The devotion involves a prayer of consecration, but more importantly, a pledge to live a life of virtue united to Jesus Christ.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is ancient, finding its inspiration in various passages in the Bible. However, a more focused devotion was promoted by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century, including a specific “consecration.”
The consecration promoted by St. Margaret Mary was intended to unite the Christian faithful more closely to Jesus, looking to the example of St. John the apostle, who “reclined upon [Jesus’] chest during the supper” (John 21:20).
This image of resting upon the Heart of Jesus became a principal motivator behind this devotion, symbolizing a deeper relationship with Jesus.
The Directory on Popular Piety explains the spiritual requirements this devotion entails, specifically the act of consecrating oneself to the Heart of Jesus.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a wonderful historical expression of the Church’s piety for Christ, her Spouse and Lord: it calls for a fundamental attitude of conversion and reparation, of love and gratitude, apostolic commitment and dedication to Christ and his saving work.
To consecrate oneself to Jesus Christ is to pledge your life to Jesus Christ, making an intentional promise to reform your life and act with love.
St. John Paul II affirmed this essential ingredient to the devotion, highlighting it in his letter On the 100th Anniversary of the Consecration of the Human Race to the Divine Heart of Jesus.
Every member of the Church is invited to see consecration as the giving and binding of oneself to Jesus Christ, the King “of prodigal sons”, the King of all who are waiting to be led “into the light of God and of his kingdom” … From the Heart of Christ, man’s heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love of God with love of neighbor.
For this reason, it is often suggested that Catholics go to confession before performing a formal act of consecration, renouncing sin and embracing the new life of virtue.
Besides these more abstract recommendations, there exists several different consecration prayers that put to words your desire to live united to Jesus. Often this prayer is recited while kneeling before an image or icon of the Sacred Heart, helping you to visualize what you are about to do.
Here is a prayer of consecration written by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque that summarizes these basic elements of the devotion, placing your entire self into the Heart of Jesus.
I consecrate and surrender to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, my person, my life, my difficulties and my sufferings, that I may henceforth live only for his love and glory. It is my firm and unwavering purpose to be his entirely, to do everything for his love and renounce wholeheartedly everything that could displease his divine Heart.O Sacred Heart, I choose You as the sole object of my love, the protector of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the support of my weakness and the atoner for all the sins of my whole life. O mild and bountiful Heart, be likewise my refuge at the hour of death, my justification before God, and ward off from me the penalty of his just wrath. O loving Heart, I place my trust entirely in You. While I fear everything from my own malice, I hope everything from Your goodness. Destroy in me whatever may displease You or be opposed to You, and let Your pure love imprint You so deeply upon my heart that it will be impossible for me ever to forget You or be separated from You.O Sacred Heart, by Your goodness, I implore You, let my name be deeply engraved in You, for in Your service and in Your love I will live and die.