As most Catholics universally know that June is dedicated to the special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I would like to reflect on that very subject. Months ago, in a grocery store which had a 'latino' food aisle which was incidentally the main arterial passage to the back of the store, I was picking out tortillas when this teenager and her mother came to the section of religious candles for home altars. Now, this store is in a town called Lynden, WA, where it is something of a world record for having more churches than people in a given measured area. (I can't remember the exact detail on it, but you can look it up.) Now Lynden is a Dutch town - if you are born there, odds are 2:1 you are related to half of the town's residents. It is (being Dutch) predominately Protestant, with the First Reformed Netherlands Congregational Church, also known as the First Reformed Church, close to the First Reformed CHRISTIAN Church, and a few blocks away the Third Reformed Church couples with Christ the King Evangelical Church, close to St. Joseph's Church, which is but a couple of miles from the Second Reformed Church which is now the Faith Community Church. Then, there's the Baptist Church, and the Lutheran Church, and on and on and on! So, I am in the 'latino' aisle deciding on tortillas when curiosity overcame the teenager and she went to look at the candles. The first one she looked at just blew her away. "The Sacred Heart of Jesus !?! What's that supposed to be?" Before I could say anything within an earshot, her mother came back from the bread section (closer to the front of the aisle) to retrieve her daughter who was beginning to get stares of sad attention from those few shoppers around her. She reminded me very much of a blond cheerleader, not just in the fact that she looked like one, but that she couldn't shut up long enough to process her thoughts to herself. No, she had to have everyone's attention that there was this candle with a devotional picture of Jesus' Sacred Heart exposed that people worshipped. I'm going, "Oiy." Here in this over populated church town of 'pious' Dutch, the thought that Jesus gave us His Life so that we might live, WITH ALL HIS HEART, didn't even register to this teenage girl that it paralleled (poorly, I admit) with a high-school sweetheart offering her gifts and goodies and all his love to her WITH HIS OWN fallible, weak heart... As they left I was partially berating myself for not going over to her to explain this concept to her, but mostly praying that God would hit her with a two by four to realize that the Sacred Heart of Jesus was the temple of His love for us...all of us! No exceptions!
Pitiful a devotee as I am, I more practice devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. (If you want more info on that devotion, leave a comment and I'll get back to you.) My mother is the one with more devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus. In fact, thanks to an Etsy shopkeeper, Alexandra C., mom will be getting a very special medal for her birthday which falls on the same day of Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist. I can never forget the 24th of June. But as we start this month of June, a major change is taking place in our parish, Sacred Heart. Our priest of these past six years is leaving tomorrow to enter a Benedictine monastery. I cannot put into words how and what I feel about this. I only pray for his protection. But he's in a much more experienced state and age than I was when I entered the convent. He is an exceptional priest. Of him it can be truly said that he was loved because he loved his flock as Christ did, and laid down his life for his friends (i.e. worldly desires, other vocations and occupations he could have pursued). I wish I could have told him that - in spite of a sizable number at mass tonight, when he was explaining how he interpreted our love for him during his sermon, I wanted to stand up and clarify to him what I just wrote for you. Stumbling through a sermon not only on the Holy Trinity but one on how we have changed his life and left an imprint on his heart over the past six years, I smiled and looked at the crucifix in my hands. I would tell him later, when we would say goodbye for the last time. But after mass, the whole congregation was lined up to give him their fondest wishes and personal goodbyes. Since I had written to him several times since he announced that he was leaving, mom and I sort of squeezed out the crowded entry and left before the parking lot wars ensued. (That's an exaggeration - there are no wars, but there is a lot of stop and go traffic between people trying to get out asap and those who are overly polite and won't shift until those from different lot sections have a chance to make it to the driveway.)
Although I bought ex voto images of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary to display in my room, there's something just not eye-catching, I guess you'd call it. This is only the second day of June; the first one already sent me into a flurry of activity and the ultimate emotional breakdown by 3 PM trying to make class arrangements to attend Bellingham Technical College. Yes, Fridays are always rough for true Christians - in some way we all participate in the Passion of Jesus every Friday. It is part of our spiritual lives. I know the official feast of the Sacred Heart falls mid-June, and I think the minor feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary follows it, but it's been too long since I looked at a church calendar. I don't do the Liturgy of the Hours anymore, since I left the convent. Until today, I had many, many chaplets plus the rosary that I prayed. But I have let myself, in moments of feeling fidgety, become distracted very much in prayer. Any saint can be quoted: "It is better to say one Our Father with fervent devotion than to pray a thousand, lost in distraction." The Bible quotes Our Lord saying "these people honor me with their lips, but not their hearts." Yes, now I understand the old proverb that the best intentions pave the road to hell - mostly from experience in the convent and since. So I did heartfelt prayers to each saint instead of the many chaplets contained in two different jewelry boxes as there are so many, and settled for that and the Divine Mercy chaplet and the rosary I still need to pray. I feel peaceful. I later went back and did 3 of the chaplets purely out of love for God. I know they say to pray, especially when you don't feel like it, but in some cases that just doesn't work. So, as I sign off to pray my rosary for the intentions of the Sacred Heart, I encourage you to reflect on the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a temple of His love for us, and there is nothing too big that with Him we can't handle. If He brings you to it, He will bring you through it!