The devotion to the Sacred Heart sprung up from the appearances of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century. He appeared to her and asked her to spread devotion to His sacred heart. The heart has always been seen as a symbol of love. Jesus wishes us to contemplate His heart because of the unfathomable love He has for us. He loves us so much that He came to earth as a human being and sacrificed His life for us. It is very fruitful for us to contemplate the great and unending love of God for us. When we realize how much He loves us, we will be more willing to approach Him and ask for forgiveness and grace. Contemplating the sacred heart and becoming very devoted to this aspect of Jesus will help us to achieve that close relationship with God.
One of Jesus' requests to St. Margaret Mary was that a feast day be established honoring the Sacred Heart. After the apparitions were deemed to be authentic, the feast day was established on the Friday following the feast of Corpus Christi. On this day, it comes shortly after the conclusion of the Easter season. This is a fitting time. The Easter Season is a time to particularly reflect on the love of God for us and our hope of reaching Heaven. Shortly after its end, we are again reminded of the immensity of that love and the lengths to which Jesus will go to demonstrate that love.
Jesus made twelve promises to St. Margaret Mary about graces for those who would have a devotion to His sacred heart.
1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state in life.
2. I will establish peace in their families.
3. I will comfort them in their trials.
4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and, above all, in death.
5. I will shed abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
6. Sinners will find in My Heart an infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Lukewarm souls will become fervent.
8. Fervent souls will rapidly grow in holiness and perfection.
9. I will bless every place where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.
10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. The names of those who promote this devotion will be written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.
12. I promise thee, in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.
These promises are very encouraging because they show how much Jesus loves us and wants to help us with our spiritual struggles. The last promise is probably the most well-known as the nine First Friday promise. Jesus told St. Margaret Mary that those who received holy Communion on the first Fridays of nine months in a row would receive special graces. He does not promise that the person will not go to Hell, because it is always up to the person to make that choice for themselves. However, He says that He will give them many graces and opportunities to repent of sins and go to Heaven. This is a wonderful gift from God, and demonstrates how much He wants to give us graces. If we put forth the effort to show our love for God and our wish to love Him, He will not stop showering us with graces.