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A comfort sure — but can we take the art?

07 June 2013

On the feast of the Sacred  Heart, William Scott looks at a very RC devotion

A Heart on Fire
James Kubicki
Ave Maria Press £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code CT856 )

THIS is a definitely Roman Catholic book about rediscovering devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The author is a Jesuit, the director of the Apostleship of Prayer, whose mission is to encourage Christians to make a daily offering to the Lord. He is obviously a very experienced spiritual director, and the chapter about making a morning offering has encouraged me to resume the habit (although not in the words that he suggests) rather than swear at the alarm clock.

It is not a purely pious book with precious spirituality, as it contains much historical and theological reflection on Sacred Heart devotion. It also ends each chapter with a spiritual exercise. The author is honest about the bad art that often accompanies the devotion, and some of which he reproduces. There is a stunning picture of a carving of the Sacred Heart by a Polish man awaiting execution at Auschwitz, and a lovely 20th-century picture by an Italian Jesuit brother. It may well be that the standard of the art and the sentimental statues have prevented the devotion from catching on in the Church of England.

Kubicki discusses that idea that prayer of the heart needs to enter into us. This is classical spirituality about prayer moving from the head to the heart. He reminds us that the Heart of Jesus is a heart of perfect love, and of Pope John Paul II's saying that "It is near the Heart of Christ that man's heart is given the capacity of loving."

A very good chapter appears about the connection between the Sacred Heart and the eucharist, and the author quotes Pope Benedict XVI: "The ultimate purpose of Eucharistic transformation is our own transformation in communion with Christ."

I get rather bemused when he talks of communal consecration to the Sacred Heart and Sacred Heart badges, but I would not like these ultra-Catholic things to discourage people from reading a very well researched and yet devotional book. Perhaps we could persuade the Church of England to embrace a feast of the Sacred Heart.

Prebendary Scott is Sub-Dean of Her Majesty's Chapels Royal.

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