Light and Life – May-June 2021, Vol 74, No 3 – A Publication of the Western Dominican Province
[Fr. Peter Do, OP entered the Western Dominican Province in 2001 and was ordained to the presbyterate in 2009. He has served in campus ministry, parochial ministry, and as Promoter of Campus Ministry for the Western Province. He currently serves as the Prior at Holy Rosary Priory in Portland, Oregon.]
Reflecting on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I can recall vividly my first encounter with this devotion a few years ago. I was taking a break and skiing with a priest friend in the snowy mountains of Colorado. At the time, I was also helping out at the local parish. After an early morning Mass one day, a parishioner who happened to be a ski instructor came up to us, aware of the fact that we both enjoyed skiing, he offered to give us free skiing lessons. Since we were both amateur skiers, we immediately and gladly accepted the offer. This ski instructor did make one request which he said he would share with us only after the skiing lessons. So after a day of lessons, we sat down with him for dinner. Curious to know what he wanted from us, we asked him about the special request. Initially, I thought that he wanted a special Mass intention. I was surprised when he asked us to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus! Specifically, he wanted us to preach on First Friday devotions.
Surprised by this request, I asked him how and why he wanted us to focus on preaching about the Sacred Heart and First Friday devotions. He began to share with us his conversion story. Of course, with his permission, I would like to share with you his story. Before his conversion to the Catholic faith, he had reached a very dark and lonely period in his life. Filled with despair, he had contemplated thoughts of ending his life. One day as he sat in the kitchen with a knife on the table, he tried to grab the knife. But inexplicably, he felt a force preventing him from reaching for the knife. Thinking that he was not making enough of an effort, he continued to force himself to grab the knife with both his hands. Then all of a sudden, this invisible force pulled him and the chair he was sitting on eight feet away from the table. Almost immediately he felt that an incredible feeling of love enveloped him. It was a feeling of being loved unconditionally. He had never felt like this before in his life. He didn’t quite understand what it all meant. Eventually, he went to church and talked with the pastor about the experience, but still didn’t quite understand it all. The priest continued meeting with him and one day while the priest was talking about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it all came together. What he experienced on that day when he was overwhelmed with love was what the priest described as the Sacred Heart, the chief sign and symbol of the love Jesus had for him. It was this experience and this understanding of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was the pivotal moment when he knew he was called to become Catholic.
As I reflect on this conversion story and my subsequent devotion to the Sacred Heart, this verse from Scripture comes to mind: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart” (Mt 11:28-30). There will be times in life when we feel lonely, exhausted, and frustrated, Jesus invites us in this passage to place ourselves, our worries and fears, into His sacred, gentle, and humble heart. His heart has already been pierced for us. From his wounded heart, we can experience his infinite love for us. From His Sacred Heart, blood and water flow to overwhelm us with unfathomable love.
[Jesus] has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, ‘is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that… love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings’ without exception.(Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Haurietis Aquas (1956)(CCC 478)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes these very words to stress the importance and purpose of this devotion (cf. CCC 478). This devotion continues to strengthen our Catholic faith to the present day. This year, the Solemnity Most Sacred Heart of Jesus will be on Friday, June 11, 2021. The following day, we will celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us not forget the Heart that was closest to the Heart of Jesus!
The Holy Heart of St. John Vianney
Over the years, the Sacred Heart of Jesus has become more and more the sign and symbol of my priesthood. As the eternal High Priest, Jesus offers the sacrifice of Himself on the cross. I believe the priesthood flows from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and calls all priests to give of themselves to the service of the Church and the people of God. A few years ago when I was traveling to a conference, I was surprised one morning as I was preparing to concelebrate Mass with a few hundred other priests present, the conference organizers said that they had a first class relic of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. Any priest who wanted an opportunity to venerate the relic were given the chance. At first, I thought the relic might be a small vial of his blood or a piece of his bone. Out of curiosity, I approached the relic after waiting in line. What I saw was the complete heart of the saint, still physically and completely intact! As I knelt to venerate this relic, I thought of two things: first, this saint can truly “read” a person’s heart. Secondly, this saintly priest truly had a heart that was modeled after the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In silence, I asked the intercession of this saint to be a better priest and to have a heart more like the heart of Jesus. Now, I ask for your prayers for me and for all priests throughout the world. It is not surprising that a few years ago, I discovered that the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests takes place every year on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests was established by Pope St. John Paul II in 2002 and encourages priests to reflect upon the importance and dignity of their vocation.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Most Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us. St. John Vianney, pray for us.
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is Thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37-38
Note from the Director – Update on the Rosary Center Renovation
Dear faithful supporters of the rosary center & confraternity, many of you helped us this past year by making a special gift to the rosary center renovation project.
To date, with your support, we have raised $513,000, which is a little over half of our goal! We could not fulfill our mission if not for you, our benefactors. If you are able, please consider making a special gift to help us make badly needed repairs, and to refurbish the offices, chapel, and kitchen. Thank you for your generosity!
Fr.Joseph Sergott op, director of the rosary center
& promoter of the rosary confraternity.
Rosarycenter.org, (503) 236-8393