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Turn to Jesus (Article)

The Sacred Heart
Center and Source of the Spirituality of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement

Jesus and the Sacred Heart

Following is an article written by Fr. Luis Garza LC concerning the spirituality of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement and the Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion.  Written and published this past summer in Spanish, it has been translated for the North American audience.


Recently many have questioned whether the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement in fact have a specific charism. Some have even concluded that we do not.

I think Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal De Paolis have clearly stated that there indeed is a charism. During this renewal process, all the Legionaries, consecrated members and the 1st and 2nd degree members of Regnum Christi have been working on describing what the essential charism is that unites us.

Clearly Regnum Christi and the Legion have a charism – but what is it? With this personal reflection, I in no way am trying to come up with a formal study of the charism or a complete explanation. I simply want to put forward what I believe to be the source of our spirituality and the virtues that flow from it. The Constitution and Statutes review process will certainly end up expressing these ideas more clearly and with greater understanding.

Before speaking about the spirituality of the Legion and Regnum Christi, we first need to understand what a spirituality of a religious institute or of a movement (that is, of a charismatic reality in the Church) is.

An institute’s spirituality is the way that its members relate to God and the service they offer him. It is a unified whole composed of convictions and ideas that can be seen in the way the member lives his life.  The components of a spirituality are not separate truths -- as if they were loose pieces lumped together. Each element is related to the other components. Each way of understanding the Christian mystery (each spirituality) must give a complete vision and --while not leaving aside any truths of the Faith-- may emphasize certain aspects. This is what defines a spirituality as a spirituality.

The spirituality of a movement thus highlights some truths of the faith over others; it stresses some virtues without losing sight of the completeness of Christ’s example. It sanctifies its members and it also has a specific purpose; it makes use of certain characteristic means and spiritual practices. Even its liturgy, while faithful to the rubrics, takes on a specific character.

So what is the spirituality of the Legion and Regnum Christi?

I believe our spirituality is born from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is in this devotion and from this mystery that all the essential elements are fully explained.

There are three ways of understanding devotion to the Sacred Heart & its spirituality: 1) As one more devotion among the treasury of the Church’s devotional practices; 2) As a way of understanding the mystery of Jesus Christ which gives pride of place to some virtues that are related to the Heart: meekness, compassion, and so forth; 3) The conscience and humanity of Christ, in whom we have access to the mystery of God.

From the Legion´s beginnings, acts of devotion to the Sacred Heart were given great importance. Over time, these acts have fallen into disuse both in the Church and in Regnum Christi. Although traces of the devotion remain, such as the weekly Eucharistic hour with its purpose of reparation, the tradition of masses on the first Fridays of every month (one that is still practiced in some of our works of apostolate), the reparation to the Sacred Heart we do during the three days of Carnival, and so forth, these acts of devotion to the Sacred Heart no longer are given any particular importance.

It is not necessarily important to insist on the devotional practices in defining a spirituality. Many of these acts of devotion are indeed changeable and depend on social and cultural situations.
We still do, however, attach great importance to virtues that come from the mystery of the Sacred Heart:  a) the ardent love we have for God and, in Him, all people – such that we also burn to bring them the Gospel; b) the acceptance of the cross and suffering as the greatest proof of love; c) the gift and total oblation of ourselves to the point of shedding the last drop of blood; d) reparation and atonement for our sins and for the sins of all humanity; e) the mercy, kindness and charity of Christ´s own heart; f) the importance given to Christ’s humanity, etc. At the same time, our “Christ-centeredness” focuses primarily on the human person of Jesus, whose image is the heart of Christ. Our relationship with Christ is made real in relation to the incarnate Christ, who like us was born and who lived and died out of love for all. The Christ who lives in obedience to the Father, but also in obedience to St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin and all human authorities. The Christ who is poor and who gave himself totally to others. The Christ who is chaste, whose love is reserved for his Father and for men. The Christ who spares himself no fatigue to energetically announce the coming of the Kingdom. The Christ who learned suffering out of obedience and who takes upon himself the cruel sacrifice of the cross. The Christ who forms his apostles and then sends them to announce the coming of the Kingdom. The Christ who relates to his disciples, who enjoys the good things in life, acknowledging them as gifts and praising the Father. The Christ who makes his life a constant prayer.

