Sacred Heart of Jesus — Tough Love

It took me a while to appreciate the Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion. To tell the truth, as a convert, it all seemed kind of sappy, sentimental and well, French. All hearts and flowers and perfume–almost like a Valentine from Jesus. Yucch.

But then I learned about St Margaret Mary Alacogue and realized that she (like all the saints) was pretty tough. The saints inevitably endure some sort of suffering in their identification with Christ, so it has to be that Christ’s love–shown in the Sacred Heart of Jesus is everlasting love–but it is also tough love.

C.S.Lewis once wrote to a friend who had lost his wife and was questioning the love of God. He said that his friend was experiencing “a severe mercy”. When thinking about the love of God it is absolutely vital that we keep this in mind. God’s love is unconditional and everlasting, but it is also a tough love. I’ve written here about “Rooster Cogburn Catholicism” a Catholicism that is tender but tough. One of the most terrible things about modern Christianity is that we have forgotten this. In an attempt to please everyone we’ve turned Christianity into a soft and sentimental self help philosophy. Read more.

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  • Christian

    “…it all seemed kind of sappy, sentimental and well, French.” Wow. Growing up in Louisiana, the Sacred Heart was treated as serious as cancer. Never occurred to me til just now that it could seem otherwise.

  • Patrick

    Yeah; it’s funny how a convert walks into the Church and criticizes something for being “too-much-like-a-country-that-remained-loyally-Catholic-for-several-centuries.” If the Sacred Heart is “too French”, hand me a beret and a long cigarette: we should be so French!

  • Dwight Longenecker

    You do understand that I now love the devotion to the Sacred Heart and was only admitting my prejudice..I’m a Francophile too, but am not real impressed with the Catholicism in that country these days!

  • Christian

    ” …sappy, sentimental and well, French. All hearts and flowers and perfume–” This is how St. Therese strikes me.


  • SKay

    At the time that I grew up in central Louisiana, there was a big difference between north and south Louisiana when it came to religious affiliation and knowledge of the Catholic faith.

    Thank you for your post, Father I always appreciate your perspective. My ancestory on my father’s side is French–and I ceertainly agree with you about what seems to be happening in France these days.

  • Christian

    “there was a big difference between north and south Louisiana” Yes. What a culture shock it was to venture north of Baton Rouge into the dry toast of Baja Arkansas.

  • Christian

    SKay, my family comes from Houma.

  • Joe

    This reminds me of the fact that Jesus is a lion and a lamb…not just a lamb. And to be honest, I can’t stand French culture, but I love the sacred heart.

  • Sue in Japan

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only convert that didn’t “get” the Sacred Heart devotion at first. The feast being this week I have done some digging and reading and it’s just becoming a little more clear to me. I just didn’t really get what in the world it was all about! Your post helped me peel back one more layer. Thanks, Father!

  • Sid

    Fr. Dwight…. Thanks for sharing your insight on The Sacred Heart…. I needed it this morning!

  • olaf’s kid

    Those of you who seem to be criticizing the writer for his pre-Catholic impressions of the Sacred Heart devotion (“all hearts and flowers and perfume”) are missing the point. That’s how non Catholics see this devotion, and that is tragic, given its power and theology. But just try explaining love for the Sacred Heart to a non Catholic who is looking at a painting of Jesus looking like a Beverly Hills interior decorator and holding His Heart in His hand. Come on! Surely there is a better way to artistically represent this great devotion. The Church has a surfeit of writers, now where are her artists for the 21st century?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    This is why I called the post ‘tough love’ and linked to a post on Rooster Cogburn Catholicism.

  • Joe

    Child of Olaf, if you haven’t noticed, it’s much easier to blab a bunch of rhetoric mixed with theology and gain a following than to invest the time and energy into making either beautiful art, music, or literature. We need more leaders that care less about “being right” and more about genuine evangelization. Fr. Dwight is one of the few bloggers I follow, because I sense he really does this out of a charitable heart, and writes well in the process.

  • callis

    I am born Catholic and have no particular interest in the arts, yet the hundreds of sentimental, sugary, artistically horrible paintings of the Sacred Heart do represent a significant obstacle for me. The attributes of flames and thorns are overwhelmed by false softness and sentimentalism. Thanks for the post that points to the right direction! Where are true artists who do the same?