Sacred Heart – How to Practice the Beautiful Devotion

While the most famous saint who promoted the devotion to the Sacred Heart is undoubtedly St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom Our Lord appeared in 1673, the devotion can be observed as far back as the 2nd century with St. Justin Martyr. Devotees in the early centuries promoted the Sacred Heart devotion as the inexhaustible source of grace. In the 12th century, the devotion began to spread as a reminder that each person was redeemed by Jesus’ Passion and Death. In the 13th century, St. Gertrude the Great had private revelations surrounding the Sacred Heart, and St. John Eudes celebrated the first Feast of the Sacred Heart in 1670. 

The heresy of Jansenism was running rampant in 1673. This heresy challenged the teaching of free will, thus stating that no man could participate in his salvation. Jansenists further held that God destines some to receive grace and others to not receive it. Those who were “destined” to be without grace would be damned nonetheless. 

The fear, distrust, and anxiety that this heresy brought to people hurt God deeply. So, in response, Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque many times, asking her to promote the devotion to the Sacred Heart to express His love and mercy for mankind. He once told her during an apparition: “My Divine Heart is so passionately in love with humanity, and with you in particular, that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning charity any longer. They must burst out through you.”

st margaret mary alacoque contemplating on sacred heart
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque contemplating the Sacred Heart

He specifically told her how He wanted to be honored through the Sacred Heart and for mankind to make amends, receive Communion frequently, and practice the Holy Hour devotion. 

Jesus told St. Margaret that He wanted an annual feast day dedicated to His Sacred Heart. Pope Pius IX added the Feast of the Sacred Heart to the calendar in 1856, which takes place on the Friday after the Corpus Christi octave. And the entire month of June is traditionally dedicated to the Sacred Heart – a fitting response to today’s evils. 

Common Prayers and Practices

Each Christian is encouraged to foster a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Which so loves mankind. Not every devotee of the Sacred Heart must complete every possible act of devotion. But below are some ways that devotees can practice and foster this devotion, finding what Jesus is calling them to do. 

Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the Home 

One beautiful way to give the Sacred Heart its proper place in the home is through the Enthronement. According to the Legion of Mary, “The Enthronement is the official and social recognition of the rule of the Sacred Heart of Jesus over the Christian family, a recognition affirmed and outwardly expressed and made permanent by the solemn installation of the image of the Divine Heart in a conspicuous place in the home, and by the Act of Consecration.” 

Through the Enthronement, the family is proclaiming that God reigns in the home and is present everywhere. It encourages the members of the family to practice Eucharistic spirituality, liturgical prayer, and serves as a reminder of God’s love and their duty to their family and community. 

A family can have the Enthronement done in their home ideally with the help of a priest. However, if a priest is not available, in serious instances, the father or another member can lead the prayers – but the family should consult their parish priests in either case. Either way, indulgences are available for those who do the Enthronement. 

The Enthronement is done by first inviting family and friends to the Enthronement. This is a way that the hosting family can be apostles of the Sacred Heart. If possible, the family should have a Mass offered that morning for the reign of the Sacred Heart in the home and as an act of love and reparation. The entire family should also try to receive Communion at Mass. Then, a beautiful picture or statue of the Sacred Heart is placed in a prominent place in the home. Below the statue there will be a “throne” or “altar” (such as the mantelpiece), decorated with flowers and candles and covered with a white cloth. 

To begin, the priest will say some prayers and bless the house (if it is not already blessed). He will then bless the statue or picture. The statue or picture will be placed on its throne, and acts of consecration are said as well as prayers for the family.

Afterwards, the family is encouraged to have a celebration to make it a memorable and special day. The family is also encouraged to renew the family consecrations, if possible, every day.

jesus offering his sacred heart

First Friday Devotion 

The First Friday devotion was one Jesus communicated to St. Margaret, as expressed in the twelfth promise (described below). In His own words, Jesus wanted the faithful to practice this devotion in reparation to “the Heart that has loved men so and is loved so little in return.” 

To practice the First Friday devotion, Catholics must, on each First Friday for nine consecutive months: 1) attend Mass; 2) receive Communion with the intention of honoring the Sacred Heart; and 3) go to confession. 

Catholic sources differ on whether going to confession is necessary for the devotion, unless a person needs to go before receiving Communion to be in the state of grace. Some sources say that a person must go to confession within eight days before or after the Friday. In any case, it is wise to consult an experienced and holy priest or one’s spiritual director. 

These 9 First Fridays must be consecutive and made in honor of and in reparation to the Sacred Heart. 

The individual who wishes to practice the First Friday devotion should also have the intention to make reparation to the Sacred Heart. There is a beautiful prayer, the Act of Reparation for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that a person can pray on a First Friday to expresses their desire for reparation. 

Holy Hour 

Jesus told St. Margaret, “Make Reparation for the ingratitude of men. Spend an hour in prayer to appease Divine justice, to implore mercy for sinners, to honor Me, to console Me for My bitter suffering when abandoned by My apostles when they did not WATCH ONE HOUR WITH ME.” 