The painting we call “the Legionary Christ” (Warner Sallman’s painting, the Head of Christ) has always hung in the most prominent places in our houses. I personally see these above-mentioned characteristics in this painting and, seeing this painting, feel drawn to love, imitate and follow Christ.

These are the fundamental traits of devotion to the Sacred Heart. It is necessary to say something more about what makes up this mystery and try to go to a little deeper in order to fit together the elements that underpin our spirituality. That is what I will try to do in the following pages.

History of the Sacred Heart´s Spirituality

In this section, I don´t intend to write a complete history of the spirituality because I am not qualified to do so. I only want to mention some aspects that will help us understand better the spirituality of the Heart of Christ.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart sprang from gazing on Christ’s pierced side and seeing his humanity. In other words, its base is the Incarnation and the essence of the devotion comes from the climactic moment of Christ’s mission here on Earth when blood and water poured forth from his heart. In this context, one can say that the elements that make up devotion to the Heart of Christ have always been present in the life of the Church and her spirituality, though perhaps not always so visibly.

The devotion as we know it today began in the Middle Ages in monastic spirituality (St. Bernard, St. Matilda, St. Gertrude). Jesus’ heart (the heart of the divine-human person of Christ as the source of infinite love) became the point of departure from which the movement of mystical love developed. From this pierced heart the gift of the Spirit comes, who descends into our soul to unite and incorporate us into Christ. St. Gertrude has visions of the Sacred Heart in which she reveals the infinite love of the Heart of Christ to humanity.

St John Eudes writes in Cœur Admirable: "Consider that the adorable Heart of Jesus is the principle and source of all the mysteries and states of His life as well as of all His thoughts, words, deeds and sufferings for our salvation. His heart burning with love prompted Him to perform all these things for us. Thus it is that we owe honor and love to this most amiable Heart for countless reasons, and to show our affection we must celebrate this Feast with all possible devotion… We must acknowledge our infinite unworthiness to take any part in the celebration of such a holy solemnity because it belongs to heaven rather than to earth; and because the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a feast of the Seraphim rather than of sinful men."

It was St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who received the apparitions of the Heart of Christ from which this devotion developed into its current form. We discover in the first apparition, which she recounted in a letter to Fr Croiset, the substance of the devotion.

She writes, "And He showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin into which Satan hurls such crowds of them, that made Him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure for Him all the honor and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which this Heart is the source. He should be honored under the figure of this Heart of flesh, and its image should be publicly exposed and even carried on my person over my heart so that He might imprint his love into it, fill it with all the gifts with which his own is filled, and destroy in it all inordinate affection."

This devotion was the last effort of His love that He would grant to men in these latter ages, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan which He desired to destroy, and thus to introduce them into the sweet liberty of the rule of His love, which He wished to restore in the hearts of all those who should embrace this devotion.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments summarizes this devotion as follows: "Devotion to the Sacred Heart was particularly strong during the Middle Ages. Many renowned for their learning and holiness developed and encouraged the devotion, among them St. Bernard (+1153), St. Bonaventure (+1274), the mystic St. Lutgarda (+1246), St Mathilda of Marburg (+1282), the sainted sisters Mathilda (+1299) and Gertrude (+1302) of the monastery of Helfta, and Ludolf of Saxony (+1380). These perceived in the Sacred Heart a "refuge" in which to recover, the seat of mercy, the encounter with him who is the source of the Lord´s infinite love, the fount from which flows the Holy Spirit, the promised land, and true paradise. In the modern period devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus underwent new developments. At a time when Jansenism proclaimed the rigors of divine justice, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus served as a useful antidote and aroused in the faithful a love for Our Lord and a trust in his infinite mercy symbolized by his Heart. St. Francis de Sales (+ 1622) adopted humility, gentleness (cf. Mt 11, 29) and tender loving mercy, all aspects of the Sacred Heart, as a model for his life and apostolate. The Lord frequently manifested the abundant mercy of his Heart to St. Margaret Mary (+ 1690); St. John Eudes (+ 1680) promoted the liturgical cult of the Sacred Heart, while St. Claude de la Colombière (+ 1682) and St. John Bosco (+ 1888) and other saints were avid promoters of devotion to the Sacred Heart." (CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SACRAMENTS, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, December 2001, nn.169- 170.)

With the passing of time, some aspects of devotion to the Sacred Heart and their meaning have become more fully understood. I would like to mention two in particular. The first is the link between the Sacred Heart and Christ the King and the second is its relationship to Divine Mercy.
These natural developments in the devotion have come about in different ways.

