Feast of the Sacred Heart

Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ
Tomorrow we will celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart. On this day the Religious of the Sacred Heart across the world will renew our vows. Educators of the Sacred Heart will renew our commitment to Sophie’s vision as articulated in the Goals and Criteria. Vow renewal and promise renewal may be seen as an act of love since our spirituality is rooted in the desire to reveal God’s love in the heart of the world. As we pray for renewed energy in our vocations, we will hear these words:
Since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the
sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that
their legs be broken and they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the
first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and
saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into
his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his
testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe.
For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled: Not a bone of it will be broken.
And again another passage says: They will look upon him whom they have pierced.
The final words of this passage from John’s Gospel… They will look upon him whom they have pierced define the perspective of all who are members of the Family of the Sacred Heart.
Sr. Barbara Dawson, Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart, in her letter for the Feast reminds the Religious of the Sacred Heart that…
We are called to enter into the mystery of the open side of Jesus, to enter into Christ’s suffering and the suffering
of humanity and allow the depth of this suffering to transform us from the inside out into women of hope.
This call extends to all of us in the Family of the Sacred Heart.
It is not the first time, Sr. Dawson has urged the Family of the Sacred Heart to see reality through the lens of the pierced heart of Christ. In her letter on the Feast of Philippine, she invited us to enter into the year of prayer by asking Philippine to… “strengthen our capacity to contemplate and listen to the heartbeat of God in ourselves and in our world. May we, like Sophie and Philippine, be compelled by the love of the Heart of God, Jesus Christ. May we believe in a gospel vision beyond what we can see or imagine that ‘all may be One’ and act with courage, confidence and persistence to make this vision a reality.” During the Triduum we were asked these questions:
How is the pierced Heart of Jesus touching my heart, opening my being?
What are the "sufferings and hopes of humanity"
that call me to prayer,
invite me to cross "frontiers,"
move me to commitment and action?
All of these words, especially tomorrow’s Gospel have filled my mind and heart these days as we have remembered the life of Robert Kennedy. He is one who came to see reality through the pierced heart of Christ. Putting politics aside, just watching and listening to him as we have during these days of media coverage, we have actually witnessed conversion of heart.
I had just graduated from high school when Robert Kennedy was killed. I remember watching the TV early that morning around 3 a.m. because I wanted to see the results of the California primary. I am dating myself by writing this. It is impossible to know who among the readers remember those days of 1968…the sheer violence that had exploded in the country caused every person to want something different. I remember vividly how horrifying it was that spring to see cities across the country exploding in flames. The level of desperation was palpable. For a 14 year old, it was most disturbing and actually disillusioning. That spring especially after the horrifying assignation of Martin Luther King, I heard hope in Kennedy’s words. In statements like this one, he called us beyond despair into hope:

Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice,
that person sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million
different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down
the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
The truth is these words took on meaning for me the following fall when the RSCJ and Educators of the Sacred Heart whom I came to know as a freshman at Elmhurst reinforced what my parents had been encouraging me to believe - Christ counts on us to be beacons of hope, and grace enables us to be such people.
Tomorrow as I renew my vows as a Religious of the Sacred Heart, I will pray in thanksgiving for my family and those who taught me at Elmhurst and Manhattanville College. I will pray for all those across the world who have devoted their lives to engendering hope in young people. Coming to see the world through the lens of the pierced side of Christ is not easy. This perspective necessitates time and space to allow ourselves “to look,” “to perceive,” “to ponder,” “to consider deeply” the profound suffering of Christ and with and through Christ the suffering of our fellow human being. Young people need the inspiration and encouragement of adults to know that this perspective is essential and is one that grounds us in the truth of who all of us -- the Beloved of God. As the Society’s Constitutions state, "The pierced Heart of Jesus opens our being to the depths of God and to the anguish of humankind."  Following in the footsteps of Sophie and all who have gone before us, we act as Educators of the Sacred Heart with the desire to help all grow in dignity as human beings because we recognize all of us are endowed with the Spirit. To act in love is the greatest expression of Sacred Heart spirituality. Let us pray tomorrow for all Educators and Religious of the Sacred Heart that the same spirit that guided Sophie throughout her life strengthen and enlighten us. May we as Sr. Dawson as urged “pray together that this Spirit will give us the gifts we need to live deeply and united in this very important moment for the life of our world, our Church and our Society.”
Schools of the Sacred Heart share in the educational mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart as articulated in the Goals and Criteria. The structure supporting Sacred Heart education in Canada and the United States includes the Conference of Sacred Heart Education and the Network of Sacred Heart Schools.  Together they provide services and programs to ensure vitality of mission for the member schools sponsored by the Society of the Sacred Heart.