HANDBOOK FOR M. S. C. ASSOCIATES
THEME: The vision of Jules Chevalier and Pope Paul VI ("Evangelii Nuntiandi") "Lay Empowerment" for the needs of the Church of the Third Millenium is based on the Evangelical Formation of the Laity in the Church of Today.
F. J. Quirk, M.S.C. Nagoya, Japan. Easter. March 30.1997.
PART ONE : JULES CHEVALIER, HIS LIFE AND TIMES.
2 Jules Chevalier, first years as priest and pioneer.
3 Chevalier, the Founder.
4 Chevalier's "Dark Night of the Soul".
5 Chevalier's "Second Spring".
6 A decade of anxieties.
7 Chevalier's Passion, Death and Resurrection.
PART TWO : THE SPIRITUALITY OF CHEVALIER.
8 "The Child is Father to the Man".
9 A Man with a Mission.
10 What is Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
11 The WAY of the Beloved Disciple, Spirituality of the Heart.
12 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
13 The Mission of M.S.C. Associates: "le Mal Moderne".
PART THREE: APPENDICES.
14 MSC Constitutions regarding MSC Associates.
15 One form of establishing MSC Associates.
16 Two Daily Prayers for MSC Associates.
LIFE OF JULES CHEVALIER.
Jules Chevalier was a French priest of the Archdiocese of Bourges, in Central France. He was appointed Curate to the parish of Issoudun in 1854.
Issoudun was a town of about 12,000 people, in a farming district 250 Km. south of the capital city, Paris; 40 Km. south-east of the Diocesan city of Bourges.
Of the 56 years of his life as a priest, 53 years were spent in Issoudun.
In this town he founded the Religious Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in 1854. He died in Issoudun in 1907.
Father Jules Chevalier often used the phrase, "le mal moderne".
In this phrase he summed up the attitudes of people in contemporary society who simply ignored God and Christ's teachings on how human beings should live.
Jules Chevalier was particularly concerned with this apathy or indifference because it was so prevalent among the nominally Catholic people of his day.
His parishioners simply ignored the reality of God in their daily lives.
To him, this was the sickness (mal) of contemporary (moderne) society
From his Seminary days, Chevalier's chief aim in life was to found a group of priests convinced, like himself, to "go, tell the Good News" that each Christian person has been given a personal vocation from Jesus Christ, a share in Christ's own mission, expressed every time we repeat the prayer that Jesus taught us: "The kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven".
Thus, the main "mission" of Chevalier's group of "Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" would be the re-evangelization of the members of every Christian community among whom they lived and worked.
The special vocation of his "Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" would be to live and labour according to the "mind", the "heart" of Jesus, and thereby educate Christians to have the same "mind/heart" as Jesus. (Mt. 11:25-30; 22:37-40; I Cor 2:15-l6;. Phil. 2:5-11.)
Central to this "mission" of these Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus would be the task of forming and supporting groups of Christians who would respond to this call for Re-Evangelization. Such groups would eventually be called "Associates of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus".
These Associates were to be associated with Jesus in his mission through association with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
CHAPTER I: JULES CHEVALIER, THE PERSON.
The parents of Jules Chevalier were married on January 22, 1811, in the town of Richlieu, 150 Km. west of Issoudun. Jean-Charles Chevalier, aged 28, married Louise Oury, aged 18. Jean Charles was a lax Catholic; Louise was a fervent one. Two sons and one daughter were born to them. The youngest, Jules, was born on March 15, 1824.
At the age of 12, Jules requested his parents to enrol him at a special school which trained young students for entry into the Diocesan Seminary, where qualified men studied and prepared to' become priests. The family was too poor to afford such an education. Instead the young hopeful was apprenticed to a local shoe-maker to learn a trade and to earn his keep. He "stuck to his last" for 5 long years. He also learnt to hold his own among his peers, and won the warm approval of his employer. Whatever spare time he could find was spent mainly in helping the Parish Priest, who in return, gave him lessons in the Latin language in preparation for his hoped-for entry into the Minor Seminary.
In 1841 the financial tide changed for the Chevalier family. Jean-Charles, the father, was respected as an industrious and honest man. He was recommended for the job of caretaker of a large forestry estate, located 21 Km. north of Issoudun. This new job provided better wages and free housing on the estate. Jules renewed his request to enter the preparatory school to study for the priesthood. A benefactor, Mr. Juste, offered to pay the necessary fees for school and boarding expenses. His parents' consent showed their belief in their son's sincerity and in his will to persevere.
At the age of 17, Jules entered the Preparatory School for the Seminary. Most of his companions were aged 12 to 14. As a late student, he had to face up to and endure a tough, lonely 5 years. The fact that he endured the time and the company with good humour and hard work was confirmation both of his strength of character and the sincerity of his conviction in his vocation to the priesthood.
On completion of this second apprenticeship in the Minor Seminary, Jules was admitted to the Major Seminary of Bourges in 1846. He was 22 years of age.
At Bourges Jules found himself really "at home", the place where he wanted to be. He was among his peers. The teaching staff were professors of superior quality. His goal of ordination to the priesthood was only 6 years away.
Encouraged by his professors, Chevalier organized a Club among his fellow students. The members of the club were nick-named "Chevaliers of the Sacred Heart", both as a pun on his name as well as demonstrating the aims and spirit of its members.
To understand Chevalier's reasons for founding this club among his peers (and future priests) one must recall two facts. The first, Chevalier's growing realization of what he calls "le mal moderne"; the second, the social condition of the France of his day, which was a concrete example of this "evil".
Basically, "evil" is due to the fact that something "good" is missing. What was missing in his and our contemporary society was a recognition of, trust in and response to God's designs for each of us. Briefly, "evil" is the absence of God who is All Good.
As noted in the Introduction, Chevalier often used the phrase, "le mal moderne".
In these few words he summed up the attitudes of people in modern society who simply ignore God's laws and Christ's teachings on how human beings should live.
This attitude of ignorance or indifference influences our whole lives: personal and family life, our social life in the wider local and national community.
Chevalier was especially concerned with the apathy or indifference of many Christians regarding the absence - exclusion - of God from among his own people. Practically, to such Christian people, God has no part in their daily life.
For Chevalier, a convincing example of "le mal moderne" (the evils of our time) was to be seen in the social conditions of the France of his time.
The famous French Revolution had occurred only 35 years before his birth. The social, economic and religious upheavals that resulted are facts of history. Within 20 years of that Revolution, Napoleon had come to power, conquest, defeat and ruin. The people of France had inherited the results of his defeat and ruin.
This spelt devastation, greater poverty, heavier debts, a terrible hemorrhage of men, dead or wounded in his battles. The people of France had lost their 'esprit de corps', their pride, their hope, their self-confidence.
On top of all this, another revolution to restore the fallen monarchy failed.
Now, France was in a further mess, politically and religiously.
The France that had once proudly called herself "the eldest daughter of the Church" had now become a religious wasteland. The Government now boasted that France had become not only officially atheistic, but anti-christian as well.
Not to be discouraged, Chevalier's inspiration was that his "Missionaries of the Sacred Heart" and the "Associates of the Sacred Heart" would be among the agents for a new religious and social revolution.
Renewal of Faith, Hope and Love in the masses had to begin with the renewal of Faith, Hope and Love in individuals. Renewed individuals bonded together would have greater social impact than isolated, individual efforts.
To change the system one had to change the people within the system.
Jesus Christ had already showed not only what was to be done, but also how to do it. In his day he called it "Evangelization". Today, "RE-Evangelization".
Jesus established his Church, based on the Apostles, but also depending on the support of the Disciples, men and women.
Following Christ's example, Chevalier's core group would be the members of the Religious Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These members, in turn, would make it one of their chief aims to form supporting groups of co-workers, "Associates", to become missionaries in their own milieu.
Thus, Chevalier's "Knights of the Sacred Heart" formed among his companions in the Seminary was his first' attempt at putting his inspiration into practice.
All this reasoning and planning sounds familiar to Catholics of this day and age - the day and age of Post Vatican II and its multiple calls for the Re-Evangelization of the modern world by the members of the Church in this modern world. Jules Chevalier was, in a sense, almost 100 years ahead of his time. Like the Church, the "mal moderne" embraces every age and every nation.
In his Seminary days, Chevalier won three lifetime supporters of his vision:
- Fr. Gasnier, professor of Moral theology, and personal advisor of Chevalier. Fr. Gasnier later became Rector of the Major Seminary and Councillor to the Archbishop of Bourges. In this latter office, it will be seen how he was able to provide special support and guidance to Chevalier's growing projects.
- Emile Maugenest, Seminary class-mate, a brilliant student, and later an outstanding orator. He was Chevalier's closest companion and most loyal cooperator, especially in the first difficult years of founding the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
- Charles Piperon, a fellow seminarian; a follower rather than a leader; a gentle, loyal, humble man. He was Chevalier's trusted "alter ego". After Chevalier's death he wrote a moving description of the life of his hero.
A summary of the Seminary Reports on student, J. Chevalier, provides an objective report of the man at the age of 27:
- of medium height; well built; robust; pleasing appearance;
- affable; has a warm tone of voice; speaks with deliberation;
- his character commands respect;
- modest; affable(repeated); determined; persevering; self-less; a hard worker;
- zealous; careful in attention to duty; prudent in human relationships;
- excellent in piety, average in intelligence.
Jules Chevalier was ordained priest in the Cathedral of Bourges on June 14,1851.
CHAPTER 2: JULES CHEVALIER, FIRST YEARS AS PRIEST & PIONEER. (1851-1855).
For his first three years, Chevalier, the priest, served an apprenticeship in various parishes of the Archdiocese.
Meantime, his guide and supporter of Seminary days, Fr. Gasnier, had become Rector of the Major Seminary in Bourges, and an advisor to the Archbishop. Fr. Gasnier also kept his eye on two of his proteges, Chevalier and Maugenest.
In 1854, Chevalier was appointed as an assistant priest to the parish of Issoudun. He was delightedf just where he wanted to be. Issoudun was one of the most rundown, toughest parishes of the Archdiocese, and he would be together with his devoted companion of Seminary days, Fr. Maugenest. Little did he know that these appointments were at the suggestion of Fr. Gasnier.
Even Frenchmen would be excused if they asked "Where and what is Issoudun?" (cf. page 1). In Chevalier's day, it was an unattractive town. It's citizens were mainly of the farming class. Incomes were generally low. Newcomers were regarded with suspicion. Despite centuries of Catholic tradition, at this period most of the people were either contemptuous of, or openly hostile to the Catholic Church. There was one church, St. Cyr, dating from the Middle Ages, on a hill, in the centre of town. The town was a backwater; the parish was run-down.
The resident Parish Priest, Fr. Crozat, appointed in 1829, now aged 66, was in poor health.
Of the 12,000 townsfolk, about 300 were nominal Catholics. Of these, about 30 women and one man would attend Sunday Mass regularly. This solitary male was an "outsider", appointed by the Government, in charge of the military garrison.
Chevalier was delighted with this new appointment.
He was familiar with the district; his best friend was his fellow curate; the religious situation presented them with the challenge they had been looking for.
The parish priest was delighted to have such missionary-minded, zealous men as assistants. He, in turn, would give them all the support they needed.
We turn now to the "Founding Story" of the MSC. Because it is such a precious document to his spiritual descendants, the story is best told in Chevalier's own "Personal Notes".
‘I set out joyfully for the ancient town of Issoudun, arriving on Saturday, October U, 1854...I was given the warmest possible welcome...
After studying Fr. Maugenest well and having proof of his good dispositions, I thought it opportune to confide my plan to him. It was towards the end of November, 1854, and he welcomed it enthusiastically.
"I've been dreaming of something similar for a long time. I'm with you in this, so let's begin".
"Right, but first we must be sure that it is God's will. We should speak first to our good parish priest about it, as we would be starting the work in his parish; if he agrees, that will be one step forward and then he can help us when we approach the diocesan authorities. After that, as we have no resources to start any work, and are close to the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, we will make a Novena to the Immaculate Virgin, asking her as first fruit of the incomparable honour to be conferred on her, to obtain from the heart of her divine Son a clear sign of his approval, together with the means to set our project in motion".
The proposal was accepted and we went off to tell Fr. Crozat; while he thought about it, we turned to the statue of the Immaculate Conception which was on his desk, begging our good Mother to inspire him to consent.
"My sons", he said with conviction, "not only do I share your sentiments, but I will do all in my power to help establish a house of missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Issoudun; and if you succeed, there will be nothing left for me to do but to sing my 'Nunc Dimittis'".
We started our novena which was to finish on December 8, the great Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We promised the Blessed Virgin that, if our prayer was answered, we would call ourselves Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and honour her in a very special manner. The great day arrived and we were filled with hope. I was appointed to sing the High Mass and at the offertory two altar boys presented a small picture, lovingly and painstakingly executed by my confrere - one which we still treasure. After Mass we went in procession to the sacristy. I was hardly out of my vestments when a gentleman approached. "Father, I would like to speak to you; when could you see me?"
"In a quarter of an hour if that suits you".
After thanksgiving I went to the presbytery and the gentleman followed me. "Father, I have an offer to make on behalf of someone who wishes to remain anonymous. He is making available to you 20,000 francs for a good work in Issoudun".
"What kind of good work?"
"Preferably a house of missionaries".
"You have been sent from heaven; through you the Immaculate Virgin is giving her answer. May God shower his blessings on you and on the person who sent you here. Please express our deep gratitude and tell him that his wishes will be carried out; we will certainly pray for him and God will repay his generosity".
In January of the following year, 1855, I went to see the Archbishop with a letter of endorsement from our parish priest, to set before him our plan, tell him of the recent graces and ask his permission to initiate the work.
His reply was cautious.