The relationship between the Sacred Heart and Christ the King was stated by Pope St Pius XI: "The way has been happily and providentially prepared for the celebration of this feast ever since the end of the last century. It is well known that this cult has been the subject of learned disquisitions in many books published in every part of the world, written in many different languages. The kingship and empire of Christ have been recognized in the pious custom, practiced by many families, of dedicating themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; not only families have performed this act of dedication, but nations, too, and kingdoms. In fact, the whole of the human race was at the instance of Pope Leo XIII, in the Holy Year 1900, consecrated to the Divine Heart." (PIUS XI, Encyclical Quas Primas¸11 December 1925, n. 26.)

The relationship with the infinite mercy of God was revealed to St Faustina Kowalska. Pope John Paul II said in his homily at her canonization: "Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus, quoniam in saeculum misericordia eius...Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever" (Ps 118: 1). So the Church sings on the Octave of Easter, as if receiving from Christ´s lips these words of the Psalm; from the lips of the risen Christ, who bears the great message of divine mercy and entrusts its ministry to the Apostles in the Upper Room:  "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.... Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20: 21-23).

Before speaking these words, Jesus shows his hands and his side. He points, that is, to the wounds of the Passion, especially the wound in his heart, the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity. From that heart Sr Faustina Kowalska, the blessed who from now on we will call a saint, will see two rays of light shining from that heart and illuminating the world:  "The two rays", Jesus himself explained to her one day, "represent blood and water"(Diary, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 132, John Paul
Homily of Canonization, 30 April 2000.)

In our own history, we cannot forget the spiritual environment into which the Legion of Christ, the first part of the Regnum Christi family, was born. Since the late 1800’s, devotion to the Sacred Heart spread rapidly in Mexico and frequently the Sacred Heart was enthroned in homes. These were very difficult years for the nation and for the Church. Mexico underwent a revolution that ended in 1917. Then a new constitution was written in which, for all practical purposes, the rights of the Church were denied. This was the situation from which the fight  for religious freedom would later spring.

Beginning in 1914, praying for a peaceful solution, the Mexican bishops sought to consecrate the country to the Sacred Heart and dedicate a large statue in his honor. This monument was finished in 1920. Built in Cerro del Cubilete, Guanajuato, it was at the geographic center of Mexico. In 1923, the foundation stone was laid for what would be an even larger and more impressive monument. However, between 1926 and 1928, Mexico suffered a bloody religious persecution and a war that produced countless martyrs who died shouting "Long live Christ the King." In 1928, after the war, the Mexican government destroyed the first monument. The present monument, that of Christ the King, was built in the ´40s, a sign that Mexicans, both bishops and the people, understood well the link between the Sacred Heart and Christ the King.
Because of this spiritual environment that existed in Mexico, and without doubt due to divine inspiration, the original name the founder gave to the Legion of Christ was "Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Sorrows." Although, as I have indicated, the early Legion made much more explicit reference to the Sacred Heart and placed much more emphasis on devotional practices directed to him than are common today, the spiritual heritage continues, because, as I will explain below, our entire spirituality from the beginning through to today is rooted in the Sacred Heart.

But it is also quite clear that the Lord’s inspiration did not stop at the centrality of the Sacred Heart, but our spirituality followed a natural development converging on Christ the King. Following the Legion of Christ’s foundation, over time groups of lay people were founded and all our ministry now revolves around the Kingdom of Christ. The movement was called "Regnum Christi." I think we can say that our spirituality moves between the two poles: that of the Heart of Christ and of Christ the King.

A Spirituality of Christ´s Heart

In this section, I want to reflect on the elements that comprise this spirituality of the Heart of Christ, bringing out what has been the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi’s spiritual heritage from the very beginning.

The spirituality of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi is essentially Christ-centered. That is, Jesus Christ is the source and model of every member’s life. However, I find that by focusing specifically on the Heart of Christ, we can discover those aspects of the life and person of Jesus Christ that reveal our identity and are more characteristic of us. I am not trying therefore to replace “Christ-centeredness” with the Sacred Heart. I simply want to specify what exactly Christ-centeredness is for us and thus discover the path that is most characteristic of us – most “our own.”

