Feast of the Sacred Heart: Taking Snapshots of our Spiritual Cores

Art Work by Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“Behold this Heart which has loved everyone so much that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love.” — Christ appearing to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM; June, 1675

For several years, I enjoyed a deep friendship with a doctor who specialized in taking pictures of people’s hearts. Echocardiography is the practice of using sound waves to capture images of our hearts that,  in turn, help diagnose abnormalities. To this day, I think of our friendship as a simultaneous invitation by God to meditate deeply on the pictures I’m afforded of people’s hearts; I think about how this friendship informs my vocation to tune into Love pouring forth through all — no matter who they are, where they are from, how well I know them, or how much I adore them. On this Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I return to this image of Christ’s wounded heart, this pierced organ at the center of his body, that simultaneously reflects all of our wounded natures, and the gifts of Love, Gratitude, Mercy and Forgiveness that we might offer to one another, through Jesus.

Sacred Heart Devotion and the Visitation Tradition

This feast day holds a special place in the history of the Visitation Community. In an article published by Vision Magazine,  Anne Williams, Director of Salesian Studies at The Convent of the Visitation, in Mendota Heights, MN, writes about the spread of this worldwide devotion to the Sacred Heart:

“Most Catholics are aware of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But not as many know that a Visitation Nun, born in France in 1647, was instrumental in promulgating the spread of this worldwide devotion.

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, entered the Visitation Community at the Monastery of Paray-le-Monial, France. It was there that she began to receive in her prayer, visions of Jesus, asking her to share the message of his heart burning with deep love for his people.

The vivid images she saw were challenging her to spread to others the message that the Heart of Jesus, was a treasure of love and mercy, which offered sanctification and salvation.”  (click to read more…)

As we prepare for this feast day on Friday, I invite you to consider taking a snapshot of your own heart.

  • What figurative images come into focus as you reflect on your spiritual core?
  • What blockages might exist? What pathways are open for love to pour forth?
  • How do you imagine Christ’s heart to appear?
  • Can you see the crucified and resurrected one alive in your being?
  • Can you see Love alive in your neighbor? In your partner? In your family members? In the stranger walking down the street?
  • Can you fathom Jesus’ love and mercy for the person who would be your enemy?
  • What does this feast day meditation stir up in your own being?

“Daughters of Prayer:” Sr. Mary Frances shares a bit of the Visitation History

How did the Visitation Sisters come to be in north Minneapolis? What prayer and discernment lead to the founding of this monastery 379 years after St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal first established the Visitation order in Annecy, France?

On Sunday, October 16, 2011, Sr. Mary Frances Reis answered a few of these questions as she spoke to a group of St. Mary’s students staying at the Visitation Sisters’ lay retreat space, St. Jane House, for an urban immersion experience. Sr. Katherine Mullin was on hand to record the question, answer, and story-telling period.

Excerpts from Sr. Mary Frances on the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis:

“Francis de Sales’ dream for the Visitation was that we would be ‘Daughters of prayer'” and also “those that reached out and took Jesus to the ‘other,’ and there’s where we have the mystery of the Visitation.”

“Sr. Mary Margaret, Sr. Mary Virginia, Sr. Karen are originally from St. Louis.  These three sisters in their prayer kept hearing:    ‘Take the Visitation to the poor.'”

“From 1979 to 1989 three sisters of Visitation St. Louis got together every Sunday morning from 9:30am – 10:30am and just said, ‘Lord, what would you have us do?'”

“What became very clear: we weren’t to establish a school, or a free clothing store, a soup kitchen, day care, shelter, no. …’Simply go and take your bodies to live your life of prayer and community, and when the door bell rings, you will get your agenda,’ says the Lord, ‘because I will be there.'”