"I an impressed by what you have said and am well disposed to allow your foundation, but what resources have you to live on? It is certainly good to have a house but you still need the wherewithal to keep you alive".
"Your Eminence, we will have the stipends from our Masses and our preaching, as well as the help of divine Providence".
"Providence is very good, but we must not tempt it. I can't authorize you to form any group until you have assured and adequate revenue. Then again, if God wants your work, he can provide for your needs. Pray to the Blessed Virgin to finish what she has so well begun".
These words were prompted by both prudence and faith.
Back in Issoudun, I gave an account of this meeting to our confrere and to our archpriest. He made a second Novena to Mary in honour of her holy and immaculate Heart, patronal feast of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Victories, established in Paris for the conversion of sinners. The novena was to end on this Feast, and on that very day our dear pastor assured us that the Viscountess du Quesne, a holy and charitable woman, promised us an annual donation of 1.000 Ff. for as long as we needed it. Our joy was complete". (Personal Notes of Jules Chevalier, pp.17-21).
In the above "Personal Notes" we must remember the two particular promises that Fr. Chevalier made to Our Lady: the name of the new Institute, and the promise to honour her in a very special manner.
Now that the inception of the "Missionaries of the Sacred Heart" had been confirmed as being according to the will of God, and further authorised by the highest local ecclesiastical authority, it is interesting to learn how, behind the scenes, unsolicited by and unknown to Chevalier and Maugenest, two of their "guardian angels" had been at work.
One, their former teacher, Fr. Gasnier; the other, their own Pastor, Fr.Crozat. Fr. Gasnier had a good friend, a fellow Seminary Professor, Fr. de Champgrand. Fr. de Champgrand came from a wealthy family of the same district as Issoudun.
He was respected for his generous support of various religious and charitable organizations in the area. Under Fr. Gasnier’s persuasion, he promised a donation of 20,000 Ff. for Chevalier's project, but on 2 conditions: - that the Archbishop would approve the project, and the donation be anonymous.
This is the explanation of the 'anonymous benefactor' mentioned by his intermediary to Fr. Chevalier after the Mass that concluded the first Novena.
Chevalier and Maugenest had estimated that such a grant would be enough to cover the expenses "to establish a house of the missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Issoudun”.
Meantime, aware of the Archbishop's condition of "the wherewithal to keep the project alive", Fr. Crozat, of his own initiative, unknown to his curates, had persuaded another anonymous benefactor (the Viscountess de Quesne) to guarantee an annual subsidy of 1,000 Ff., for as long as it was necessary. In this latter condition can be seen the persuasive and diplomatic power of their pastor. He demonstrated this ability once again with Fr. de Champgrand.
When Fr. de Champgrand learnt the details of Chevalier's ideas for recruiting personnel for this new missionary project, he baulked at fulfilling his intended bequest. Why?
Chevalier intended that the members of this new "missionary organization" would be priests, specially trained, distinct from the local diocesan clergy.
As such, they would not be under the immediate control of the local Bishop.
In this new Missionary Society the members would owe their first obedience to the Superiors of their Religious Congregation.
Fr. de Champgrand insisted that he proposed to fund the project because, in his mind, it was a project that would be carried out by diocesan priests for the benefit of the diocese.
Fr. Crozat came to the rescue of his curates and their project.
He proposed a practical compromise with a "money back guarantee" if the project failed. First, since it had been agreed by the Archbishop as well as by Fr. de Champgrand that Chevalier's project was not only good, but even a necessary one, then the project was worth a trial. However, the deeds of the property needed for the work of the missionary priests were to be in Fr. de Champgrand's name.
He would be the owner of the property. If the project failed, the property would revert to Fr. de Champgrand and he could recoup his money. If the project succeeded, Fr. de Champgrand could congratulate himself for his invaluable contribution to a worthy, permanent and international movement. ,
Despite his misgivings, de Champgrand acceded to Crozat’s persuasions.
On top of this, Crozat asked de Champgrand to increase his endowment to a total of 25,000 Ff. Granted!
The result of the novenas and negotiations is summed up in the decision of the Archbishop of the Diocese, Cardinal Dupont:
"I promised these two priests that, should they bring me a new sign of the will of God by finding resources, I would approve their project. They have done so, and so I am bound. I authorize the two curates of Issoudun to get together and begin their work. So let us name their replacements". (Chevalier, Personal Notes, p.40).
The Cardinal's decision was given despite the opposition of the members of his Diocesan Council and the misgivings of Fr. de Champgrand.
Chevalier had been granted a decisive charter of freedom.
He was now authorised to found a new, distinctive Religious Congregation of Missionary priests independent of diocesan conditions or diocesan boundaries.
All this happened in 1855.
A further promise of success was granted Chevalier. In June, 1856, another close friend and member of the "Knights of the Sacred Heart" of Seminary days, Fr. Charles Piperon, joined him and Maugenest in this new project.
* (Note: cfr. p.6: A NOVENA is a form of devotion, consisting of prayers or other good works performed over a period of nine consecutive days, in imitation of the nine days - between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday - Our Lady, the Apostles and Disciples spent in prayer while awaiting the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Cf. Acts, 1:12-14.)
CHAPTER 3: CHEVALIER THE FOUNDER.
Jules Chevalier was released from his duties as assistant priest of the parish of Issoudun on June 10, 1855. His Archbishop had authorised him to establish his projected Society of priests who would have the same "mission" as Jesus.
With the money conditionally granted him by Abbe de Champgrand he bought a neglected piece of property with some old buildings on it, on the opposite side of the town. Assisted by Fr. Maugenest and one sympathetic layman, he repaired the dilapidated buildings, to serve as temporary living quarters and Chapel.
This " Bethlehem stable" location was to become the centre of their future apostolate, the site of the" magnificent Basilica of the Sacred Heart and the beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the first Community Foundation of the MSC, and Chevalier's final resting place.
The two "Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" spent a year in these spartan quarters preparing themselves to become members of their own new form of a religious congregation: in prayer, unavoidable fasting, study and good works. They called this their "Novitiate Year". At its conclusion, Christmas Day,1856, they took the three vows of Religious Life, Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.
Because they were not yet recognised as an officially operating "Religious Order", their vows were made in private. .
The only witness of this very first MSC ceremony of Religious Profession was their old friend of Seminary days, a fellow member of the "Chevaliers of the Sacred Heart", Charles Piperon. He had arrived 6 months earlier, and was to be Chevalier's lifelong companion, confidant and first biographer.
Here these three "Founding Fathers" began to compose a Rule of Life for their new Religious Community-to-be, born from their own initial experiences.
One of the basics of their Rule was the promotion of joy and hospitality in "Community Life", a tradition still pervading the Society they founded.
In the New Year (1857) Chevalier and Maugenest began planning their "Mission Projects" for their new Missionary Order.
Always in the forefront of Chevalier's mind, was the re-education and formation of the laity: what we call today "the re-evangelization of the laity". Chevalier wanted each Christian person to realise and appreciate his and her own value and dignity in the sight of God; each individual person has a particular or personal "vocation", calling from God, which only that individual can fulfil.
If that "vocation" goes unanswered, God's plans are hindered and that person's destiny is frustrated. In God's plans, human happiness is found, both here and hereafter, by following the footsteps of Jesus, learning to have the same way of looking at God, people and events with the same kind of heart that Jesus had.
So much for Chevalier's ideals. Chevalier had to start with the human material immediately at hand, in that backwater, country town, in that irreligious era of that war-weary country. These people were "needy" people: hungry for a God who cared for them in their misery, a Saviour who would bring hope into their lives, a Mother that would compensate for the loss of the dream of "la belle France". Thus, Maugenest's and Chevalier's preaching, teaching, and group-work focused on the human compassion of Christ; on Mary as a mother who cared for our human needs. Chevalier made a special point of forming small groups of people into practicing Christians. For the men, going to Church meant going to hear a good practical talk, specially tailored to their needs, and in so doing, meet other men who shared the same views and hopes. For the women, they discovered another woman, Mary, compassionate, like unto themselves, "sin, alone excepted"
Gradually, Chevalier and Maugenest began to build up "Confraternities", or, "Associations" for men and women, young and not so young: the "Association of the Sacred Heart" for men; the "Association of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart" for women. The attraction was that Christ was presented as a Saviour who cared, who loved us all, warts and all, with a human heart. Mary was truly a motherly Mother, "hope of the hopeless". Chevalier insisted that no matter how "bad" you may be, or how difficult your personal situation may be, Mary, "hope of the hopeless" was your special intermediary or intercessor with Jesus, her Son and the Son of God made flesh, through her.
The devotions in honour of Our Lady, "hope of the hopeless" were particularly popular. To sum up the special attributes and attractiveness that Mary inspired, Jules Chevalier publicly proclaimed a new title that he had invented for her: OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART.
These Associations boomed. So much so, that Fr. Crozat, their former Parish Priest and supporter was worried: his flock were deserting the parish church of St. Cyr to go and hear the "good news" proclaimed by his former assistants at the new Sacred Heart Centre, housed temporarily in an old ramshackle building.
'Divine Providence', in the shape of the Archbishop, now took charge of affairs, but in a different way.
The story is best told by Chevalier himself: "A year had barely passed when we were subjected to a new and cruel test. During Advent of 1857, Fr. Maugenest preached in Bourges... During this time, the Archpriest of the cathedral died. Cardinal Dupont offered the pastorate to a young priest who publicly refused it. His Eminence then thought of the poor preacher, about whom he had heard many good things. Supplications, tears, begging, nothing could make the bishop change his mind. And so our dear and well loved confrere was obliged, at the age of 28, to submit and accept the most difficult post in the diocese. The Superior of the little Society (Chevalier), feeling the full weight of the sacrifice, went to Bourges and entreated his Eminence, in the name of the cherished interests of the new-born Congregation, to choose someone else. The Cardinal responded: "It is useless to insist any longer. Besides, if your work comes from God, it is not the taking of one of its members, not even the founder, that would prevent it from succeeding. But, if on the contrary, it comes from men, not even his presence would be able to preserve it from ruin".
This was the discernment of Gamaliel. God alone was witness to the rending of our hearts and to the tears which this separation brought upon us all". (Annals of the Society, p.7s.)
It was about this time that the Cardinal ordered the closure of Chevalier's and Maugenest's temporary Church-Shrine of the Sacred Heart. The main reason, apart from its lack of safety features, was that it was too small to house the crowds that attended. Chevalier, Maugenest and Piperon had already planned the new Church-Shrine. But now, besides the lack of funds for such a building, Chevalier had also lost his right-hand man. Only he and Piperon were left.
Chevalier seemed to be worse off now than before they had begun two years ago. Chevalier, as Founder, Superior and originator of the whole enterprise was free to decide, as the Cardinal had instructed: now, choose to sink or to swim.
“If your work comes from God, it is not the taking of one of its members, not even the founder, that would prevent it from succeeding. If on the contrary, it comes from men, not even his presence would be able to preserve it from ruin. .
Chevalier knew that he had to practice what he preached: an unassailable faith in the human heart of Jesus Christ; an unsinkable confidence in the Lady he loved and to whom he had given a new title: "Our Lady of the Sacred Heart". WHY was he slaving to build up a new Society of mission-minded priests? WHY was he wearing himself out to build a central shrine of devotion? In hindsight, all this may seem routine experience for "a man with a mission". "My God, my God, why have YOU forsaken me"? As taught and experienced by Jesus, the answer is "Into your hands I commend my spirit". Chevalier now, at the age of 33, had to endure his own "dark night of the soul".
CHAPTER 4: CHEVALIER'S DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL.
Fr. Maugenest was transferred to Bourges Cathedral on January 11, 1857-Froa that time until his personal, private audience with Pope Pius IX on September 9, 1860, for about two years, Chevalier went through a personal crisis that almost brought about his physical and pyschological breakdown.
He was weighed down with the worries of becoming too involved in the local parish affairs of Issoudun; his old friend and former Parish Priest, Fr. Crozat, was fretting that Chevalier’s new Church would take the congregation away from the Parish Church; the problem of having to wreck his temporary Sacred Heart Centre and find the finances to build a new permanent Church-Shrine; but, especially, the nagging disappointment that no further members applied to join his main enterprise, the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
Add to all this the fact that he was physically worn out and undernourished.
All these problems were enough to cause a breakdown even of the bravest!
His only human companion, confidant and assistant was Father Charles Piperon.
In this lonely "dark night of the soul" he kept two lights burning. First, as the Cardinal had said: "If your work comes from God, it is not the taking of one of its members, not even the founder, that would prevent it from succeeding".
The second, was the memory of Mary's "miraculous" intervention on December 8, 1854: she was still his mother and his patroness, and it was himself that broadcast, far and wide, St. Ephraim's famous title: "Hope of the hopeless". So, quoting the Cardinal: "even the loss of the founder" would not deter God from bringing God's plans - if such were Chevalier's - to fruition.
This man of superb, courageous faith, aided by the Cardinal's blessing, set to on March 25, 1857 - the feast of Mary's Annunciation - without funds, without needed helpers, without physical health and energy - to build an imposing Church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, including a special Chapel-annex to enshrine Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, "Hope of the hopeless". Alas! His mentor and supporter, Cardinal Dupont, died on March 27. Cardinal Dupont was succeeded by Archbishop Menjaud, a new mentor and ally.
Fortunately, Chevalier also had good friends among the laity. Some of them persuaded him to take time off, and recuperate rather than invite a premature breakdown. From July 1859 until September 9, 1860, he took a "holiday" visiting health spa centres and making pilgrimages of prayer, to regain physical and spiritual health and vigour.
He himself records three pilgrimages that, together, became the sources of his "Second Spring".