A.  Essential aspects of this spirituality

I. Love and mercy

a. Self-giving love and the concept of militancy

The Church’s tradition has always seen Jesus’ pierced side as the foundation for the theology and spirituality of the heart of Christ. St. John invites us to enter into spiritual intimacy with Jesus (Jn 19:37 : "They will look upon him whom they have pierced" which, in the words of St. Ambrose, is the secret room). According to exegetes, when St. John uses the verb "look," he refers to "seeing" with the eyes of faith so as to able to grasp the meaning of the symbol it represents.

By faith we come to know Jesus Christ´s oblation of himself as a son to the Father, and his great desire for our salvation, which is symbolized by His blood being shed for us. By the symbol of water we understand that Jesus gives us His Spirit so we can live for Him. Gazing “on Him whom they have pierced" is to a participation in the richness of the life of the Paschal Lamb who offered himself up for the salvation of the world.

The defining aspect of Christ´s heart is that it burns with love for all men. It is a heart that thirsts (exegetes see in the Gospel of John --John 19: 25-29-- an expression of the Divine Heart’s thirst for souls). It is the final moment of Christ’s life, when he has fulfilled all and offered all that he gives us the Spirit and the gift of Mary as our mother. Thus he institutes the path and life of the Church. As he departs, he gives us the treasure of his mother and the Spirit who will complete the work of the Father.

Following Christ’s example of loving oblation and self-giving, we should be ready for anything, offering our lives for others and surrendering ourselves out of love for the Father. Christ’s love gives us the courage and magnanimity (a concept that Pope Francis recently used in his "Address to Students of Jesuit Schools of Italy", Friday, 7 June 2013) to undertake great works of apostolate and go to the frontiers of evangelization; it causes us to give that little bit more love as we serve others and to look for more effective ways to ensure that Christ reigns in the hearts of every person, in culture and society, just as the Church has done from the beginning of its history. This love helps us to become all things to all people, going the extra mile to search for a soul despite the fatigue we might feel, and following Christ’s example in working so that everyone who is called becomes an apostle and a leader, sent (apostles) to influence others (leaders).

We live in this stream of God’s love and therefore are consumed with an ardent desire to make Christ known and loved more. We want every person, every family, every nation, culture and society to accept and be conquered by the “sweet empire of Jesus Christ.” No one can be excluded from this love and for this reason we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come!

It is within the desire to be more and more like Christ by our love for Him where our militant spirit finds its place: it is the militancy of love that impels us to look to do more and do everything with perfection and with great zeal.

b. Mercy and Charity

Christ’s love is such that it led to his death. It led him to give his life for the sheep, silently, without asking anything in return. Because of his love, he was ready to pour forth his mercy upon Judas, on the good thief and so many others. The good thief did not miss the opportunity because the slightest step towards him is enough for Christ to pour out his mercy and salvation.

We have already referred to the profound link the Sacred Heart has with the Divine Mercy as expressed in the apparitions to St. Faustina. In her diary she wrote these words coming from Jesus himself: "Every soul believing and trusting in My mercy will obtain it…The last hope of salvation for them is to flee to My Mercy….I am love and mercy itself. The souls who especially venerate and glorify My mercy… are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of hell. I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death."

Christ is love and mercy itself. His love is a love that forgives and raises mankind up out of its misery. It is here where the abyss of man’s misery meets with the infinite abyss of God’s mercy. Christ’s love offered up and made an oblation saves man, who was lost.

Only by experiencing this mercy in one’s own life can one in turn be merciful and forgive others.  All the members of the Movement greatly value the frequent reception of the sacrament of reconciliation in our own lives and with great great zeal we try to help others to understand its beauty and goodness. Legionaries are noted for their great love and priestly hearts when, in persona Christi, they hear confessions and serve as instruments of God’s mercy.

Without doubt, God has tried to teach us to see everything with eyes of mercy and forgiveness and not to set ourselves up as judges of our fellow brothers and sisters. Our recent history is truly a sign that we need to have a heart like Christ’s, meek and humble, understanding and full of goodness. Attentive and exquisite charity --that distinctive characteristic that has always been ours and is a reflection of Christ’s heart—springs from this.

