Dignare Me Laudare Te, Virgo Sacrata

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Origins of the Sacred Heart Badge

[Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The below was originally printed on a pamphlet sent by the America Needs Fatima campaign of the American TFP, and was first posted on the Internet (by yours truly) on the Free Republic.com Religion Forum.]

Stained-Glass Window over Sacred Heart Altar in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, Northern Ireland. It depicts the apparition of Jesus and His Sacred Heart, along with several saints who were particularly devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. They are St Aloysius Gonzaga, St Alphonsus Liguori, St Charles Borromeo, and St Francis de Sales.

Our Lord revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque "His wish for her to order a picture of the image of that Sacred Heart for people specifically to venerate and have in their homes and also small pictures to carry with them." She wrote this to her Superior, Mother Saumaise, on March 2, 1686. Thus was born the devotion of wearing the little Badges.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque always kept a badge with her and inspired her novices to do the same. She made many badges and often said this practice was very pleasing to the Sacred Heart.

In the beginning, only nuns of the Visitation were allowed to wear the Badge. It was later spread by Venerable Ana Magdalena Rémuzat, a religious of the Visitation who died in the odor of sanctity (1696-1730). Our Lord told this nun that a serious epidemic would afflict the French city of Marseilles in 1720, and that its inhabitants would receive a marvelous help through this devotion to His Sacred Heart. Mother Rémuzat, helped by her sister in the convent, made thousands to Sacred Heart Badges and distributed them throughout the city where the plague was rampant.

Soon afterward, the epidemic stopped as if by a miracle. Many Badge wearers were not infected and even people who got sick experienced extraordinary help through the Badge. Analogous events happened elsewhere. From then on, use of the badge spread to other cities and countries.

The news of the graces obtained through the Badges reached the Court. Maria Lesczynska, wife of King Louis XV became devoted to the Badge. In 1748 she received several Badges from Pope Benedict XIV as a wedding gift. Among the various presents sent by the Pontiff were "many Badges of the Sacred Heart made of red taffeta and embroidered in gold," the records say.

Special emblem of counter-revolutionaries

The unfortunate French Revolution erupted in France in 1789, a worse punishment than any plague, causing tragic consequences for the whole world.
True Catholics found protection in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus during that period. Many priests, nobles, and commoners who resisted the bloody anti-Catholic revolution wore the Badge. Even ladies of the Court, like the Princess of Lamballe, wore the Badge embroidered with precious materials over fabric. The simple fact of wearing it became a distinctive sign of those who opposed the French Revolution.

Among the belongings of Queen Marie Antoinette, guillotined out of revolutionary hatred, was found a drawing of the Sacred Heart, with the wound, the cross, and crown of thorns, and the inscription: "Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!"

Heroic deeds by devotees of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Chouans, heroic Catholics from Mayenne (western France), who resisted the impious French revolutionaries of 1789, and confronted them with energy and religious ardor, embroidered the Badge of the Sacred Heart on their clothes and banners. They shaped it as a coat of arms to reaffirm their Catholic faith and wore it as a symbolic armor for defense against enemy attacks.

Many other Catholic leaders and heroes also wore the Badge as a "spiritual armor." They fought and died in defense of Holy Mother Church, like the brave peasants who fought under Andreas Hofer (1767-1810), known as the "Chouans from Tyrol." These men wore the Badge as protection in the battles against Napoleon's army that invaded the Tyrol.

The Cristeros in Mexico, in the first half of the 20th century, also wore the Badge. They took up arms against anti-Christian governments that oppressed the Church.

In Spain, the famous Carlista regiments called "requetés," likewise wore the Badge: they were famous for their religious piety and boldness on the battlefield, and their intervention was decisive for the triumph of the anti-Communist Catholics in the Civil War of 1936-1939.

More recently, similar events took place in Cuba. The Catholic Cubans, who fought the Communist regime, had a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When they were imprisoned and taken to the "parédon" (shooting wall) for summary execution, they faced Fidel Castro's executioners with the cry, "Viva Cristo Rey," Long Live Christ the King!

After Castro's communist tyranny took over Cuba, beautiful statues of the Sacred Heart were demolished and replaced with replaced with representations of Che Guevara. Thus, statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which represented Divine mercy and forgiveness, were replaced with likenesses of a guerrilla fighter who soaked his hands with innocent blood, which he caused to flow in several Latin American countries!

