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?