There is another aspect of Christ’s merciful love I would like to highlight. It is related to what have been our life and our spirituality. Christ came to proclaim the Kingdom to the poor and it is mainly on them he pours out his mercy. In the world, many persons and even entire peoples suffer the sickness of poverty and injustice. We have always had in our constitutions and statutes apostolates in accord with our charism that promoted the human and social development of individuals. It is true that --the extraordinary works of apostolate begun and directed by lay members of the Movement and the Legion’s launching the Mano Amiga school network notwithstanding-- whatever we do will always be too little. Therefore, every one of us, both at a personal and institutional level, must ask if we live with austerity and witness to a life of poverty and if we are detached from everything. We must ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to promote the the human person and to proclaim the Gospel to the poor. This will certainly be a sign of the merciful love of God who works through us to bring His light and consolation to all men.

The world is sick from other forms of poverty as well: loneliness, abandonment, sadness, lack of faith, arrogance and self-sufficiency. There are plenty of rich people who are poor because they live in sin without knowing and loving Jesus Christ. Many of them surround us in this so-called post-Christian world where hope seems to have died despite people having everything at their disposal. We cannot be indifferent knowing that there are entire countries where practice of religion does not exceed ten per cent of population. St. Francis Xavier, writing to St Ignatius, told him that he longed to go and preach to European universities so that the students who were absorbed by their studies because they had “more learning than charity” would go to baptize and preach the gospel in the missionary countries and in particular in India. We must be both charitable and learned and be instruments of the Holy Spirit to bring the love of the Heart of Jesus Christ to many Christians who no longer recognize themselves as Christians and help them in their conversion.

The best way for us to confront and solve the poverty (both spiritual and material) in which the world is awash, is by living out our charism which seeks to establish the Kingdom by forming the apostle-leader. It will be these apostle-leaders who, united with us, will go into the entire world to preach the Good News and create a civilization of justice and love.

c. Reparation

Devotion to the Sacred Heart seeks among other things to make up for the offenses against his love. This reparation is the satisfaction offered to God to restore the sinners’ honor and inherent rights.

In this sense, reparation is an expression of love, as has been stated in the Encyclical Redemptor Miserentissimus written by Pius XII: "But to all these duties, more especially to that fruitful Consecration which was in a manner confirmed by the sacred solemnity of Christ the King, something else must needs be added… we mean that duty of honorable satisfaction or reparation which must be rendered to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For if the first and foremost thing in Consecration is this, that the creature´s love should be given in return for the love of the Creator, another thing follows from this at once, namely that to the same uncreated Love, if so be it has been neglected by forgetfulness or violated by offense, some sort of compensation must be rendered for the injury, and this debt is commonly called by the name of reparation." (PIUIS XI, Encylical Letter Miserentissimus Redemptor, 8 May 1928, n. 6.)

If we closely examine our history, we can easily discover that God is calling us again  to give importance in our spirituality to atoning and making reparation for our sins and those of our brothers. Certainly we cannot do this from self-justification’s high ground. Rather we must make reparation, humbly acknowledging our sins and knowing that God´s mercy alone is what obtains our forgiveness."

d. The Eucharist

Clearly in this context we can understand how we live our devotion to the Eucharist, the sacrament of love, and the radical importance we place not only on theory but on very personal and experiential Eucharistic devotional practices. The Eucharist for us really is our life, where we encounter the truth of who we are, the place of encounter with Christ our King and Lord, and our resting place. Besides being the sacrament of love, the Eucharist is the same mercy of God by which we receive the gifts of redemption. The Eucharist is, when it comes down to it, the only treasure you can bring to souls. We should not forget that we are bearers of His precious blood so that the Precious blood, as medicine, may heal the wounds of a sick and suffering humanity.

II. Christ´s Humanity

5. Reaching Christ through his humanity

In the Congregation for Divine Worship‘s directory quoted above (#166) it says:
"Understood in the light of the Scriptures, the term "Sacred Heart of Jesus" denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being, and his person considered in its most intimate essential: Son of God, uncreated wisdom; infinite charity, principal of the salvation and sanctification of mankind. The "Sacred Heart" is Christ, the Word Incarnate, and Savior, intrinsically containing, in the Spirit, an infinite divine-human love for the Father and for his brothers."

Christ’s humanity has always been one mode of accessing Christ. Our spirituality is “incarnational.” In his book, The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Fr Arnoudt, S.J. writes:
"Beware, therefore, My Child, lest thou hearken to them that say, that there is a higher and better road for more perfect souls; a way, not of My Heart, but of the mere Godhead, away, which, setting aside or overlooking My Humanity, can lead thee in a sublime manner to thy end, through the Divinity alone. Whosoever says this to thee, be he a man or an Angel, believe him not, trust him not. For, through My Humanity, I came to men: and, through this same Humanity, must men come to Me."

