When my wife and I were received into the Catholic church seven years ago, we received a gift of a framed picture of Jesus. In it, he holds his right hand up as though giving a blessing, and on his breast his heart is exposed for all the world to see. At the time, I liked the picture and appreciated the gift. We’ve lived in a few different houses since then and I have always hung the picture in a prominent place on the wall because, for us, it’s comforting. It helps make the house into a home and reminds us that God is watching over our family.
But I never realized how special that picture truly was until recently. This particular image, often referred to as The Sacred Heart of Jesus, hangs on the walls of countless other homes, too. A friend, Christine, says of hers, “I often pray before the image, feeling He is with us.” At this time of year when Christians pause to remember the Sacred Heart, I wonder if others are also taking a moment to gaze at their pictures and sense that God is watching over them.”
The Sacred Heart is popular because a woman named Margaret Mary Alacoque had a vision of Jesus in 1673, in which she rested her head on his heart. He told her, “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it spared nothing, even going so far as to exhaust and consume itself, to prove to them its love.”
As I have learned the origins of the image and fully understood that the heart of Jesus represents his love, it’s become even more meaningful. Here’s an image of the God who loves me so much that he’s willing to die so that I might live, and he’s with us right in our homes.
Jesus also gave St. Margaret Mary 12 promises. One of them caught my attention: “I will establish peace in their homes.” Our home is a madhouse. Last night alone, our toddler scooped out toilet water and spilled it everywhere, the two oldest daughters had a screaming match about ownership of a plastic mermaid brush and swore to never forgive each other as long as they live, and the two boys demanded that I teach them “pocket knife skills.” Sometimes it seems as if our family life is nothing more than an endless series of quarrels, and when it comes to peace in our home, I could use all the help I can get.
For those not familiar with it, reflecting on images like the Sacred Heart falls into the category of a “devotion,” which I like to think of as an external gateway that promotes internal spirituality. God designed us to encounter the world through our physical senses, to take joy in our surroundings, like a sunset, smiling baby, or photograph of the divine. There’s nothing wrong or even weird about finding comfort and beauty in a picture because ultimately it all leads right back to Him.
If my picture was to fall down and break, I wouldn’t worry that I’d murdered Jesus. I would go out and get a new one. I know in my mind that God is with me all the time, but it is a great help to actually see it — in much the same way as I express love for my children. It is great to tell them I love them and I try to do it often, but how much more do the words mean to them at bedtime when I hug and kiss each one as I say those three words?
God is always around and ready to listen, and hanging a picture of the Sacred Heart opens up a connection to Jesus that might not have existed before. A family that we are friends with, Wendy and Jeff, shared a similar experience they have with a Sacred Heart picture hanging in their home. Wendy told me, “We hung it up where Jeff could see it every morning before work … I walk up to it every morning and kiss my fingers, press them on the picture, and say good morning to Jesus.” This simple habit has made a difference in their home. “In the three years I have done this, my heart has changed,” Wendy says.
Our friend Maureen agrees, saying: “I have knelt and prayed before the picture many times when I’ve felt overwhelmed and His Heart reminds me that His love will take care of everything. I’m a worrier, but when I remember we’ve asked Jesus to be the king of our home and hearts, I know I have nothing to fear.”
Spirituality doesn’t have to be an elaborate, long prayer. It can be as simple as seeing the face of Jesus on the way out the door and remembering His love, or pressing a kiss to His face with the tips of your fingers, or making a silent commitment to share your heart with Him.
For me, it is most of all a reminder that our home is a place of joy and peace, and there is no hurt or evil or sin in the world that can separate us from the love of God.
5 Saintly quotes about devotion to the Sacred Heart