The following excerpts describing these three "landmark" pilgrimages are taken verbatim from the book, "FR. JULES CHEVALIER, Founder of the MSC", written by Fr. Henri Vermin, MSC, in 1957, on the occasion of the 50th. anniversary of the death of Jules Chevalier. These three descriptions are in Chevalier's own words.
1; The meeting with the Cure d'Ars, July 14, 1859: (Vermin, pp.148-149):
"I arrived at Ars on the morning of July 14. My main concern was to know if it would be possible to obtain "an interview with the Cure”. The first news that I received was not encouraging as some of the townspeople told me he was ill, and had not even been visiting the church for some days past. I decided to call at the mission-house where he lived and make further enquiries. I chose the wrong hour to call, as it was half-past twelve and the Fathers were still at lunch.
I rang the door bell and waited. There was no response. I had the temerity to ring it a second time and that more loudly. I could hear footsteps coming quickly down the passageway, and the door was flung open abruptly.
A priest asked me what I wanted in a rather angry tone of voice.
I enquired if it would be possible to see the Cure.
"No", he replied irritably, "All we get here are importunate priests asking the same thing. The Cure' is not receiving visitors". He then closed the door.
I was bitterly disappointed and began to make my way to the church with my head bowed and tears coming to my eyes. Hardly had I gone a few yards when I heard a voice calling after me: "Father, Father - just a minute!"
I turned to see the same priest who had just closed the door on me. "Father", he said, "I must apologise for my bad manners; we are so much disturbed every minute of the day, that I could not control my annoyance. Come in, and I will try to get the Cure1 for you within the next quarter of an hour.
He is slightly improved this morning".
I had waited a short time when the door opened and the holy Cure' came in, a surplice across his arm. His face was pale, his figure gaunt; his eyes were sunken in their sockets, yet keen and full of life; his head was bowed and his body stooped from his many penances and macerations. I thought I was seeing a vision from another world.
He bade me sit down, and asked me where I was from and what I had come to ask him. After introducing myself I told him all about our small Congregation and my hopes for it. He listened intently as I told him it was completely dedicated to the Sacred Heart and to Our Blessed Lady. He gave me great encouragement telling me to have confidence. He told me my trials, which I would feel keenly, had only just begun. The powers of Hell, he said, would do everything to try and destroy the work, as its object was the salvation of souls and the Glory of God. He warned me that the agents of Hell would raise such fury against the work that at times I would think that it must fail. However, the Heart of Jesus and the Mother of God would intervene to the confusion of its enemies.
Strengthend by his words I asked him if he would make a Novena for the Congregation. He willingly agreed, and told me he would commence it on July 16.
Commending myself to his prayers I took my leave, and immediately returned to Issoudun. A short time after my return, we learnt of the death of the saintly Cure'. He is surely our protector in Heaven".
Saint John Vianney had time to keep his promise about the Novena before he died on August 4.
2: The Pilgrimage to Paray le Monial, Convent of the Apparition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary, end of 1859 (Winter): (ibid., pp.149-150):
"During the winter of the same year, I felt the need of praying at the tomb of Blessed Margaret Mary, asking her for the success of our little Congregation whose object was the spreading of Devotion to the Sacred Heart, and so must be dear to her heart. The good Sisters of the Visitation received me with great kindness, and showed me over the places hallowed by the Saint. The sight of these holy places, so intimately associated with the appearance of Our Lord, so redolent of the devotion to His Divine Heart and His marvellous revelations, made an impression on me which is difficult to describe. My first Mass was said at the altar where Jesus had appeared to the Saint, showing her His Sacred Heart and saying, "Behold this Heart which has loved men so much".
My second Mass was celebrated in the chapel of the garden where the Adorable Heart of Jesus had revealed many of the secrets of His love. As I knelt at the tomb of the saint, I made her the confidante of our sorrows, our trials and our hopes. I begged her, since Our Lord had constituted her the heiress of the treasures of His Heart for time and eternity, to obtain from Him all the graces we needed. I stayed there a long time conversing with her".
Father Piperon reported on the recovery to health and the beneficial result of his visit to St. Margaret Mary's shrine. "Whatever it was that happened to him, Father Chevalier came back a new man. Instead of his former anxiety and worry, he showed a completely calm submission to the Will of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and he seemed confident of the success of his future work. His conversation and his conferences on the Sacred Heart clearly showed that at Paray he had imbibed the true spirit of the Sacred Heart, which he endeavoured to infuse into us. For this reason we must look upon his pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Blessed Margaret Mary as a remarkable epoch, an important phase in the life of our venerated father".
3: The personal, private audience with Pope Pius IX, Rome, Sept. 9, 1860: (ibid.,pp.152-153).
"Admitted into the presence of the Holy Father, Pius IX, we prostrated ourselves, full of joy and admiration. I presented a letter to His Holiness which Archbishop Menjaud had given me. The Holy Father read it, then said to me: "This is very good, my child. I see who you are. So you are striving to establish a Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. What a beautiful work! The only hope for the world and the church is in the Heart of Jesus. Only he can cure all our ills. Increase and multiply. Preach everywhere the salutary devotion to the Heart of the Divine Master. Before I die I hope to give canonical approbation to your Congregation".
The Holy Father let him speak at length on the work of the Sacred Heart, its special end, and the ways and means he had in mind for achieving its success.... It would present a means of perfection for his missionaries by the living of a truly religious life. The means of obtaining this end would be by preaching, education of youth, the spiritual direction of souls, the exercise of the sacred ministry, priestly and lay Associations and the spreading of devotion to Our Blessed Lady.
Pius IX replied: "This work seems to me to provide the answer to our present day needs and I sincerely hope it succeeds. I give it my blessing with all my heart, and I would like all priests to share in it. Increase and multiply.
Develop it as quickly as you can, and I will be happy to give you the canonical approbation that you need".
The above accounts given by Fr. Vermin are extracts taken from Chevalier's own Manuscript, "Personal Notes". This document is a record of the hopes and trials of his vocation as a Founder. He also wrote in another document in 1859: "Our small Society is not the work of man, but of God".
Thanks to the Grace of God, the support of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart ("hope of the hopeless"), St. John Vianney of Ars, St. Margaret Mary of Paray, Pope Pius IX in Rome, and some of his Issoudun supporters and Associates (who accompanied him and defrayed part of the expenses of his three pilgrimages), Chevalier not only survived "the dark night of the soul", but emerged enriched as a person, confirmed in his vocation as a Founder, and given a special gift of hope and fortitude that would endure all the days of his life. His ensuing history will show the lifelong benefits of his brief "purgatory".
CHAPTER 5: CHEVALIER'S SECOND SPRING. 1861
It was like a "Second Springtime" for Jules Chevalier.
First. Fr. Maugenest. MSC, his companion and co-founder was appointed back to Issoudun, this ti«e as Parish Priest of the parish church of St. Cyr.
He remained as Parish Priest until 1871, a trusted companion. On Dec.10. His Grace, Archbishop de la Tour D'Auvergne was appointed Archbishop of the Diocese of Bourges. This prelate, even more so than Cardinal Dupont, because Chevalier's lifetime supporter.
The construction of Chevalier's' "dream Church" of the Sacred Heart, with its special Chapel-Shrine in honour of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was under way, and thanks to his growing numbers of supporters, his financial troubles were less burdensome.
Chevalier could now take time to concentrate on his basic objective, the founding of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. To Chevalier, perhaps the most suitable guides and consultants for founding a Society of active, apostolic priests were the Jesuits.
The Society of Jesus itself had been through very troubled times.
The Society of Jesus had been abolished by Decree of the Pope, in the name of the Catholic Church in 1773. This was done to forestall the threat of schism on the part of anti-Catholic Governments, particularly those of France and Spain.
Providentially, Russia, governed by Catherine II, came to the rescue of the Jesuits by ignoring the Papal Decree, and granting the remnants of the Society refuge in her country. The Society of Jesus was re-established in the Universal Church by another Papal decree of Pius VII, in 1801.
This Society made a spectacular recovery, particularly under their second General (after the Restoration), Fr. J. Roothaan, who had also been a refugee in Russia. He guided the Society of Jesus from 1829 until 1853.
Before long, the Jesuits had regained their numbers and vigour in France, particularly through their work in education, retreat work, "home missions" and the appeal of "foreign missions". Accordingly, in the mind of Chevalier, the Society of Jesus was a proven model of a society of priests engaged in the active apostolate.
The Society of Jesus was also foremost in promoting Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Church, following Blessed Claude La Colombiere, SJ, the spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
Among the French Jesuits, Chevalier found two good friends, Fr. Ramiere and Fr. Leblanc. Fr. Ramiere was famous as the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer, and editor of its supporting monthly magazine, "The Messenger of the Sacred Heart" (called at that time "The Messenger of the Heart of Jesus").
Fr. Leblanc was well known as a Spiritual Director and Retreat Master. As a Religious himself, and well acquainted with other Religious Orders in France, Fr. Leblanc was well fitted to guide Jules Chevalier's efforts to formulate the Rule of Life, called "Religious Constitutions" for the Institute that he had founded.
It is worth recalling that Chevalier had no formal training as a Religious, and consequently no personal experience of the detailed requirements for a book of Religious Constitutions for a Society of missionary priests, of whom, to date, there were only three members: himself, Maugenest and Piperon.
Discussions with Fr. Leblanc concerning the nature and purpose of the Society of the MSC began on Dec. 1, 1862
On May 1, 1863, the first presentation of the title of, and an article on the devotion to "Our Lady of the Sacred Heart" were printed in Fr. Ramiere1s "Messenger of the Heart of Jesus". This article, written by Fr. Piperon, marked the beginning of the spread of the devotion to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart outside the boundaries of the Archdiocese. As a result, visitors (pilgrims) to Issoudun as well as enquiries about this "new devotion" increased noticeably.
The year 1864 was memorable, not only because of the death of his old Parish Priest and supporter, Fr. Crozat, (Jan 9).
The new Archbishop of Bourges promulgated the first official statutes of the Confraternity of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and signed himself in as the first member of that Confraternity. Later, on July 2, the Archbishop of Tours, Mgr. Guibert, consecrated the new Church in honour of the Sacred Heart in Issoudun.
As a special Christmas Gift from Our Lady, on December 28, Fr. Jouet, a priest of a neighbouring diocese, made his first visit to the now-popular Sacred Heart Church-Shrine at Issoudun, and (in his own words) "fell in love at first sight" with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
This well-known priest was warmed by the welcome, the hospitality and the joyful zeal of the three "MSC" priests. There and then he decided to join their group. Fr. Jouet's decision to become an MSC marked the first break-through in the long drought of candidates seriously willing to become members of this new Religious Society.
Fr. Jouet proved to be Chevalier's great "propagandist": spreading the name and fame of this new pilgrimage centre; in the dissemination of literature and representations of both the Sacred Heart and of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart; and as a promoter of the Society. He was also the founder of the now world-wide monthly magazine, The Annals of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. To anticipate a little, Fr. Jouet's "Annals" also became one of the main supports of the new MSC Vocations Formation School, both in recruiting aspirants and finances for this project.
The year 1865 ushered in more blessings: Chevalier was able to secure more land adjoining his new Church of the Sacred Heart. This acquisition enabled him to keep his promise of 1854 to “Our" Lady, to honour her in a special way.
Now he began to plan and build the splendid annex with its surprisingly moving, surprisingly beautiful marble statue of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
1866 was a year that brought about the solution of a major problem that had been of growing concern to Chevalier.
On February 2, a Father Jean-Marie Vandel visited Fr. Chevalier and talked with him about a project that he wanted to promote. Vandel was a Pastor in a remote country district where the majority of the people were so poor that they were unable to afford the expenses needed to educate their children. He had set up a small-scale system of education for the children of the area. He was now concerned as to how to expand his plan and, hopefully, promote vocations to the priesthood as well.
Chevalier, himself, had been debarred from entering the Minor Seminary in his school-boy years simply because his parents could not afford the Seminary school fees. Vandel1s problem now inspired an answer to Chevalier's gnawing problem regarding the recruitment of members for his new Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
There and then the two of them invented the "Little League of the Sacred Heart". By using Fr. Jouet's project of the Annals of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Chevalier could promote Vandel's innovative ideas to foster vocations to the priesthood and to the Society of the MSC; furthermore, by asking not only for prayerful help, but also for modest regular financial donations to support the project, both Chevalier's and Vandel's hopes could be realized.
From that day, J-M Vandel joined the MSC Community. He became the "Founder" and overseer of a successful system to finance vocations recruitment and the expenses of students' seminary formation. This system endured among the MSC for at least 80 years.
This period of "Chevalier's Second Spring" closed with two supremely important events in the existence of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and thereby, in the life of their Founder, Jules Chevalier.
First, the Church's official approval of the Congregation (Society) of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. On March 5, 1869, Pope Pius IX granted the Decree of Approval for the MSC Constitutions. Pope Pius had kept his promise! This Decree was ratified in Church Law on March 8 by the Congregation for Bishops and Regulars (members of Religious Orders who lived by a set of rules - "regulae").
Now, Chevalier's motto for his Society could be realized -MAY THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS BE EVERYWHERE LOVED ! FOREVER !
The second important event took place at Issoudun on September 8, 1869.
In the morning of that day, Mgr. de La Tour d'Auvergne blessed the new chapel of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and consecrated the altar.
In the afternoon, he solemnly crowned the new marble statue of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, "Hope of the hopeless", in the name of Pope Pius IX.
This surprisingly beautiful and popular statue does not have the infant Jesus in Mary's arms, but Jesus, aged 12, (the coming of age to Jewish adulthood) standing in front of her, pointing from His heart to her heart, as if saying: "If you want anything from me, first, ask her to speak to me about it".