We relate to Christ who became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin, who was born in Bethlehem, who was shown to the world, who preached the Gospel and performed miracles. We relate to the Christ of Gethsemane, of the Trial at the High Priest’s house, and of Calvary, and to the triumphant Christ who conquers the world. Above all, we relate to Christ who forms and projects his apostles to go first to the towns and villages of Galilee, but later throughout the whole world proclaiming the gospel.

f. Consequences of travelling this path towards Christ

The most important consequence that comes of walking this path to reach God is that our spirituality gives a correct importance to human nature. We even have a maxim: "first the man and then the saint." We don’t envision a purely spiritualized Christianity, filled only with liturgical gestures. We conceive it instead as “real life” – full of the scars of those who confront the weight of their misery. We know that grace does not destroy nature, but rather presupposes it, perfecting it to enable us to reach God.

There is a whole program of life and a deeper understanding of the mystery of Christian life here! There is also an important ascetic path to achieve, so that by grace nature becomes identified with Christ and we attain the virtues necessary to imitate and follow Jesus Christ. We should beware the danger here of sidelining grace and falling into a somewhat voluntaristic way of approaching the spiritual life. This way of seeing our spirituality would suck people’s spiritual life dry and cause them great frustration. Nevertheless, we are aware of the need to collaborate freely with grace. Everything must be understood through the prism of substantial humility that, following Christ’s example, makes us realize who we are and helps us to be convinced deep down in our hearts of the need for God’s grace and mercy of God.

Another consequence is that we treat people we encounter in our apostolic activities with "humanity" and simplicity. Our relationship with them should be filled with the warmth and closeness that Christ showed in his dealings with those he encountered. We seek to put people at the center and help in all aspects of their lives so that Jesus Christ reigns entirely in the person’s life.

And lastly, we know that all human experience has been touched and raised up by the Incarnation and Christ’s humanity. Because of this we benefit from the good things God gives us, and we learn to value both the beauty of nature and the creations of the human spirit: art, music, and so forth.

III. The Kingdom

a. The Sacred Heart and the Kingdom

Pius XI said the purpose of the feast of Christ the King was to fulfill, to bring to perfection and to reaffirm the consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart made by Leo XIII. The feast of Christ the King is therefore the development of consecration to the Heart of Christ.

In fact, in the Encyclical Annum Sacrum Leo XIII says: "For by consecrating ourselves to Him we not only declare our open and free acknowledgment and acceptance of His authority over us, but we also testify that if what we offer as a gift were really our own, we would still offer it with our whole heart." (LEO XIII, Encyclical Letter Annum Sacrum¸25 May 1899, n. 7.)

By consecrating the world, Pope Leo XIII, on behalf of all mankind, declared and accepted the royalty of the Heart of Jesus. Later, Pope Pius XI would reaffirm this by declaring the Feast of Christ the King. For both Popes, the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the Sacred Heart are the same thing, namely, Christ reigning with his Heart and his love.

In Miserentissimus Redemptor, Pius XI wrote: "Now when we did this, not only did we set in a clear light that supreme sovereignty which Christ holds over the whole universe, over civil and domestic society, and over individual men, but at the same time we anticipated the joys of that most auspicious day, whereon the whole world will gladly and willingly render obedience to the most sweet lordship of Christ the King. For this reason, We decreed at the same time that this same Consecration should be renewed every year on the occasion of that appointed festal day, so that the fruit of this same Consecration might be obtained more certainly and more abundantly, and all peoples might be joined together in Christian charity and in the reconciliation of peace, in the Heart of the King of kings and Lord of lords." (PIUS XI, Encyclical Letter Miserentissimus Redemptor, 8 May 1928, n. 5.)

St. Margaret recounted in the first revelation that the goal of Christ´s loving redemption was "to withdraw them from the empire of Satan, which He intends to destroy, and in order to put us under the sweet empire of His love."

b. What “Kingdom” means

We have always spoken of the Kingdom and we use the concept at all times. What exactly is the Kingdom? I am not going to define it or attempt a theological explanation. I propose these ideas as personal reflections that perhaps can illustrate the elements of this concept.

First of all, the Kingdom is not a univocal term. It is a reality with different meanings depending on context.. Generally it is the expression of the Lordship of Christ over all creation and in each of our lives.