Blessed Pius IX and the Badge

In 1870 a Roman lady, wishing to know the opinion of the Holy Father Pius IX about the Badge of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, presented him with one. Touched by the sight of this emblem of salvation, the Pope approved the devotion forever and said: "This, Madam, this is an inspiration from Heaven. Yes, from Heaven."

After a short moment of silence, he added:

"I am going to bless this Heart and want all badges made after this model to receive the same blessing, so that in the future, it will not be necessary for the blessing to be renewed by a priest. And I want Satan to be unable to cause any harm to those who wear this Badge, symbol of the adorable Heart of Jesus."

Wishing to foster the pious habit of wearing the Badge, in 1872, Blessed Pope Pius IX granted one hundred years indulgence who wear this emblem and pray daily one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be.

Afterward, the Holy Father composed this beautiful prayer:

"Open Thy Sacred Heart, O Jesus! Show me its beauty and unite me with It forever. May the throbbing and all the movements of my heart, even during sleep, be a testimony of my love and tell Thee unceasingly: Yes, Lord Jesus, I adore Thee... accept my poor good actions... grant me the grace of repairing evil done... so that I may praise Thee in time and bless Thee for all eternity."

An Example of a Sacred Heart Badge

*Notes on some of the people and groups mentioned above:

Venerable Ana Magdalena Rémuzat "influenced Bishop Henri de Belsunce to found the Association of Perpetual Adoration of the Sacred Heart at Marseilles, France, and wrote their laws; on 22 October 1720 bishop Belsunce instituted a feast of the Sacred Heart." This feast was approved for a number of dioceses around the world by Pope Clement XIII in 1765, and was extended to the entire Catholic Church by the aforementioned Blessed Pius IX in 1856.

The Chouans according to Wikipedia (the entry itself was excerpted from the public domain 1907 edition of The Nuttall Encyclopaedia), "were insurrectionary royalists in France, in particular Brittany, during the French Revolution, and even for a time under the Empire (from 1793 to 1815), when their headquarters were in London."

"Their names derive from their muster by night at the sound of the chat-huant, the screech owl, a nocturnal bird of prey with a distinctive cry. They were motivated by their opposition to conscription and their support of the Catholic Church. They engaged in what would later be called guerrilla warfare."

"These rebels are featured in the novel The Chouans by Honoré de Balzac."

The Badges that the Chouans wore looked like this one:

Andreas Hofer, as mentioned above, lead forces in an insurrection against Napoleon in Tyrol, which is in present-day Austria and Italy. His militia defeated armies allied with Napoleon on several occasions, most notably at the four battles at Bergisel in present-day Austria. He was ultimately captured and "was executed by a firing squad on February 20, 1810. He refused a blindfold."

Blessed Pius IX, as mentioned above, extended the Feast of the Sacred Heart to the entire Catholic Church in 1856. He also consecrated the Catholic world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 16, 1875.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Defensor Matrimonii - St. John Fisher

St. John Fisher

On 22 June 1535, St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, England, who had been just made Cardinal Priest of Saint Vitalis by Pope Paul III, was beheaded on Tower Hill in London. Officially, he had been convicted of treason for refusing to recognize King Henry VIII as the new head of the Church of England. This was, however, a culmination of an eight year battle that St. John fought with the king over his marriage with Queen Catherine of Aragon.

In the summer of 1527, Bishop Fisher was summoned to Westminster Palace for an interview with King Henry. The king had earlier consulted with Cardinal Wolsey, his Chancellor, on the matter of annulling his marriage to Catherine, whom he had been married to for eighteen years. Both the king and the cardinal sought Fisher's opinion on the matter. As the late Michael Davies recounts in his excellent biography of the saint, Fisher "fell on his knees and attempted to give the king his reply in the posture, but the king raised him to his feet.... [T]he decision he had come to was that Henry and Catherine were truly man and wife (Henry had argued that his marriage to Catherine was invalid on the account that she was first married to his brother Arthur, but the marriage lasted only months, and was not consummated). This was not the answer that the king wanted, as the bishop well knew, and from that day forward... [Henry's] grudge daily increased against him."