Mary had kept her promises to Chevalier. Chevalier was keeping his promise to honour her, and have her honoured, in a new and special way.
The "splendid Sixties" - the "Second Spring" was drawing to a close. What a crowded 20 years of life for the Father Founder of the MSC ! The signs of the times were changing: the "Seventies" were to be ushered in by the Franco-Prussian war, France's ignominious defeat, the end of the monarchy, and the eventual installation of a "humanity without God" Republican Government in 1879. The forecast was for stormy weather.
CHAPTER 6: A DECADE OF ANXIETY, SORROWS AND SOME JOYS.
On the last day of 1871, Chevalier had to bid a sad farewell to his co-founder and intimate friend of 25 years, Father Maugenest. Fr. Maugenest resigned his position as Parish Priest of the Church of St. Cyr of Issoudun and entered the Novitiate of the Dominican Order. Fr. Maugenest was a scholar and an outstanding preacher. He spent the rest of his life as a Dominican, until he died on October 23, 1918.
Chevalier's supporter, the 'Archbishop of Bourges made an inspired .decision. The decision was inspired for the sake of the fledgling Society of the MSC, even though the appointment seemed to be an added burden for the founder of the MSC.
The far-seeing Archbishop, with his astute knowledge of French politics, knew that the Church was running into a stormy period, and Religious Orders, particularly, would suffer under the growing power of the atheistic Republican Government. The Government would attack the Church, but the Church in France, rooted in France, governed by French Bishops, was strong enough to weather the storm of persecution.
However, Religious Orders are INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS. Even though their members work in local Dioceses of Church, their organization is directly responsible to the "Roman" Pope, that is, to a FOREIGN POWER. Under this new French Republican Government, any organization "under foreign control" would be banned, its operations prohibited, its properties and assets confiscated.
The resignation of Father Maugenest gave the Archbishop an opportunity to save the still undeveloped organization of the MSC from the danger of total collapse. Because all the present MSC members were Frenchmen, the Archbishop would install Fr. Chevalier as Irremovable Rector and Parish Priest of Issoudun, and incorporate the members of Chevalier's organization into his Archdiocese.
By this strategy (legal fiction) of incorporation, all MSC in the Archdiocese of Bourges lived and worked under the immediate jurisdiction of the Archbishop.
This strategy continued, with the permission of the Holy See, until 1896.
Hence, (1) the religious buildings and the land the MSC occupied were "legally" the property of the French Church, and (2) its ministers (MSC members), came under the jurisdiction of the French Archbishop.
This astute decision saved the MSC from the danger of dissolution and collapse.
Even after 1896, Fr. Chevalier remained Parish Priest of Issoudun, until his death in 1907-
Continuing the bad news of this decade: 1877: The inspiring cooperator and innovator of the MSC Minor Seminary System, Fr. Jean-Marie Vandel died, April 26. 1878: Two more of Chevalier's guiding protectors went to their eternal reward: Pope Pius IX, February 2; Archbishop de la Tour d'Auvergne, October 17-1881: Abbe de Chanpgrand, first a grudging benefactor, later, a firm friend and continuing benefactor, was called to Heaven on January 20.
Chevalier assisted at his requiem.
Before the really bad news, let us see a few rays of sunlight that shone in this gloomy decade.
On June 20, 1874. Rome gave its first definitive approval of the MSC Constitutions. The MSC had "come of age" as a Religious Congregation in the Universal Church.
• In this same year, the irrepressible Chevalier, founded a Sister-Congregation of the MSC, in honour of his mother, Mary, and named the Congregation according to-the special title he had "invented" to honour her, the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God: namely, the "Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart". (It would take eight long years before these Daughters began to grow!)
•The first MSC foundation outside France was made in Rome, December 16, 1875. This foundation was both a study house for MSC students for the priesthood, and the residence of the MSC Representative for its increasing relations with the Holy See.
• Amazingly, this small Institute made its first overseas foundation, in Watertown, New York State, USA, on April 20, 1877. This project was to assist French speaking Catholic immigrants.
• 1879 marked the SILVER JUBILEE of the founding of the MSC. How much had the Society grown from the days of Chevalier and Maugenest in 1854! ,
In 1879, the whole Congregation numbered 63 professed members:
Priests, 29; Students for the Priesthood, 29; Brothers, 5.
(Novices and students in the Minor Seminary are not "professed" members).
Remember, it was 2 years before Piperon joined Chevalier & Maugenest; it was 9 years before the fourth member, Vandel, threw in his lot with them.
However, the celebrations and recollections of this Silver Jubilee were obliterated by the Republican Government bombshell of November 5, 1880: On that day all 63 MSC, except the "Irremovable Pastor", Jules Chevalier, were abruptly expelled, not just from the town of Issoudun, but from the country of France. All Church and MSC property in Issoudun, except the Parish Church of St. Cyr, was sealed off. A total shutdown of the MSC.
Like the persecutions in the early days of the Church, this Government persecution served to spread the MSC in an accelerated fashion.
They fled to neighbouring Belgium, Holland and across the Rhine into Germany; across the Pyrenees into Spain, across the Alps into Italy; across the Channel into England. Surprisingly, the refugees found that in many of the places that welcomed them, local devotion to OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART had preceded them.
Mary had, as it were, gone ahead and prepared a place for them. The people, already devotees of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, welcomed her "Missionaries".
Just a few months after His subjects had fled France, on March 25, 1881, Chevalier received another shock. Pope, Leo XIII, had a letter sent, which acknowledged the fact that the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart were a fully recognized Religious Missionary Society of the universal Church, and offered his Society a "mission extraordinary".
This was a mission no other Missionary Order wanted, in a part of the world Chevalier had probably never thought of: a remote, unknown area of the Pacific Ocean, labelled in the ecclesiastical documents as THE VICARIATES OF MELANESIA and MICRONESIA. (Roughly, from New Guinea to the mid-Pacific Ocean.)
This remote area never meant much to colonizers from Europe. It possessed neither hopes of riches nor peoples of sufficient number to be worth colonizing.
In those days, it was of no strategic importance, a completely out-of-the-way area in the faraway Pacific Ocean - as the first MSC would ruefully find out.
Despite the fact that he was down to his last resources of men and any sort of finance, Chevalier didn't hesitate. Despite the fears of his Councillors, he wrote to Pope Leo XIII: "At your word I will let down our net". (Luke 5:5-6) It was a costly venture, in men particularly, as the headstones in the graveyards of those Mission Areas prove. Malaria was the main enemy; lack of suitable food, tools and building materials was a perpetual problem; communications with the outside world, practically non-existent; communications by visiting one another, downright difficult; the many diverse, unrelated languages of the small scattered groups made the Tower of Babel seem like a well-run language Academy.
However, it became a profitable venture, in that it gave the MSC a particular "esprit de coeur", and the hardy pioneers of those first Foreign Mission Areas became heroes to all MSC afterwards. Such men became inspirational MSC models: Henri Verjus, Bishop at 29 years of age; Archbishop Alain de Boismenu, "a man with a heart", courteous, smiling, heroic, revered as a saint by those who knew him (the process of "Canonization as Saints" for both has been introduced); and Leon Bourjade, famed WW.I. Air Ace.
This burst of "FOREIGN MISSION activity" became the dominant "mission" of the MSC from that date until the Universal Council of VATICAN II. It is only since the 1950's that the full meaning of "mission" has been made clear, and that Chevalier's original vision of "MISSION" (the re-evangelization of people already Christian by tradition) has been reaffirmed by the Church and by the members of his MSC Society, (cf. Part II, Ch.6).
POSTSCRIPT: to bring Chevalier's original vision of "Mission" into perspective:
The Ecumenical Council, Vatican II, closed on December 8, 1965. That date, Dec. 8, was precisely the foundation day of the MSC 111 years before.
Among the directives issuing from the Second Vatican Council, there were three that were especially important to the MSC.
The first directive concerns all members of the Church, particularly bishops and priests, "to heed the signs of the times". One of these signs is the demise of Western Colonialism and the unwillingness of "Third World" countries to be regarded as "foreign-mission areas".
The second directive concerned members of Religious Orders: Religious must return to their respective "founder's original inspiration and charism" in founding his or her Institution. This important directive requires the MSC to be true to their original, identifying "mission" in the Church in the world of today, as defined by Jules Chevalier.
The third directive, emphasised in several important Documents of Vatican II, is the importance of the role, the "mission" of the Laity in the Church and in the "world" in every age of history.
The apostolate of "Mission to the unbaptised" ("Foreign Missions") does not negate the apostolate of "Mission to the baptized"; both apostolates are compatible, both are necessary. The MSC would not be true to their name to over-emphasise one at the expense of the other. In other words, for something like 90 years, until the MSC General Chapter of 1992, the MSC had minimized one aspect of Chevalier's original vision of "mission", his special charism in the Church of the modern world. In our zeal for evangelization of "pagans" in foreign lands, we were in danger of minimizing, even losing the original vision of our Founder, namely the RE-EVANGELIZATION of Christians in our own country. By his historic Apostolic Exhortation, ON EVANGELIZATION IN THE MODERN WORLD, (Dec. 8, 1975 - the 121st. anniversary of the MSC foundation) Pope Paul VI reaffirmed for us Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the unique vision and charism of our Father Founder.
The historic INTERNATIONAL MEETING OF MSC ASSOCIATES in Issoudun, July 3-9,1995. For the first time in the almost 150 years of MSC history, 160 Lay Associates of the Sacred Heart, under the presidency of the Superior General of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, were present.
At this Meeting, three specific resolutions were accepted for consideration and decision by the General Administration of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart:
- An MSC Director to be appointed for coordinating the activities of this international body, the Associates of the Sacred Heart;
- That this Director would edit a regular Newsletter for MSC Associates; Such a Newsletter would be one means of bonding the world-wide family of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Associates of the Sacred Heart.
- That the MSC General Administration would convene regular meetings of the international body of the Associates of the Sacred Heart.
The full meaning of "Evangelization in the modern world" has been achieved. The Revised Constitutions of the Religious Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC General Chapter,1992) have "canonized" this achievement. (cf. PART III: Appendix 1).
With such a crowd of witnesses, of past and present members, the total Society of the MSC, both Professed members and Lay Associate members can look forward, in hope, to a fruitful future in the Church and in the world.
Chapter 7. CHEVALIER'S PASSION, DEATH AND RESURRECTION.
The political situation in France had been growing steadily worse since the disaster of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
Anticipating some of the dangers that lay ahead, the incumbent Archbishop of Bourges persuaded Jules Chevalier to accept (1) his appointment as Irremovable Rector of the Parish of Issoudun and official diocesan Rector of all ecclesiastical properties (including those of the MSC) in the parish of Issoudun.
Also, (2) that all MSC personnel in the Diocese become TEMPORARILY incorporated by the same legal fiction "into the Archdiocese of Bourges, as diocesan priests, directly under the supervision and authority of the Archbishop of Bourges.
Succeeding Archbishops maintained this policy.
This legal fiction was officially approved by the Holy See.
The purpose of such a strategy was to prevent the threatened expulsion of MSC members from the country, and also, to provide legal protection of their properties from expropriation by the anti-catholic Government.
In 1896 Father Chevalier petitioned the Holy See to convoke a General Chapter.
Rome granted Chevalier's request.
Accordingly, a General Chapter was held in 1897.
This Chapter was an affirmation of the unity and the spirit of the members of the Society, despite all the difficulties that they were facing in these unsettled times.
At the next General Chapter in 1900, Chevalier requested the members of the Chapter to allow him to resign from the position of being their Father General.
He felt that at the age of 75, he was getting too old for the job and its burdens.
The decision of the Chapter members was to reconfirm their Founder in office, but with a compromise that would respond to his repeated requests.
Fr. Chevalier was to remain as General of the MSC; his former altar-boy in Issoudun, Fr. Lanctin, was appointed as his Assistant General.
The Holy See confirmed the decision of the Chapter members by authorizing Chevalier as General Superior of the MSC for a further twelve years!
This decision of the Chapter members and subsequent confirmation by the Holy See was a tremendous vote of confidence in Chevalier's leadership.
The threatening storms of persecution broke out in all their fury in 1901. In that year the French Government passed THE LAW OF ASSOCIATIONS. The Meaning of the law:
- No Religious Congregation in France would be recognized by the Government of France unless such Congregations were formally authorized by that Government.
- Any Religious Congregation not authorized by the French Government must be dissolved.
- No foreign (Holy See) influence would be tolerated in French affairs.
The immediate results of this dictatorial law were two:
First, a total ban of all MSC personnel from France.
Chevalier was exempt because he was the official representative of the Archbishop of Bourges, directly under the Archbishop's authority, and Irremovable Pastor of the parish of Issoudun.
Second, all MSC properties in the Diocese, including the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (which enclosed the Shrine of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) were closed down under Government orders.
Chevalier's Deputy, Fr. Lanctin and his governing Council members had already transferred to the neighbouring country of Belgium.
Other MSC dispersed to Spain, Holland and Germany.
Chevalier, acting as a Diocesan Parish Priest, and two curates, remained in Issoudun at the parish church of St. Cyr.
A second Government Law against Religious Congregations was forthcoming.
To meet the threat of this second attack, Fr. Lanctin convoked another General Chapter in Belgium, in 1904.
Two of the decisions of this Chapter were that a new Father General would be elected according to the repeated insistence of the Founder; and, henceforth, the General Administration of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart would be based in Rome. Fr. Eugene Meyer was elected General of the MSC.
This second law was promulgated by the French Government in 1905.
It was called THE LAW OF SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE.
The country of France had been Catholic since the end of the first century, a total of 1,800 years of catholic history. Because of this proud past, the French people had always proudly proclaimed their nation as "the eldest daughter of the Church". No longer!