  • The Kingdom is the entirety of the Church, not just the Church on earth: To establish the Kingdom is to make Christ’s presence more complete, more definitive throughout all creation. Our work for the Kingdom is bound together with the men and women who throughout history and in the future have been, are, or will be walking the path that we are on, who are following Christ. We cannot forget this characteristic of the cosmic and eternal kingdom. This zeal to bring about the Kingdom more fully in this world is a zeal of love for the Church, for the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ and head of the Church, the bishops and pastors and all the faithful. This Church is our home and our family.
  • The Kingdom in the community and family: We are not alone in the fight, because we are supported by the prayer and intercession of the saints in heaven; by so many good souls on earth; and united also with all those who in Purgatory are purifying their lives so as to be able to enter eternal glory. Every good deed, every action in accord with God’s plan, raises humanity up and conforms it more to Christ. The people whom God in his Providence have linked to our lives (I am thinking mainly of our own families and communities) are those who make the Kingdom real, because in this union we become more and more a reflection of the Trinity and fulfill more perfectly God’s plan. There is a direct flow of graces from one another so as to enrich each other until Christ is all in all.
  • The Kingdom in our own lives: More directly and immediately, this kingdom is a reality in our own lives. Establishing the Kingdom means each one of us personally identifies more with Christ, we become his close followers, and our lives becomes a reflection of Christ’s life, thus fulfilling God’s will for us. The Kingdom of Christ is not only an exterior reality that touches the outer sphere of the person. It is rather a Kingdom that is primarily inside each person. By grace, the person changes his will to identify with Christ’s. In his thoughts, there is no room for any thought except for those about the Kingdom and love. His feelings are permeated with those of Christ. His whole being becomes more and more like Christ. He imitates Christ’s life, follows His doctrine and loves what He loves. There is nothing in that person that remains outside the influence of the Kingdom. In truth we are “Christified.” I need to clarify what “permeated with Christ’s feelings" means. It is not a work of self-will or of asceticism, even though some asceticism is needed on the path of purification and preparation. The Kingdom is a kingdom of grace, not a kingdom of this world. It does not come about because of human effort, but because of the mercy and goodness of God. It is our duty to beg for grace, appealing to the mercy of the One who desires all men to be saved. Still, some “fight” and some asceticism will be part of our daily lives on the path to purification.
  • The Kingdom in society and culture: The Kingdom is built in society and culture as well. These structures  are necessary for people to live. Establishing the Kingdom means associating these structures more and more with God´s plan for the world, allowing Christian life to flourish in its fullness. Even structures can be conformed to Christ and what He wants for us.

In the end, what we seek is the glory of God through establishing the Kingdom of Christ. We know that Christ´s kingdom suffers violence and the “only by force they take it.” So we are contemplative and conquering, because evil must be conquered by good, hate by love, pride by humility.

B. What flows from this spirituality

I. Obedience

When we come to Christ by way of his humanity, we can’t help but discover that obedience to the Father is an essential aspect of knowing Jesus. His whole life was an act of surrendering himself to the Will of the Father out of love. Christ is in the bosom of the Father, and this embrace is the basis and motive of his obedience. It was necessary to fulfill the scriptures by fulfilling God´s plan because Christ and the Father are one. But at the same time, by Christ’s human nature, there is an obedience that required human mediation and even brought Christ to be crucified. Christ learned obedience through suffering. Here is the true redemptive sacrifice of Christ’s Heart that out of love and obedience to the Father gave himself to all men.

The basis of our obedience is faith and it thus takes on special value. Obedience is the sure way of identifying with and following Christ. And not in the external sense only: to enter the mystery of Christ’s obedience is to enter the mystery of his heart. By obedience we also make our lives a sacrifice and so establish the Kingdom. That’s why obedience is so important for us -- and while it is very demanding, yet it is also liberating.

By obedience we want to fulfill God’s will and be coherent in how we live our lives. In order to do this we need a humility like Christ’s, who allowed himself to become man out of love.

II. Mary´s role in Christ’s redemption

I mentioned above that when the Sacred Heart says he thirsts in the final moment of his life, he entrusts to us the Spirit and gives us Mary as mother. A sword of pain pierces her heart and the exchange of a Son for sons is made. At that moment, in a mystical way, this story of Mary´s love for us all began. From that moment on, we can look to Mary as Mother of consolation and hope, companion for the journey, intercessor, sweet shepherdess, our life´s guide, a model of virtue and an ally in our efforts to bring the love and mercy of God to all men.