By the autumn of 1527, Henry announced to Cardinal Wolsey his intention to marry Ann Boleyn, who was a member of Queen Catherine's household. A year later, on 8 November 1528, the King gave a speech before a great assembly that he was bringing the question of his marriage before a legatine tribunal, which would investigate its canonical legality. This court opened a few months later on 31 May 1529. During its proceedings, Queen Catherine pled her case, defending the sanctity and legality of her marriage to Henry.

Bishop Fisher served as the Queen's counsellor while the legatine tribunal met. At its fifth session, he gave a speech that made clear how far he was going to defend the marriage of Henry and Catherine. He stated that "[St. John] the Baptist in olden times regarded it as impossible for him to die more gloriously than in the cause of marriage," and that he was even ready to follow his namesake's example in order to defend the sanctity of marriage.

This comment brought the wrath of King Henry, who did not like being compared to the king who had St. John the Baptist executed (King Herod Antipas). Henry claimed that the bishop "was motivated by 'unbridled arrogance and overweening temerity,'" and that he had "never been guilty of such cruelty." But as one biographer of St. John Fisher noted, "the circumstances of Fisher's death bear so close a resemblance to those of the Baptist's, that it is strange that even Henry did not observe and seek to avoid it. Both were cast into prison... [and] were beheaded, and both by the revenge of impure women. But what Herod did reluctantly, Henry did with cruel deliberation."

Even after the legatine tribunal adjourned, and the case was recalled to the papal courts, Bishop Fisher continued his defense of the marriage between Henry and Catherine. He wrote at least seven books on the topic. He preached often on its legality from the pulpit. He continued his efforts in this regard up until his arrest in 1534.

St. John Fisher's eight-year-long defense of the marriage between King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine of Aragon provides an excellent example on how the sanctity of marriage should be defended. As this sacrament is mocked increasingly in contemporary Western culture, with high divorce rates, cohabitation, and a growing acceptance for homosexual "marriage," faithful Catholics should follow St. John Fisher's example and zealously defend the cause of marriage, even if this leads to persecution and martyrdom. As the two St. John's realized, we could not ask for a more noble cause to die for.

Sancte Johannes, ora pro nobis!

[For another article on St. John Fisher and the sacrament of marriage, go to Only One Man: Bishop John Fisher and Christian Marriage. The history cited in this article was taken from the Michael Davies book mentioned above. The picture of St. John Fisher is from a stained glass window in the Cathedral Church of St. Marie in Sheffield, England.]

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Malleus Haereticorum - St. Anthony of Padua

The great Anthony of Padua has a universal appeal in the Catholic Church (he is truly a "catholic" saint). His statue can be found in churches the world over. He is most famous as the patron of lost articles. God knows how many times I've invoked his intercession in that area. But he has earned another title for his gift of converting the "sheep who had wandered" with his preaching - malleus haereticorum - or "the hammer of heretics."

While he is known for being a saint of the Italian city of Padua, St. Anthony was actually from Portugal, and spent much of his priestly ministry traveling across France and Italy, offering Masses and preaching. He was literally a one-man crusade against the prevailing heresy in those countries at the time, which was Catharism (also known as Albigensianism). He was so effective in converting people back to the Church that in response, the Cathars of the town of Rimini tried to poison him. Though he knew their treachery, he nevertheless ate at the feast they had prepared for him, and was unharmed.

St. Anthony continued to preach in Rimini, but some of the Cathars still did not heed his words. He demonstrated their hardness of heart when he preached on the shore of a river there, and in response, fish in the water sticked their heads out and turned to attentively hear his words. At this miraculous sight, people fell at the saint's feet and listened. Many returned to the Church.

Due to this reputation, Dom Gueranger invoked St. Anthony's intercession in the struggle against the heresies of modern times, which often have many similiarites to the heresy of Catharism. He wrote, "O thou who dost daily fly to the aid of thy devoted clients in their private necessities, thou whose power is the same in heaven as heretofore upon earth, succour the Church, aid God's people have pity upon society, now more universally and deeply menaced than ever. O thou ark of the covenant, bring back our generation, so terribly devoid of love and faith, to the serious study of sacred letters, wherein is so energizing a power. O thou hammer of heretics, strike once more such blows as will make hell tremble and the heavenly powers thrill with joy" (The Liturgical Year, Vol. XII, June 13).

St. Anthony of Padua, Hammer of Heretics, pray for us!