Henceforth, in France, like all French citizens, all religions were equal before the law. There would be no official recognition, no government support for any religion. The same held for any religious organizations which had built or maintained hospitals, schools, and any other form of religious and charitable activities. By a unilateral decision of the new French Government, all Church properties, endowments and revenues became the property of the "French People", i.e. were confiscated by the French Government.
Pope Pius X, in Rome, protested against such savagery and injustice. The French Government responded immediately. It sequestered all Church property, endowments and revenues. Such assets would either be handed over to charitable organizations recognized by the French Government, or auctioned off to private concerns, the proceeds accruing to the French government. "This Decree was carried out with unnecessary severity". (Encyclopedia Brittanica. "France", p.746. 1985 Ed.)
Down in the country town of Issoudun, the already sequestered Sacred Heart Basilica and other MSC properties were put up for auction. On January 21, 1907, Chevalier, sick and ailing, was tossed out on to the street behind the church of St. Cyr, bed and all. The Government agents didn't care if he died on the street. An Associate of Chevalier, Vicomte Bernard de Bonneval, put a house at his disposal. Father Meyer, bearing the prayers and condolences of Pope Pius X, hurried from Rome to console his Founder in his last hours.
Auction Day at the Basilica was April 30. Bernard de Bonneval attended the public auction and himself bought the Basilica (for Chevalier and the MSC) for the sum of 100,000 Ff. Later, the MSC gratefully repaid his generosity from an account that Chevalier had prudently set up in Belgium for such an emergency.
This honourable Associate, de Bonneval, immediately went about, at his own expense, to prepare a tomb in which to rest Chevalier's mortal remains, in the crypt of his beloved church, de Bonneval ensured that the Sacred Heart Basilica and the Shrine of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, would also be Chevalier's final resting place. Thanks to de Bonneval, even to this day, pilgrims to this shrine can venerate the mortal remains of his and our hero.
Jules Chevalier arrived in Issoudun, a fresh-faced Curate, on October 21, 1854. No one, except the Pastor and Fr. Maugenest were there to meet him.
Jules Chevalier left Issoudun, eternally, on October 21, 1907 - 53 years later. Thousands mourned his passing.
Providentially, the Basilica had been reopened just a few days before his death. His body was buried in the Crypt, almost under the feet of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, on October 24, 1907.
At his death, fifty-three years since his foundation of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, there were 802 spiritual sons of Chevalier: composed of bishops, priests, brothers and professed students.
His Society had already expanded into five Provinces, four in Europe and one in far-away Australia.
Today, almost 150 years since Chevalier inaugurated the MSC, the Society comprises 2,282 professed members, in 18 Provinces, working in every continent.
Chevalier's spiritual family includes two Congregations of Sisters (the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) and the world-wide Associates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Associates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus held their first International
Assembly at Issoudun in 1995. 160 delegates attended under the presidency of the General Superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
MAY THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS BE EVERYWHERE LOVED! FOR EVER!
PART 2: THE SPIRITUALITY OF CHEVALIER.
CHAPTER 8: "THE CHILD IS FATHER TO THE MAN".
The basic characteristics of Chevalier's "spirituality" and of his personal character were formed before he entered the Major Seminary of Bourges at the age of 22.
There were four basic elements that went to make Chevalier the person we know: Poverty, Prayer, Devotion to the Mother of God, and his conviction of having a Vocation from God.
Chevalier was born into a poor family; he had to leave school at an early age to assist his family's meagre resources.
He lived in a poor, obscure town, where social life and recreation was minimal.
From his earliest years he began to realise that the Faith into which he was born was his greatest resource. His mother and the kindly parish priest taught him that the God he believed in was the Father of the poor; the Saviour, Jesus Christ of whom he -was taught, was even poorer than he, so much so that Christ "had nowhere to lay his head". (Mt.8:.20).
This lived experience of poverty became a lived experience of faith in a God to whom nothing was impossible - faith in a God who was "father of the poor".
Young Jules came to know and love a Saviour who chose to be poor.
Chevalier was willing to listen to a Saviour who called to him: "follow me".
Chevalier further learnt that poverty allowed us to call on God's power. This realization of "the power of poverty" became Chevalier's lifelong strength.
From his mother's example and the encouragement of the parish priest, Chevalier learnt to frequent the Church and to pray before the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament grew into a realization of the reality of Jesus living, listening, supporting and encouraging him.
Jesus became "a personal friend". To receive His Sacred Body and Blood in Holy Communion, meant a deep personal bonding between himself and Jesus who "abides in me, and I abide in Him".
DEVOTION TO THE MOTHER OF GOD.
Chevalier's mother often told him of the time when she was at her wits' end with family burdens, that she, in desperation, had taken him as a baby and laid him at the feet of the statue of the Blessed Mother asking Mary to become Jules' mother and caretaker. Jules took this story literally. He really believed it and learnt to live it.
All his life long, Mary was really and truly his Mother; Chevalier lived this belief. It is not at all strange that Chevalier learnt to apply to Mary the wonderful title given her by St, Ephraim: "Hope of the Hopeless".
Chevalier's life and work was to become proof to the truth of that title. When Chevalier founded his new Society of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, in gratitude for Mary's miraculous aid, Chevalier "invented" a new name for her, "Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Hope of the Hopeless". Today, Chevalier's Missionaries of the Sacred Heart have helped spread Mary's name over the whole world, especially through the popularity of the "Memorare" prayer, "Remember, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.....".
VOCATION FROM GOD.
The fact is that Chevalier became a priest despite enormous difficulties. If it were not the will of God, how could this man have become the founder of a world-wide Congregation of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart to announce the "good news" of what the "Sacred Heart of Jesus" really means; how could he have dared to found and promote the Associates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
How could all of this have been brought about through one insignificant priest in an obscure town, in a country that was going through a series of revolutions!
His vocation surely must be a special gift from God.
It is for us Associates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to reflect on how much of our Father Founder's spirit and spirituality has influenced each of us.
POVERTY - or, at least, "Poverty of Spirit".
How much do I care about, or try to help people less fortunate than myself? Is there a particular area, or a particular person that I personally care for? Do I set aside a small part of my personal income as alms, for "the poor"?
• Do I pray daily? How do I pray?
• Is God, the Father, a real father to me in my estimation, in my experience? Do I act as if I am really a son or daughter of God, my Father?
• Is Jesus a person whom I have met, spoken to, someone really close to me? How do I relate to Jesus in my everyday affairs?
• Is Jesus Christ a person I trust, one to whom I speak to regularly in my thoughts and prayer-life, in whom I confide my desires, joys and sorrows?
When I pray to Jesus, is it like reciting a formula, or, is it a real person to person way of conversing?
• How often and how carefully do I read and reflect on the Good News - the words and actions of Jesus, "yesterday, today, the same forever"?
• Is the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, someone I have never really thought about? How aware am I that the Holy Spirit is really alive within me?
Do I experience the "indwelling of the Holy Spirit of Jesus" through practices such as the "Jesus Prayer" (the "Breathing Prayer").
• How seriously do I appreciate the Sacrifice of the Mass?
Do I attend Mass at least every Sunday; receive Holy Communion at least once a week?
Have I any way of making a "Spiritual Communion" when I am unable to attend Mass?
MARY, the Mother of Jesus and my mother, too.
• Because I am an Associate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Jesus entrusted me to Mary's care and Mary to my care with his dying breath. (John. 19:26-27).
• How much do I appreciate that gift? How do I show my appreciation of Mary?
• As an Associate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, how seriously do I appreciate the fact that I do have a personal vocation in this present life, in this present milieu?
• How seriously have I thought about it, prayed about it, tried to examine it?
• Now that I have joined this group of Associates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, how seriously have I committed myself to seek out and find, then try to live out my Vocation, as a gift from God?
"The Kingdom of Heaven" is something that I should possess and enjoy possessing here and now, in my daily life.
To reflect on YOUR vocation as an Associate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, please read what Jesus says to you in the Gospel of Matthew, Ch. 13, w,M-46.
CHAPTER 9. A MAN WITH A MISSION.
Chevalier entered the Major Seminary of Bourges in 1846, aged 22. This Seminary was staffed by an organization of priests, who specialized in the art of formation of aspirants for the catholic priesthood. The members went by the name "Priests of Saint Sulpice", so called from the parish church of Saint Sulpice in Paris where they opened their first "Seminary" (planting and nurturing ground) in 1642.
These Sulpician Priests were pioneers in the education of future priests, putting into practice the one hundred year old decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) on the necessary reformation of studies and the personal formation of aspirants to the catholic priesthood. This was basic to the very necessary "Catholic Reformation" demanded of the Catholic Church.
The Sulpician System for seminaries surpassed any other type of seminary formation system in that era. The Sulpicians aimed at educating (bringing out, fostering) the living realities of what had - heretofore - been taught only as "topics" for study.
Generally speaking, as in most types of University level studies, the subject of Theology (dealing with God, His revelation, Jesus the Saviour....) students were taught these topics as "Theses", proposition to be proven or maintained against objections. Just like teaching mathematics, ethics or politics. But the LIVING CHRIST was hardly felt or experienced as a living person.
The Sulpician teachers turned this around. For example, if the topic was the "Incarnation of Jesus", these Sulpician teachers stressed in their teaching method that Jesus was a person who really lived, ate, laughed, loved, sorrowed, suffered and died - as all human beings do. He also rose from the dead and lives amongst us, today and always. They explained the why and how of all this.
These teachers insisted on the LIVING REALITY of this TEACHING REVEALED BY GOD FOR THE GOOD OF HUMAN BEINGS.
Moreover, the students were to be in-formed (changed, formed, energized) by the realities that they studied. These future priests were to be men who not only knew about God, Jesus Christ...as topics studied in order to pass an examination and so qualify for an appointment and an income, but men who would come to meet, to know and become personally committed disciples of God, of Jesus.
The students were taught that God, the Father, His Son and the Holy Spirit are LIVING PERSONS. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit not only had their own inter-personal relationships; they each have personal relationships with human beings too.
Chevalier was truly fortunate to be trained by such inspirational teachers from the age of 22 until the age of 27: the crucial formative years for his life as a priest. During these six important years he was under the direction of an outstanding personality and professor, a man who, for the rest of his own life, was destined to be Chevalier's unchangeing friend, guide and support.
His name was Fr. Gasnier.
This preamble serves to focus the amazing "re-conversion" that Chevalier experienced in his studies on "The Incarnation of Jesus Christ": how and why the Son of God became a human being. His "enlightenment" is, in a way, similar to what St. Paul, the Christian persecutor experienced when he was knocked from his horse on the way to Damascus. When Paul "came to", and could see again, he was already the new man who would become the Apostle of the Gentiles.
Something like this happened to Chevalier during his studies of "How and why the Son of God became a human being, born of a woman".
It was indeed a "revelation" - a special insight, wisdom, conviction, a living realization; a precious gift that came only from God's goodness.
It was a revelation that stayed with Chevalier all his life; a revelation that was the source of his prodigious courage, strength and conviction for all the years ahead.
The centre of this study on "How and why Christ, the Son of God, became a human being" was the subject of "What is Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus".
For Chevalier, the study of this topic on the Sacred Heart of Jesus became a real, experienced revelation.
To him, this "revelation" contained, at least, three elements.
First, personally, Chevalier came to realize how HUMAN is the Heart of Christ.
Second, if Chevalier would become Christ's disciple, Chevalier, too, must learn to have the same "heart" (mind, outlook) as Christ: to love as He loved.
Third, if other human beings, no matter who or what they were, could come to know, to EXPERIENCE how Christ loved each of them "with a human heart", they could not refuse to respond to the Saviour "who loved them unto the very end".
Chevalier had now discovered a clear purpose for his life. He determined to become a priest "with the Heart of Christ". His "mission" as a priest would be to proclaim far and wide what he had SEEN and EXPERIENCED in what the REVELATION of the HEART of CHRIST had meant to him.
He would become an "apostle", "missionary", "announcer" of what he had seen and" experienced.
This Revelation brought a 180 degree change in Chevalier's personality.
Until this tine he had been almost puritanical, rigid, in his observance of rules and regulations. Most of his fellow students had thought him pompous, cold and distant. His whole demeanour was now changed.
Simultaneously, his own "club", [The Chevaliers of the Sacred Heart] took on a new vitality and purpose. They became a mutually interested forum to develop this "revelation" that had hit Chevalier, and which they themselves imbued from their leader's enthusiasm. Furthermore, they realised that they had found THE ANSWER to their main preoccupation: How can we young priests-to-be do something about the appalling apostasy of France, 'the Eldest Daughter of the Church1; how can we revive the deserted parishes that had become religious deserts.
This small group of three (Chevalier, Maugenest and Piperon) was the mustard seed that has since grown into "The Society of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart" and The Associates of the Sacred Heart.
The basic mission, aim of each member of each of these inter-related groups is one and the same:
(1) to live out in their own lives the "revelation" that drove Chevalier to found and promote these groups;
(2) "Go, tell the Good News to everyone, everywhere".
- The Title of this Chapter: How do I understand the meaning of "Mission"? Have I a "mission" as an Associate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
- Do I understand the content of the last paragraph,("The basic mission...") i.e. the relationship between: the "Missionaries of the Sacred Heart" and the "Associates of the Sacred Heart"?
- What do I think of the statement: "As an MSC Associate, I, too, have a "mission" ("vocation") in life?
Chapter 10: WHAT IS DEVOTION TO THE SACRED HEART - TODAY, FOR US?
In this Chapter He use four particular words: Devotion; Love; Heart; Sacred.
It is important to make clear the meaning of each of these words.
1: DEVOTION is a deep, enduring personal dedication, a personal commitment to another person (husband, wife, children), to my Catholic Faith, or to a cause, (Peace, Justice).