St. John Eudes was the first to propose the alliance of the Heart of Christ and the Heart of Mary. The sword of sorrow united for ever these two hearts and when we go to Mary, she leads us to know Christ’s heart. John Paul II used this same idea when he said: "At the foot of the Cross, we meet Mary, the Sorrowful Mother. We remember her the day after commemorating the Exaltation of the Cross. When the Centurion’s lance pierced Christ’s side, in her the prophetic words of Simeon were fulfilled ´and you yourself a sword will pierce´ (Lk 2, 25) The prophet’s words announce the definitive alliance of the Hearts: Christ’s and the Mother’s, and the Mother’s and Christ’s. “Heart of Jesus, in which dwelt the fullness of the Divinity”. Heart of Mary - Heart of the Sorrowful Virgin - Heart of the Mother of God. May our prayer at the hour of the “Angelus Domini” be joined today to that of the admirable Alliance of the Hearts!" (John Paul II, Angelus, 15 September 1985.)

Because of this union, Our Lady of Sorrows is our patron, because under this title Mary teaches us to stand at the foot of the cross and to gaze at Him who was pierced, to understand Christ’s infinite love for humanity, and to understand as well that we are instruments of this love. With her, we learn that the life of a Christian is marked by suffering, the cross, and obedience, characteristic elements of following Christ. Mary is with us to make our life less heavy, to form our hearts and to help us to gaze always at Heaven with hope-filled eyes.

III. The Holy Spirit

At the end of his Life, just as Christ entrusted to us His mother, he also gave us the Spirit. The Church’s life began under the sign of hope. We are all aware that the Holy Spirit is the author of our holiness: he who makes every good deed, he who inspires changes of heart and apostolic projects. Our devotion and vision of the Holy Spirit as the sweet guest of our souls seeks to discover how it is that the Spirit establishes the Kingdom and brings it to reality in the lives of people, families, society and culture.


I want to end by explaining our shield. As we know, it is not an emblem we came up with but is shared by many groups in the Church. In it are marked the principal characteristics of our spirituality.

In the heart we see Christ’s humanity, his Incarnation. We relate to the person of Christ, the living Christ who was born, who preached, formed apostles, died and rose for us. This heart is inflamed with love. It is a love for the Father that expresses itself in love for all men, one that gives the last drop of blood, without expecting anything in return. It is a total love, one that radically consumes the Heart. From this love, we derive the urgency of the mission, as the charity of Christ impels us (cf. 2 Cor 5:14).

It is a heart crowned with thorns. Grace can make suffering, when it is freely accepted and offered up, a path of spiritual realization and a privileged way to obtain graces for others.
But it is also a heart that is at the cross´ center, the instrument par excellence of God´s mercy.  When we identify with the cross of Christ we make it our mission to offer Christ´s mercy to all men.

And lastly, the letters "ART" ( Adveniat Regnum Tuum! -- in English Thy Kingdom Come!), each letter at the furthest parts of the cross, indicate that the desire of the Heart of Christ is to reign in the hearts of men, family, society and culture.

The entire emblem is placed in the middle of two sectors, one red and the other white (the colors of the Legion´s flag). Red speaks of blood and suffering offered up. White, of the purity of love.
With this explanation I conclude this reflection. If indeed this is the center and source of our spirituality, we should honor and refer to the Sacred Heart and his infinite love for our fellow men in the following areas:

  • In our formation: in order to live a love full of meekness and mercy, a love of reparation, being militant and having zeal for souls and establishing the Kingdom seeking God´s glory and being able to accept suffering and give ourselves without reserves out of obedience and the self-offering of our lives.
  • In our liturgy: so as to be able to understand the centrality and links among the solemnity of the Sacred Heart, of Christ the King, and Our Lady of Sorrows (which the Church has approved our celebrating with the status of a Solemnity)   as well as Pentecost - seeing how the Holy Spirit is the gift of Christ´s Heart to his Church and he is what sustains our apostolic efforts.
  • In our prayer and devotions (so that the contemplation of these mysteries becomes our spiritual nourishment and we rediscover the true meaning of some of our characteristic practices.
  • In how we transmit our spirituality (so that the synthesis of our spirituality and explanation of our apostolic charism spring from the Heart of Christ).



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