The Origins of the Sacred Heart Badge
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."
*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.