In this sense, "devotion" influences my way of living, thinking and acting.
My devotion, my commitment to a person or to a cause can become a source of personal satisfaction and personal fulfillment.
2: LOVE is a result of "devotion", in the sense that I devote myself, give myself, my energy, my time, my resources, my heart and my soul to a person or to a cause, because I am convinced that such a person or such a cause will give me happiness, personal fulfillment. Love and Devotion make a "happy marriage".
3: When we speak of Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, first, what do we mean by HEART? The basic meaning of "heart" is that organ in my body which provides, cleanses, circulates the blood in my body, from the moment I began to live in my mother's womb, until the final moment when my heart ceases to beat -and my body dies. My heart is essential to me: without a heart I cannot live.
Also, in human language, the word "heart" means my inner self; my real self; "my heart" can mean my conscience, my hopes and fears, my power to love. The Bible uses the word "heart", in this sense, 1,163 times!
4: SACRED means I venerate a religious object (as "the Sacred Host") or a deity (as the Sacred Person of Jesus).
When we speak of the "Sacred Heart of Jesus", we speak not only of a symbol of the love and compassion of Our Saviour. The "Sacred Heart" also means the core, the personal centre of Our Lord; his "Inner Self.
His Sacred Heart is a hidden reality that we must search out, that we must seek to know by personal contact.
The searching, the effort to make personal contact with Jesus is "devotion to the Sacred Heart". "Search and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you"(Lk11:9).
Through devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we find a new source of life.
"Come, I will show you a way that is better than any of them":(I Cor.12:31). Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has a long history in the Catholic Church, particularly among members of Religious Orders.
From the time of Christ's appearances to St. Margaret Mary (1647-1690), a nun in the Religious Order of the Visitation Sisters, in the Convent of Paray-le-Monial, in France, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus became popular among the people at large, particularly through the efforts of the members of the Society of Jesus.
Jesus stated to St. Margaret Mary that this devotion "was a last effort of his love to favour people in these latter times with a most loving redemption".
The authenticity of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is guaranteed by the official approval of the Catholic Church, not only by the canonization of St. Margaret Mary, but, especially by the public authorization, teaching and promotion of this devotion by Popes Leo XIII, Pius XII and John Paul II.
To Chevalier, this is THE devotion to which all Christians should respond, should practice. To him, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is the supreme, essential devotion without which Christian life and Christian practice cannot be lived in its fullness. "It embraces everything, it is the answer to everything". To Chevalier, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the essence of Christianity, and contains all other devotions.
The Heart of Jesus is the INCARNATION of the love that is God, Himself, made flesh, made visible, made intelligible to us human beings in the human person and in the human life of Jesus.
"Understood in the light of this long "heart" tradition, therefore, the devotion was for Father Chevalier a way of life, even a way of understanding God's revelation; it was a way for transforming society by introducing into it, as effectively as possible, people with the dispositions, the HEART of Jesus.
It was also a way for understanding God's plan for the universe". (D. J. Murphy).
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus becomes a person to person relationship: namely, Jesus personally relates to me, I personally relate to Jesus.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus increases my appreciation of the meaning of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the gift of the Blessed Eucharist; of the value and meaning of His Passion, Death and Resurrection; of the wonder and gratitude I should have for all the seven Sacraments.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus prompts us to "search the Scriptures" so that we may "meet Jesus, personally"; so that we may discover the wonder of the "Highest Gift of God", namely, the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, that is always given to, but not always grasped by each Christian.
As a result, my practice of devotion to the Sacred Heart should develop into a "way of life". As a "disciple" of Jesus, I should begin to examine my way of living my daily life as a "Christian"; I should begin to reflect on what kind of influence I may have on the people around me. Have I a "mission" in life?
Gradually, as an Associate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I learn to become a Disciple of Jesus, even one of the "disciples whom Jesus Loved".
From such a growing realization and such a growing cooperation with the influence (prompting) of the Spirit of Jesus, an Associate grows from becoming a Disciple into becoming an Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: having the same mind, the same heart, the same Spirit as Jesus.
NOTE: The "growth process" by which an Associate develops from being a Disciple of the Sacred Heart into the desire to become an Apostle of the Sacred Heart, will be described in detail in the following Chapter 11. This process of personal development is also called "The Spirituality of the Sacred Heart".
For these reasons devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is not a "pious extra" that any Catholic is free to practice or to ignore.
This devotion, this person to person relationship with the LIVING JESUS, is described by Jesus, himself, in the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 15 .
Jesus uses the image of a grape-vine and its branches to describe the life-giving bonding between himself and his chosen disciple. "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you... you in me and I in you".
He should study the whole chapter. If we learn to practice what Jesus teaches in Chapter 15 of St. John's Gospel, we will really experience and "know that I am with you always, yes, to the end of time" - (Mt. 28:20).
The aim of "devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus" is an intimate, personal union between the living Jesus and myself - "you in me, and I in you"; "I am the vine, you are one of my branches"-
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is essentially bound to devotion to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the "Real Presence" of the living Jesus.
Because devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an easy means by which my heart learns to speak with his heart, this devotion becomes an essential part of my practice of my Christian faith. I begin to learn how to communicate in a person to person relationship with the living Jesus, he who really "lives in me" so that I may really "live in Him".
This devotion easily and quickly leads me to a Christ-centered way of life; this devotion enables me to become "a Christian, a person who is fully alive".
Jesus informed St. Margaret Mary that devotion to the Sacred Heart was "revealed in these later times".
Modern people are concerned about the value of personal relationships.
The human experience of being loved by another human person makes us happy, healthy, secure human beings, both in our personal and social lives.
We Christians also want to be happy, healthy, secure in our daily life.
What difference does Jesus make to my daily life? Do I really love him? Do I try "to love my neighbour as I love myself"- as Jesus loves my neighbour?
If we want to know and experience the fact that we are really loved by Jesus, we must be especially concerned about the value of our personal relationship with the living Christ, and, through Christ, with every person we meet.
Is this not the meaning of being a CHRISTIAN, a Christ follower?
Once devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus becomes a conscious reality in ray daily life, I become a changed person, I become a "devoted disciple" of Jesus,
He becomes MY Hay, MY Truth, MY Life - my model of how to live my life.
When I learn to really believe in, become fully convinced of the limitless love that Jesus has for ME, the words of Sacred Scripture take on a new meaning.
The New Testament, especially the four Gospels become "GOOD NEWS" to me.
Gradually, by my devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, learnt chiefly through my new way of reading and understanding the GOOD NEWS, the incomprehensible goodness of God becomes comprehensible through the words and actions of Jesus,
It is only through this devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels that I can become fitted to "Go, tell this Good News to everyone".
Since St. Margaret Mary's time the Catholic Church has officially and publicly authorised, authenticated, stressed and propagated this devotion.
In our own day, we Christians are challenged by the Documents of the Ecumenical Council, Vatican II (1963 - 1965), and the repeated calls of subsequent Popes for a NEW EVANGELIZATION of Christians themselves in order that we may become willing witnesses for Jesus Christ to the non-Christian people among whom we live. All these challenges can be met by devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God, the Wisdom of His Father, became a human person. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us".(John, 1:l4) He was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary; he became 'one of us1, "like us in all things, feeling our weaknesses with us, tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin... Although he was God's Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation". (Epistle to the Hebrews. Chs. 4,5.)
He became one of the poor, one of the dependent, working class people. "Gentle and humble in heart", completely subject to the will of His Father.
Chevalier placed special emphasis on the COMPASSION of Jesus for all men and women, regardless of their moral, social or personal status. If one reads the Gospels, this COMPASSION for people is one of the outstanding characteristics of Jesus' personality. In the Latin Language, "compassion" is called MISERICORDIA, meaning, a HEART(cor) that feels PITY(miseria).
Jesus Christ is a Person with a HUMAN heart, a COMPASSIONATE heart.
Jesus is the ideal example of how a human person should live in this world. "The Word was made flesh, he lived among us...full of grace and truth...To all who accept him, to all who believe in him, he gives the power to become children of God" like Himself.(Gospel of John, 1:12-14)
He gives us the power to become compassionate people.
The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus portrays all this explanation of the Gospels and Epistles:
- look at Jesus' heart; look at Jesus' hands; look into the eyes and face of Jesus; listen to his words: "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light". (Gospel of Matthew, 11:38).
This is why he can invite people to come to Him: "all who labour and are heavy burdened" with the cares and anxieties of life on earth - responsibilities, sickness, worries, sorrows,....."and I will give you rest", healing, hope and strength to take up your cross AND FOLLOW ME" - BECAUSE HE IS ONE OF US!
The response to Jesus' call is the SPECIAL VOCATION of all Associates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We Associates are called to become compassionate people.
Have I a statue or a large picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in my home?
How do I try to deepen my personal relationship with Jesus in my daily life?
for example:- do I try to make some time, each day, for personal prayer;
- do I make occasional visits to the Blessed Sacrament;
- do I try to read and reflect on the New Testament, especially the Gospels, for about 10 minutes daily;
- do I practice "The Awareness Exercise", or "The Jesus Prayer". As an MSC Associate, how do I give witness to the compassion of Jesus?
Chapter 11. THE WAY OF THE "BELOVED DISCIPLE".
The model of an MSC Associate.
In the Gospel of St. John, from the scenes of the Last Supper until the final sentence of that same Gospel, THE DISCIPLE JESUS LOVED is mentioned explicitly seven times.(Ch.13:23; Ch. l8:15; Ch.19:26; Ch.20:2; Ch.21:7, 21, 24).
Avoiding discussion of the theories about which of the 12 Apostles he may be, reliable Commentators agree that "the disciple Jesus loved" is a model of the "ideal disciple" of Christ in the Church of any age or place.
The Beloved Disciple is the Gospel model for MSC Associates who faithfully practice the Spirituality of the Heart.
A prayerful study of these seven scenes that depict the "ideal disciple", the "ideal follower" of Jesus in any age of Christianity, will show us what Jules Chevalier held up as an ideal example for members of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, both Professed Religious and lay Associates.
As mentioned at the end of Part 1 of the previous Chapter, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the WAY that leads us to what is called "The Spirituality of the Heart". This Spirituality of the Heart is the aim and the reward of MSC Associates. It depends on each one of us how much effort and prayer we will devote to become such a person, "a disciple whom Jesus loves".
The Gospels are the original sources of Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The person whose aim in life is to become "a disciple whom Jesus loved" will find in his/her journey of life and faith that Jesus truly is what He claimed to be: "I am the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. No person can come to the Father except through me". (Jo. 5:5-7).
As Jesus so often repeated "Come to me...", it is chiefly through our prayerful use of the Hew Testament (Testament means proof) that we are able to meet Jesus, to hear Him, to learn to know Him, to form a personal relationship with Him.
Thus, the Gospels become what they claim to be, "Good news", still fresh, "yesterday, today, the same always".
If you and I believe, accept these words of Jesus, not only will we find Jesus, but simultaneously we will find that all the promises Jesus made in the Gospels begin to come true in your and my own life, now!
Again, we return to a basic principle in our lives as Christians. We are "Christ people". We are the people whom he invites: "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light". (Mt. 11:28-30). For this reason, you and I must become men and women who LIVE BY THE GOSPELS.
Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation, "On Evangelization in the Modern World" (1975) stressed that our credibility as Christians depends on how each of us lives according to the teachings and example of Jesus as revealed to us in the Gospels. "The Church (i.e. its members, we Christians, "Christ people") is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself", (par.15).
Unless we "live by the Gospels" how can we claim to truly obey Jesus who said: "Come to ME...Learn of ME...Follow ME...Abide in ME...You in ME, and I in you." "In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus".(Philippians, 2:.5).
Today, in this Church in this modern world, the Popes are continually calling for this NEW EVANGELIZATION, not merely of non-Christians, but, first and foremost, a "new evangelization" of ourselves who are already baptized Christians.
This call is fully answered by what is called "The Spirituality of the Heart". Jules Chevalier, 100 years before the Post Vatican II era, was indeed a prophet.
He wrote, "I can see a new world emerging", namely, the increase in the numbers of people who devote themselves to what we call "The Spirituality of the Heart".
People who sincerely persevere in the practice of the Spirituality of the Heart find themselves living in a "new world", alight with the joy of Him who declared "I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark; he will have the light of life" (Jo. 8:12).
Our identity as MSC Associates arises not from what kind of work we do, but from the way we live according to the Gospels, the way we follow Him who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life". To us MSC Associates, our most commonly used "Prayer Book" is the New Testament.
If we use the New Testament as our daily Prayer Book, spending at least 10 minutes each day, silently looking at the figure of Jesus, hungrily taking in the words of Jesus, letting our hearts reach out to Jesus, each of us will begin to experience the extraordinary "real presence" of Jesus within "me".
If I, as an MSC Associate, persevere at this exercise, not as a study session, but as an opportunity to meet Jesus, an amazing change begins to take place in me, not by my efforts, but by the Spirit of Jesus who "abides in me".
St. Paul declared that Jesus is the same "yesterday, today, the same forever". I receive His Sacred Body and Blood in Holy Communion; He promised to send/give me HIS Spirit, to abide with me always. (Gospel of John, Chapters. 6, 14, 15, 16).
Now, here, in me - all these promises begin to be fulfilled.
As St. Paul declared, "I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me " (Gal 2:20). ALL this can happen to me!
If we persevere in learning this Spirituality of the Heart from our daily "Prayer Book", that is the New Testament, we learn to become like "the disciple whom Jesus loved". We can find the outline of our new personality, and learn the personal role, vocation, that Jesus has planned for me by tracing how closely my own heart follows the pattern of "the disciple whom Jesus loved" as revealed in the Gospel of John.
