In 1673, a Visitation nun at Paray le Monial in France, St. Margaret Mary (d. 1690) had a vision of Jesus showing her his heart and asking that devotion to it be increased. He said: “My divine heart is so inflamed with love for humanity, and for you in particular, that it can no longer contain within itself the flames of its ardent love, and must spread them through you, and manifest itself to people and enrich them with the precious treasures I will reveal.” The fact that the first vision of many happened on December 29 is significant because it is the feast of St. John the Beloved disciple who rested his head on Jesus’ heart at the last supper. Christ was later to say to St. Margaret: “You are the beloved disciple of my Sacred Heart.”
The Jesuits, especially Blessed Claude de la Colombiere and John Croiset, supported and followed St. Margaret Mary in spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart. The order is still committed to this apostolate. John Croiset, was closely connected to St. Margaret Mary in devising an integral devotion to the Sacred Heart. She wrote ten letters to him and in 1694, he published a book called The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, was referred to by Jesus to St. Margaret Mary as “my best friend.” These kindly and intimate appellations and revelations place the accent on an interactive relationship to Christ as a friend and lover. The purpose of the visions was not to increase the merit of the recipients but to send them as apostles for the spreading of love.
St. Madeleine Sophie Barat (d. 1865) was a strong advocate of the Sacred Heart devotion and founded a congregation of nuns called The Society of the Sacred Heart. For her, continually recalling the presence of God was the essence of the devotion. She realized that it would take her a whole lifetime to contemplate the Sacred Heart of Jesus and still not fully plumb its depths of meaning.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not limited to Catholicism. Protestant Gospor Drusbichi, in 1662, published a book on the Sacred Heart as did Mathias Hejnal in 1629. In 1642, the Puritan, Thomas Goodwin, published a book about the Sacred Heart which was later, in 1819, reprinted by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists.
Jacob Boehme (d.1624) a Lutheran mystic, wrote in his Confessions:: “The transformation is of this world. It is not an ascent to another world…. The true heaven is everywhere, even where you stand and where you go…. This world in its inner core unfolds its properties and powers in union with the heaven aloft and so there is one heart, one Being, one will, one God all in all.”
Anglican neo-Platonist mystic Thomas Traherne (d. 1674) describes this magnificent vision: “At his cross we enter the heart of the universe…. All the desire wherewith He longs after a returning sinner, makes Him esteem a broken heart…. His heart is always abroad in the midst of the earth; seeing and rejoicing in His wonders there…. In all thy keeping, keep thy heart, for out of it come the issues of life and death.”
Poets access and express mystical themes also. We have been noticing that so many of the mystical revelations resemble human physical love. There is indeed no distinction of loves in true spirituality. Notice the theme of the exchange of hearts in love poetry. For instance, Sir Philip Sidney in the sixteenth century wrote:
In our own modern times we read in e.e. cummings: