012, Loretta is trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Her involvement in ministry and parish life includes 20 years in small faith-sharing groups and Christian Life Community. Loretta gives retreats and presentations on prayer and women’s spirituality and is commissioned as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.


  1. Lovely to have spent time as a child in front of the Sacred Heart ! Smart mama!
    I love those God Winks also.
    Happy St Ignatius day my friend!

  2. What Avery beautiful Reflection ; along with a little story of your upbringing. It reminded me of when I was a child (Very long ago) and any of my relations, The Catholic ones (Plus my parents) there was always the Picture of the Sacred Heart and the accompanying one of Our Lady …Hanging over their bed> Why there I don’t know , but that is where it was. We didn’t see much of the non-catholic ones. Our Great-Grandmother referred to us as Papist!! Sad but true. A.M.D.G.

  3. What a nice sharing! You are really blessed, and we love reading your reflections! So happy to have shared life at Holy Family with you and Steve.

    Betty Nunziati

  4. Your mother sounds like a very special woman who instilled such faith in her children. Thank you for his story and reflection. I have never had a devotion to the Sacred Heart although my husband’s family very much did. This reflection that I read today, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, helps me to understand the devotion much more. I appreciate that.

  5. Thank you dear Loretta..Thank you dear Jesus for al ovi ng mom who did everything she could do to give Jesus love to her children.
    Praying for everyone of his creation to be messengers of the loving merciful God.

    • My mom and dad were such loving Catholics. We learned so much, my siblings and I. May we pay that love forward everywhere we go.

  6. My favorite part… “or a wink from God” says so much if our hearts and minds are open to grasp those special moments. Thank you.


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