The faithful can continue this devotion by spending an hour praying to the Sacred Heart in reparation and consolation. While there is no specific and invariable formula for making this Holy Hour, one should always follow how Jesus is calling them to pray in that moment. There are a few resources online that have compiled prayers to the Sacred Heart that you may find helpful. Or you can pray your own prayers to the Sacred Heart or sit in silence before It. 

The Red Scapular 

Undoubtedly, the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is by far the most famous Scapular. A lesser-known option is the Red Scapular, which is a remembrance of the Passion of Our Lord and the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. 

According to The Catholic Gentleman, in 1846, Sister Apolline of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul received two apparitions of Jesus in which she received the Red Scapular. The front had a crucifix and the words, “Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ save us.” The back had the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and said, “Sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary protect us.” 

In 1847, Pope Pius IX approved the Red Scapular, now known as the Scapular of the Passion of Our Lord and the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. For those who prefer the Red Scapular to the Brown, this is an easy way to carry a reminder of the Sacred Heart and of the Passion. 

As The Catholic Gentleman reminds us, multiple saints have said that meditating on the Passion of Christ is one of the best ways to grow in holiness. Through the Red Scapular, one is continually reminded of the Passion of Our Lord. Sister Apolline also said of the Scapular that it “will prove to us a strong armor against infernal assaults, an impenetrable shield against the arrows of our spiritual enemies.” Jesus also promised to Sister Apolline that “all those who wear this Scapular will receive on every Friday a great increase of faith, hope and charity.”

"Czerwony Szkaplerz Męki Pańskiej" by Jakub w is licensed under the CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License. Cropped from original.
“Czerwony Szkaplerz Męki Pańskiej” by Jakub w is licensed under the CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License. Cropped from original.

Other Prayers 

There is also the beautiful Litany of the Sacred Heart that praises Jesus and asks for mercy. There are also novena prayers that can be said in honor of the Sacred Heart. Finally, there is the Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart, authored by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque herself. And of course, the faithful are also encouraged to simply open their hearts in prayer to Jesus, Who offers His so vulnerably and freely to mankind. 

Below are some traditional and short prayers one can make every day in honor of the Sacred Heart: 

  • Most Merciful Jesus, I consecrate myself today and always to Thy Most Sacred Heart. 
  • Most Sacred Heart of Jesus I implore, that I may love Thee more and more. 
  • Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee! 
  • Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! 
  • Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in Thy love for me. 
  • Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner. 
  • Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine. 
  • Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy Kingdom come! 
  • Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, convert sinners, save the dying, deliver the holy souls in Purgatory. 

Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary

Pope St. John Paul II coined the phrase “Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary” in 1985 when he pointed out that, while distinct, these two devotions were interrelated “…by reason of the enduring relation of love that exists between the Son and [H]is Mother.” 

St. John Eudes, while often remembered for his devotion to the Sacred Heart, also realized that the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts were so closely united, and so promoted devotion to the Two Hearts. 

Indeed, both Hearts are depicted on the Miraculous Medal, which came from the apparitions that St. Catherine Labouré had of Our Blessed Mother. 

In the apparitions at Fatima, the three children – Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco – learned that Jesus wants the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated. As Jacinta said to Lucia: “It will not be long now before I go to heaven. You will remain here to make known that God wishes to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When you are to say this, don’t go and hide. Tell everybody that God grants us graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that people are to ask her for them; and that the Heart of Jesus wants the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated at His side.” 

immaculate heart of mary

Promises of the Sacred Heart Devotion

Jesus communicated many promises to St. Margaret for those who consecrate themselves to the Sacred Heart and fervently practice the devotion. According to the site The Divine Mercy, in 1882, a businessman by the name of Philip Kemper collected the promises and listed the principal ones. He then distributed them, and Pope Leo XIII officially approbated this effort in 1899. The list that Kemper had compiled became famous as the “Twelve Promises.” They are listed below: 

1. I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life. 

2. I will establish peace in their homes. 

3. I will comfort them in their afflictions. 

4. I will be their secure refuge during their life, and above all, in death. 

5. I will bestow abundant blessings on their undertakings. 

6. Sinners will find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy. 

7. Lukewarm souls shall become fervent. 

8. Fervent souls will quickly mount to high perfection. 

9. I will bless every place in which an image of my Heart is exposed and honored. 

10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts. 

11. Those who promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart. 

12. I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving the sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment. 

How wonderful and generous is Jesus! His Sacred Heart burns in love for souls and with an intense desire for mankind to receive His forgiveness and mercy. 

You can read more about the Sacred Heart devotion and Jesus’ apparitions to St. Margaret in her autobiography, which you can find here

Marisa Cantu has a master's in political science and international affairs and a bachelor's in political science. She has also studied international studies and French. She has a strong background in nonprofit work, research, writing, and policy proposal and analysis.

1 Comments

  1. Helen on July 11, 2024 at 2:30 PM

    Beautiful devotion and so needed in these troubled days when so many are confused and lost. Thank you for sharing how to practice the Sacred Heart devotion. Can you imagine the incredible things that could happen to our country and our world if practiced especially on a wide scale? Let’s share this with family and friends!
    God bless you and your work.

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