•How do the Gospels, God's "Good News", spell out God's plans for me, an MSC Associate?
• If I begin to understand what the Spirit of Jesus is teaching me through my regular "praying" the Gospels, this understanding can be called Revelation.
• If I accept this Revelation, does God's own Spirit bring about, in me, my own second Conversion, my personal renewal in the Spirit?
• Can I accept and try to be faithful to my "born again" status as a "Disciple whom Jesus loves"?
• Am I willing to live according to what my second conversion entails, as a Disciple whom Jesus loves, and as a Disciple who loves Jesus?
•Can I begin to perceive my own "Vocation", my personal "Calling", the kind of person that God wishes me to be in my family, my occupation, my Church, my society, the world in which I live?
• Does this growing realisation of what it is to be an Associate of the Sacred Heart make me more aware that Jesus's call to me (vocation) is also an invitation to follow Him more closely, to work for Him more seriously?
• As a Disciple whom Jesus loves, am I willing to "take up my cross (my responsibilities, my weaknesses, my sufferings.....) and follow Him"?
This kind of questioning serves to help me to become more aware of my call, my vocation, my invitation from Jesus to join Him in His work in this world.
How much do I want to become one of His close group of apostles, TO BECOME ONE OF HIS ASSOCIATES?
Jesus has a "mission" to be completed; He invites me to share His "mission", to become one of His apostles, an Associate of the Sacred Heart.
Now, not only do I learn from Him as a disciple, but I am also being called to share in His "apostolate", as one of His "apostles", one of His associates.
What my "apostolate" (an Associate of Jesus) may be in concrete terms is something that I must learn to discern. This process of discernment can be aided:
(1) by personal prayer and reflection;
(2) through discussing this matter with the members of my group of Associates;
(3) through Spiritual Direction, either from the Director of my group of Associates, or from some other qualified person whom I respect.
This whole process: from Devotion to the Sacred Heart - to Spirituality of the Heart - to becoming a Disciple whom Jesus loves - to the call to become one of His Apostles: all this becomes "Good News" for me, "Good News" for others too.
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth...Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, "You see this city? Here God lives among men.
He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is 'God with them’.
He will wipe away all tears from their eyes;
there will be no more death, and no more sadness.
The world of the past has gone...
Now I am making the whole of creation anew...
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
I will give water from the well of life to anyone who is thirsty;
it is the rightful inheritance to the one who proves victorious;
and I will be his God and he a son to me". (Rev 21:1-7)
There is one more gift offered to "the Disciple whom Jesus loved", to MSC Associates who persevere in their efforts to "look on the one whom they have pierced"(Jo 19:37).
This gift, described in the Gospel of John, 19:25-27, will be treated in the following chapter, “Our Lady of the Sacred Heart”.
These words of Jesus are the source of the slogan for MSC Associates:
A NEW HEART FOR A NEW WORLD
Chapter 12. OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART.
In the concluding paragraph of Chapter 11, it was said that there is one more gift offered to the "Disciple whom Jesus loves", namely, the gift of His Mother as the Mother also of such disciples.
The EXPERIENCE of Mary as truly our Mother is offered in a special way to the Associates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through formation in Devotion to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
Devotion to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart helps us to understand the SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP OF FAITH AND LOVE between Mother and Son, one of the closest and most beautiful relationships that is possible between two human beings.
Mary gave Jesus his body, his human features, his robust health. Of all human beings, Mary of Nazareth, is the person who most resembled Jesus Christ in temperament, characteristics of features, complexion, colour of hair, inherited habits, speech and accent.
Who taught the child Jesus his courtesy and gentleness; who fostered his appreciation of the beauty of nature, his gift for telling stories?
In those days there was no public education system. Parents had to educate their own children. Who introduced Jesus to the word of God in the Bible?
Jesus spells out the wonder of God the Father's love for each of us. He also expresses that love from his own human experience of his mother's love for him. Perhaps he first heard from his mother that delightful expression of loving concern: "How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings" (Luke, 13:34).
Jesus enjoyed Mary's companionship, practically every day for 30 years, of all people, Mary was the first, closest, most devoted ASSOCIATE OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS. She was truly the co-worker of the Father, "the handmaid of the Lord", from the moment of the conception of His - and her - Son to the moment when Jesus drew his last breath on the cross, and beyond, in the Early Church.
This relationship between Jesus and Mary has two particular dimensions:
(1) their personal communion;
(2) the special manner in which Mary was associated with Jesus' mission as the Saviour of the world.
There are ten main sites in the Gospels portraying this twofold relationship. If we reflect on these ten Gospel scenes, we can begin to learn and to experience the fact that Devotion to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart focuses our attention on these two dimensions of the relationship between Mother and Son. The result of these reflections is that we, too, can share this relationship.
The ten Gospel situations:
1: despite her fears, she made her own decision about risking her marriage to Joseph and accepting the strange announcement of the messenger, Gabriel;
2: her warm-heartedness in setting out alone, on a long journey, to comfort and care for her cousin until Elizabeth's son, John, was safely born;
3: her journey, with Joseph, to Bethlehem; the difficulty of the journey at the end of her pregnancy; the discomfort and loneliness of giving birth to Jesus in the underground stable; her wonderful welcome to the midnight shepherds;
4: her visit of thanksgiving to the Jerusalem Temple, with Joseph and her babe; the strange forebodings of Simeon mixed with his and Anna's congratulations;
5: even after the visit of the magnificent Magi strangers, the hurried flight across the border into Egypt, and the brief years of exile, loneliness and poverty until the death of Herod;
6: the shock of losing Jesus, and the added shock that Jesus gave her and Joseph in asserting his coming of age and his rights of independence;
7: her total confidence in her son's generosity, despite his reluctance, at the wedding of the Cana couple;
8: in front of a large crowd, Jesus explained that true relationship with him meant more than just blood-relationship; at the same time Jesus repeated the words of the angel Gabriel at the time of the Annunciation, affirming his bonds with his mother in a new and different way;
9: the climax of Jesus' life, in the harrowing agony of his last minutes on the Cross, where he gave his mother a new role in the new family that was "born in blood and water from his pierced side". Mary was to be the mother of this new family of "disciples whom Jesus loved", such as the MSC Associates. In these final minutes, Jesus first commended his mother into MY care; then, with his last breath, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit". With this Last Will and Testament, "he said, 'It is accomplished’, and bowing his head he gave up his spirit".
"From that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home".
10: On Pentecost Sunday, the mother of Jesus was in the midst of Jesus' loyal apostles and disciples, praying with them, when the Holy Spirit came upon her for the second time, confirming her in the new role that Jesus had conferred on her with his dying breath.
(#1, #2 - Luke, Ch.1;
#3, #4 - Luke, Ch.2;
#5- Matthew, Ch.2;
#6 - Luke, Ch.2;
#7 - John, Ch.2;
#8 - Mark, 3:31; Luke, 8:9-21, & 11:27-28;
#9 - John, Ch.19;
#10 - Acts, Ch.1).
Why did Jesus address his mother as "WOMAN" instead of what we would expect?
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ("Lumen Gentium") issued by the Second Vatican Council in 1964 devotes a complete Chapter (8) to "The Role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and the Church". This Chapter is by far the finest and clearest teaching on the person and role of Our Lady; a Chapter that we all need to read and re-read.
The following explanation of Jesus' own form of address to his mother, "Woman", is taken from Chapter 8 of this great document.
The difficult to understand title "WOMAN" appears in the very first and the very last books of the Bible: namely, The Book of Genesis. Chapter 3, vv.11-15; and The Book of Revelation,12:1-17.
Also, in the whole of the New Testament, the mother of Jesus is called "Woman" only in the writings of St. John, the Evangelist, 2:4 and 19:26).
It is this same John, the Evangelist, in his later "Book of Revelation", who links this "Woman", Mary, to the "Woman" foretold by God, the Creator of the human race, and to the First Parents who chose disobedience and death.
The first "Woman", Eve, "mother of all the living", by her disobedience in taking the forbidden "fruit", became the mother of a race destined to die.
The second "Woman", Mary, promised by the mercy of the Creator of the human race, (Genesis, Ch.3) became the "mother of all the living" (Revelations, Ch.12) by her faith and obedience as the mother of Jesus, "the fruit of her womb".
This is why we recite the greetings of Elizabeth to Mary in our prayer: "Hail Mary, full of grace,...blessed are you amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus". (Luke, 1:42)
To sum up: Jesus, the promised Saviour of the human race, regarded his mother, Mary, not only as his mother, but also as the "promised woman", the mother of all the "children of God".
- The "children of God", as "disciples whom Jesus loves" and as "disciples who love Jesus", readily accept Mary as their "new mother". (John, 1:11-13). Accordingly, "from this moment (that I accept my status as an Associate, one of the Beloved Disciples of Jesus) I will make a place for Mary in my home". Mary is part of our lives. Can I call myself an ASSOCIATE of the Sacred Heart of Jesus if I do not have the same mind, the same heart as Jesus has for Mary? Do I regard Mary as Jesus regards his mother? How do I "associate" with Mary? As Jesus wishes, does Mary really live in my home - in my heart and mind?
- The proof of our having HIS mind, HIS heart is proven by our devotedness to HIS and to OUR Mother, Mary. Jesus, Mary and I must "have the same heart".
Do I really want to have such a family likeness to Jesus and Mary?
Will I make a place for Mary in my home because she is my mother?
Is she an integral part of my life?
Do I share my life, my work, my hopes, my cares with her?
- That is why we should have a statue or picture of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart prominently displayed and decorated in our homes. If I take Mary "into my home" on this earth, Mary will surely take me "into her Son's home" in Heaven.
- For these reasons Jules Chevalier taught us to call Mary by a new title which expresses these special meanings : "OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART". MARY WAS THE FIRST AND FOREMOST "ASSOCIATE OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS". Mary is the best Teacher of the Spirituality of the Heart of Jesus. Our special prayer, as her Family-Associates, is the MEMORARE bequeathed to us by Jules Chevalier: "Since you are our Mother, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart..." - words of our Associates' Prayer; words not pronounced in either of the other famous Marian prayers, the "Hail, Mary" or the "Hail, Holy Queen"!
- Whenever you recite the MEMORARE try to "remember" also the thousands of other family members, brother and sister Associates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, scattered all over the world. They are praying the same prayer as you; they have the same mind, the same heart as you; they are praying with you; they are praying for you. We Associates MSC are one family on earth; we will see one another, face to face, in Heaven.
Finally, Jules Chevalier added a particular note to our filial trust in our Mother, Mary: "the hope of the hopeless".
Recall the disastrous situation of the poor young couple at Cana. At their wedding feast, as Mary saw and told Jesus, "they have no wine"! How can the guests make a toast wishing future happiness on the young couple? Although Jesus told his mother that it was none of his business, Mary persisted - and the result... Even the caterers were astounded, not just at the amount of wine, but even more at the quality of the wine that Jesus miraculously provided. For such reasons, Chevalier christened Mary as "hope of the hopeless".
If ever you or your friends are "in dire straits", the MEMORARE to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is the prayer for you and them to pray. He MSC Associates go to the Heart of Jesus through Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
Chapter 13. THE MISSION OF MSC ASSOCIATES
"LE MAL MODERNE"
There is no question about the amount or extent of "evil" in our society, local, national or global. Good news rarely makes headlines. Bad News items outnumber Good News items in newspapers and television channels.
By speaking of "the evils of our time", Jules Chevalier was arousing Associates to an awareness - not only of the suffocating presence of "evil" in our milieu, but also to the role that Associates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are called to share with Jesus, as his disciples in this milieu.
Jesus said to all his followers: "You are the light of the world...Your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven". (Mt. 5:14-16).
About 1600 years ago, Saint Augustine made a profound remark. He said "evil" comes about because SOMETHING GOOD IS NOT WHERE IT SHOULD BE. In this sense, "evil" is, really, "a black hole" in human society. For example: War, where there is no Peace; Sin, no Goodness; Hatred, no Love; Cruelty, no Compassion; Famine, no Food; Adultery, no Fidelity......
800 years ago, Saint Francis of Assisi composed this "Prayer for Peace": Make me a channel of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring your love. Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord; and where there is doubt, true faith in you.
Where there is despair in life, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, only light; and where there is sadness, ever joy. O Master grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love with all my soul. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are brought to eternal life.
150 years ago, Jules Chevalier established the MSC, both a Religious Society of men and the MSC Associates of the laity. Besides the basic purpose of personal holiness, each group, in its own specific manner, was to combat evil, the "black holes" in their own particular milieu.
"Your light must shine in the sight of men". "So that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ".(Eph 4:12)
This combat for Christ is what may be called "Reparation to the Sacred Heart". We Associates assist in repairing, "building up the body of Christ".
Since the time of St. Margaret Mary, the chief and original promoter of modern devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of the chief methods of responding to the call of Jesus was "Reparation to the Sacred Heart".
Generally speaking, prior to the renewal of faith, especially promoted by "Vatican II", the aim of devout Catholics was to repair (Reparation) the wounds, and console the sorrows in Christ's Heart caused by the sins and indifference of people who knew nothing or cared nothing for the person and mission of Jesus.
This form of "Reparation" consisted mainly in personal prayer, penance and good works, whether performed individually or as a member of a "Confraternity".
The focus of "Reparation" was the person of Jesus. The chief aim was to "console" Jesus, to make "reparation" to Jesus, for the contempt, indifference, ingratitude, etc. of "others".
The Prayer Books and First Friday Devotions of bygone days are proof of this.
Thanks to the studies and the consequent renewal of our faith and the practices connected with our faith initiated by the Second Vatican Council, committed Christians are now called to take a more active, personal role as Christ's disciples.
Nowadays, our role in the practice of Reparation is to continue in our milieu the same apostolate of salvation that Our Saviour initiated in his milieu.
You and I are sent, commissioned, both by Jesus and by His Church to REPAIR, to mend, the "black holes", the wounds and damages in our own society.
Where there is "darkness", we must bring Christ, the "light of the world".
To obey the "missionary" instructions of Jesus is our apostolate of Reparation. "Go out into the whole world...Go teach all nations... You are the light of the world, the salt of the earth... As the Father has sent me, so, likewise, do I send you”...
These instructions apply to each and every active Christian, especially to each Missionary of the Sacred Heart, whether cleric or lay.
This mandate, this form of "Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus" certainly includes Associates of his Sacred Heart.
For one who wishes to explore more fully the mission of each Christian in the modern world, one cannot do better than study "The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World", promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, 1965.
It is a document that lives up to its opening words, "Joy and Hope".
To us Associates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our call (vocation) to Reparation is just that. We disciples who want to love Jesus will find a special joy, a hope full of strength, if we seek to find and carry out the particular apostolate that Jesus has reserved for each one of us.
How does each of us find his/her "personally reserved field of apostolate"?
If you and I can find, discover or uncover "this treasure hidden in a field", as Jesus said of the fortunate finder, "he goes off happy, sells everything he owns, and buys up his new find" (Mt. 13:34-36).
The result of my discovery of God's personal plan for me is that I can begin to become a new kind of person, fully alive, living up to my true capabilities. This discovery can give me a new lease of life; a joy I have never known before.
This discovery of WHAT GOD WANTS ME TO BE AND DO FOR HIM is not only my opportunity to share, personally, in the mission of Jesus.
This discovery and my response can also become both a process of personal growth and a process of personal fulfilment. This is the discovery of my personal vocation: my realization of why I was born.
For us Associates, this personal growth process takes place in three stages. The technical name for this process is "A Discernment Process". 1: STAGE ONE: The Basic Stage, without which the other stages cannot take place.
Simply stated, I must learn how to pray - i.e. learn how to meet, speak and communicate personally with the living Jesus.
One of the simplest ways to learn how to do this is to quietly digest, saviour, seek and find the living Jesus in my daily (10 to 15 minutes) digesting the Good News that is the God-spel (God's spelling).
Jesus promised: "Seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you". Initial boredom or dryness is normal when one begins to learn the Art of Prayer.
It is the same process as trying to learn a new language.
You are learning a new way of speaking to God, on a person to person basis!
As you prayerfully read, digest and reflect on what you read in the Gospels, that is, whenever you 'see1, 'hear', 'feel', 'meet' or 'experience' something about Jesus, himself, or about what he says, make a note of it !
Gradually, over the weeks, months and years, your notes or your marked places begin to take a particular shape or design.
That shape or design becomes a profile of you, "the disciple whom Jesus loves".
This personally discovered shape or design can be called your own Fifth Gospel.
There are 2 main difficulties, or opponents, that will be met in Stage One: Number One: The devil himself: Satan hates Jesus, hates you for following Jesus. The Gospels show this: Matt 4:1-11; Mark, 1:12-13; Luke, 4:1-13; Epistle to the Hebrews, 2:10-18. These temptations occurred even before Jesus began his apostolate!
If such trials happened to Jesus, it could be that you, too, may meet with temptations to "give up". Remember that your strength comes from Jesus, your teacher: "Do not be afraid, for I am with you, always...Only have faith in me" (Mt.11:27-28; Mk. 5:36; 6:50-51; Jo. 6:19-21).
Number Two: ME, MYSELF! What a bore! How tiring, how difficult!
It really is like being "in a desert".
Remedy: mainly, like Jesus in his agony in the garden, "he prayed the harder".
Really, this is a new kind of exercise - a way to become a better "athlete" for Christ. (I Cor. Ch.9, vv.24-27; II Tim. Ch.2, vv.3-13)
This stage is a "Tug-of-war": You are in the middle: between Jesus and Satan.
Where do you put your weight? If you succumb to your feelings of boredom now, it will be twice as hard to start again. Practice makes perfect! Conclusion:" He/She that stands firm to the end will be rescued". (Mt. 24:13)
I must act as if all depends on me, but also "knowing that Jesus is with me always, yes, to the end of time". (Mt. 28:20).
2: STAGE 2: My Associates become my support group. We are all in the same situation!
"Brother helped by brother is like a strong city".
"To help one another"- this is the basic reason for our regular meetings, especially for sharing our ideas and experiences regarding our MSC Spirituality, our Gospel readings and our "Faith Journey".
Sharing is not meant to be only an announcement of your "happy discoveries".
If you have "happy discoveries", that is excellent, share your happiness.
Sharing is really a form of helping one another to meet the Risen Jesus.
Those who "have met" Jesus show others how to "meet" Him.
(Cf. Gospel of St. John all Ch.20).
The sharing of initial difficulties is a form of mutual encouragement.
Gradually, by experience, the members of the GROUP becomes more aware of one another, more sympathetic to and more understanding of one another, more capable of supporting and encouraging one another.
Group Meetings are not meant to be a boring duty.
In this way, my group becomes my new family.
Our meetings are a REUNION of brothers and sisters, who "have the same heart", the same Heart as Jesus.
3: STAGE 3:
THIS IS A HAPPY STAGE OF RECOGNITION OF YOUR PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT. After due consideration both by the Spiritual Director and by the persons concerned, a decision is reached as to who will take formal, public Promises as an officially recognized "Associate of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart".
These formal Promises are made in the presence of the members of your Community of Associates and an official of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. The Records of Official Membership are legally recorded in the Archives of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
The Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart has a strict obligation to support you as an Associate of the Sacred Heart.
These details of this support are spelt out in the official Constitutions of the Religious Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, (cfr. Appendix).
These Sacred Promises are the Promises of a Beloved Disciple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The duration of these sacred, binding Promises are gradual.
Initially, for one year. After that, or perhaps after an annual Retreat, one may make a renewal, either for another year, or for 3 years.
The final step, after due consideration both by the individual and the parent body (the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart), these Sacred Promises may be made for life.
Each Associate Member should have a copy of the HANDBOOK OF ASSOCIATES OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS. This Handbook is a holy book. Never destroy it. Never lose it.
Appendix 1. REFERENCE MATERIAL FOR M.S.C. ASSOCIATES.
FROM THE CONSTITUTIONS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE MISSIONARIES OF THE SACRED HEART. Part One.
Chapter 2: THE SPIRIT OF THE SOCIETY, nn. 6-19
N.6: With our Founder, we contemplate Jesus Christ,
united to his Father with bonds of love and trust.
Filled with his Holy Spirit', Jesus gave thanks to his Father
for having revealed himself to little ones;
for he was his Servant, deeply involved with the poor and with sinners.
In the words of Father Chevalier, "He was happy to pour out
the tenderness of his Heart on little ones and the poor,
on those who suffer and on sinners, on all the miseries of humanity.
The sight of any misfortune moved his Heart with compassion".
N.7: In Jesus we see the Good Shepherd who goes in search of those who are lost, who knows his own and gives his life to save them. He shows us the Father's deep concern for those who are considered unimportant and whose rights are disregarded. We learn from him who is gentle and humble of heart, who eases our burdens and gives us rest. He also makes demands and speaks with authority. To those who come to him, he gives his own strength and courage to help them live and work for justice and peace.
Jesus obeyed his Father's will and became the servant of his brothers and sisters,
even dying for them;
but his death was his victory.
Through it, God made him Lord, the first-born of a new People.
He is the Risen One, who casts out fear
in order to deepen our faith and love.
N.9: When he laid down his life, when his side was opened, he gave us his Spirit who pours love into our hearts and gives us the will to serve. Looking on him who was pierced, we see the new Heart that God has given us, an inexhaustible source of life.
N.10: As Missionaries of the Sacred Heart,
we live our faith in the Father's love revealed in the Heart of Christ. He want to be like Jesus who loved with a human heart; we want to love through him and with him, and to proclaim his love to the world.
N.11: Jesus is the perfect model of our consecrated life; his love is our inspiration and driving force.
Therefore our life and apostolate will be marked by a sincere and fervent love of the Incarnate-Word. That love will urge us constantly to share the sentiments of the Heart of Christ.
N. 12: Following the example of Jesus,
we will strive to lead others to God with kindness and gentleness, to unite them to him by love and to free them from fear. Trusting in God's grace, we will be ready, if necessary, to lay down our lives for them.
N. 13: The spirit of our Society is one of love and kindness, humility and simplicity;
it is, above all, one of love for justice and concern for all, especially the very poor.
N. 14: As Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, we must be convinced
of the necessity of a deep interior life that is open to the Holy Spirit,
so that we may grow in faith and knowledge
of the mystery revealed in the Heart of Christ.
This will give us the strength to remain faithful
to the mission and spirit of the Society.
N.15: The pierced Heart of Christ is the sign of the incarnate love of God.
For this reason, Devotion to the Sacred Heart, as understood by the Church, is devotion to the love with which God has loved us in Jesus Christ. At the same time, it expresses our love for God and for our neighbour. Faithful to the spirit of our Founder, we will give this devotion a special place in our spirituality and in our apostolate.
N.l6: He believe in God's love offered to the world but so often rejected by sin. By offering our lives with Jesus, we share in his redemptive work and we complete in ourselves what is lacking in his sufferings on behalf of his body, the Church.
N.17: In and through the Eucharist God renews his Covenant with us and we renew the gift of ourselves to him. Faithful to our tradition,
we acknowledge that this sacrament is central to our life of faith.
It is the source of fraternal love and of apostolic life.
N.18: Because Mary is intimately united to the mystery of her Son's Heart, we pray to her, as our Founder did, using the title of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. She has known the unfathomable riches of Christ; her whole being was filled with his love; she leads us to him, pointing to his Heart, the source of boundless love that gives birth to a new world.
N.19: We also honour Saint Joseph
and place ourselves under the protection of that faithful and just man,
who was so closely united in love with Jesus and Mary.
PART 2, CHAPTER 1. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PROFESSED MEMBERS AND ASSOCIATES.
N.61: It was part of the vision of our Founder to have an Association of lay . people closely united with the professed members in their spirituality and mission.
For this reason the Provincial Superior will promote this Association of lay MSC. He will also encourage the members of the Province to collaborate in this work. He will appoint a Coordinator to help in the development of this Association in relation to us while respecting its lay character. FIN.
APPENDIX 2: HOW TO FORM A GROUP OF MSC ASSOCIATES, (Cf. CHAPTER 13,)
1: Interested persons are free to form a Group of MSC Associates at any time or place.
If possible, prior consultation with some member of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart is recommended.
In each country where the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart are established, there is ah officially appointed
DIRECTOR OF MSC ASSOCIATES.
2: Regular monthly meetings, at an agreed place and time.
3: Suggestions for initial meetings:
- opening prayer or hymn.
- reading of the minutes of the previous meeting.
- discussion of a prepared text (cf. MSC Associates' Handbook)
- 30-40 minutes.
- discussion of a prepared text from the New Testament
- 30-40 minutes.
- discussion of any matters concerning the Group.
- agenda for the next meeting; nomination of the leader of the discussion session(s).
- light refreshments; final prayer (hymn).
Normally, each meeting can be concluded within 2 hours.
4: Members decide their Chairperson and Secretary.
It is recommended that the Secretary keeps a record of the meetings, and that the minutes of the previous meeting be read at each meeting.
5: A member of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart should be invited to attend as "regular chaplain". This involves consultation with the DIRECTOR of MSC ASSOCIATES
6: After about one year's experience, the members would discuss with their Director the matter and manner of making "Promises" as fully-recognised MSC Associates. It is the Director who would make the recommendations for acceptance of candidates by the Provincial Superior of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
7: The graduated stages of Promises is described in The MSC ASSOCIATES HANDBOOK, Chapter 13.
8: The celebration of the Public Profession of MSC Associates' Promises must be presided over by the Provincial Superior of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, or by his officially appointed representative.
At this celebration an official Badge of Associate Membership is blessed and presented to each new Associate Member.
The names of such Associate Members must be recorded in the official archives of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
9: It is important that all MSC Associates of each Region meet together with the representatives of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, at least once a year.
This is an occasion of mutual celebration, and a confirmation of the status of the MSC Associate members.
Appendix 3. Suggested Dally Prayers for MSC Associates.
A Prayer Book for the use of MSC Associates is available.
Two prayers, at least, should be among the DAILY Prayers of each Associate.
DAILY PRAYER OF FATHER JULES CHEVALIER (Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus).
Lord Jesus, Saviour or the world and source of holiness, look with kindness on all whom you have chosen to be . Associates and Missionaries of your loving heart. Ask your heavenly Father to keep us in your love,
and sanctify us in the truth so that you may be glorified in us
and we may reflect your goodness. Ask your Father to keep us from evil,
that we may always be united in the bonds of love. As you are one with the Father,
so may we be one with each other in your divine Heart.
whose sentiments shall forever be ours
and to which we consecrate ourselves in time and for eternity. AMEN.
DAILY PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART.
Remember, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart,
the great things the Lord has done for you. He chose you for his mother; He wanted you close to his cross; He gives you a share in his glory; He listens to your prayer.
Offer him our prayers of praise and thanksgiving; present our petitions to him.
Let us live like you in the love of your Son
so that his Kingdom may come. Lead us to the source of living water that flows from his heart,
spreading over the world hope and salvation, justice and peace.
See our trust in you; answer our prayer; show yourself always our Mother.
INTERNATIONAL Lay MSC http://www.laymsc.org/msc/renc9_en.htm
PNG Lay Associates https://sites.google.com/site/mscpngmain/