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I have heard of the Sacred Heart many times and have seen the painting of Christ pointing to His burning heart but it wasn’t until I read Sacred Fire: Practicing Devotion To The Heart Of Jesus by Philip Michael Bulman did I understand what those paintings were about and the significance of the devotion in understanding Christ.
I know it’s not considered good form to start with weaknesses of the book but since the weakest part of the book is the first chapter it seems to make sense in this case.
Bulman says in the introduction “long book introductions are usually boring, so I simply urge the reader to approach this text prayerfully.” The author makes the assumption that all Catholics have the same fundamental understand of the Sacred Heart that he does. In this case, even a short overview of the book would have been helpful.
I found Chapter 1 – The Pierced Heart the weakest chapter of this book. With his incorrect belief of the level of understanding of the majority of lay Catholics, the author miss a chance to whet the appetite of the reader to the abundant treasure awaiting them in Christ’s Sacred Heart. Had I not promised the author I would review this book, I would have stopped after the first chapter as it is a historical timeline to the evolution of the Sacred Heart devotion that makes sense to those with a fundamental knowledge of the devotion.
I’m glad I did make that promise because the book is wonderful after the first chapter.
Always Good To Learn More About The Saints
Starting in chapter two, the author talks about five saints who have been involved in the development of the Sacred Heart devotion.
Chapter two is given to Saint Gertrude the Great who Jesus spoke to initially about the Sacred Heart devotion. I never knew there was a Saint Gertrude or that she was all that Great but she left us several writing with what Christ told her. This insights would later lead to the approval of the Sacred Heart devotion, but not until centuries later.
Chapter three is dedicated to Saint Margaret Mary, commonly known as the Apostle of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The author attends a parish named in Saint Margaret Mary’s honor which is what started his interest in the Sacred Heart devotion. He refers back to this chapter later in the book when discussing how to practice this devotion.
Chapter four takes us up Mount Carmel where we learn how the Sacred Heart devotion was being practiced among Carmelites. The author gives several examples of how the devotion spread over the centuries among various Carmelites. There is an amazing story of faith I had never heard of about Carmelites during the French Revolution. He follows a group of sisters who went to the guillotine rather that follow many others in France as they turned its back on their rich Christian heritage. The author ends this chapter by looking at the writings of Saint Therese of Lisieux to better understand her devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Chapter five looks at another Carmelite from my side of the world. Saint Teresa of the Andes had regular conversations with Jesus from her early childhood. It struck her as odd that other people didn’t have this same relationship with Christ. The author fleshes out of Saint Teresa’s writings of her strong devotion to the Sacred Heart.
The final chapter in the first part concerns one of my favorite saints and devotions. While Saint Faustina does not specifically talk about a devotion to the Sacred Heart, she references the heart of Christ many times in her Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul. The author uses several sections from the diary to draw the conclusion that Christ’s desire that we focus on His divine mercy is a product of the richness found in his Sacred Heart.
While off to a weak start, I thought the first part of the book was informative and enlightening in learning about the five saints, in particular what Christ told them about the importance of the richness and mercy that he wants to offer us from His Sacred Heart.
Nuts and Bolts
The second part of the book is really the heart of understanding the devotion to the Sacred Heart. While I always appreciate learning more about the saints, I found this to be the better part of the book.
Chapter seven is entitled The Eucharist and the author uses insight of the saints and his own personal experience to help the reader see that Mass is actually a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I enjoy the practical insight of the attitude that we should have before and during Mass. I particularly liked the author’s idea of praying before Mass for the priest as he is about to do the most amazing function any human being can do.
Chapter eight is a detailed study of The Litany of the Sacred Heart as approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1899. The author takes each sentence of the litany and presents Scriptural support. For those who enjoy praying this litany, you’ll find this chapter enlightening.
Chapter nine, entitled The Reparation to the Sacred Heart is where the author presents a strong case on why regular reception of the sacrament of reconciliation is critical in helping us grow into the people Christ wants us to become. I found his insight on that Catholic cliché of “offer it up” helpful, as well as a unique viewpoint of what happened that night in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Chapter 10 is a Scripture study of references to God’s heart. An interesting study in developing a better understanding of the Father as most of the references are from the Hebrew Scriptures, and then seeing how Christ expands on these in the Christian Scriptures.
The final chapter deals with The Promises of the Sacred Heart. The author presents the 12 promises traditionally associated with the devotion to the Sacred Heart with an examination of the writings of Saint Margaret Mary to find exactly where these promises come from. He then ties Saint Margaret Mary’s insight with Scripture.
The author wraps up the book with a detailed bibliography of other works related to the Sacred Heart.
I would recommend Sacred Fire for those wanting to learn about the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There are some inconsistent formatting throughout the book and I would suggest skipping the first chapter but other than those, it will be a valuable part of learning more about our amazing King.
Sacred Fire: Practicing Devotion To The Heart Of Jesus
Philip Michael Bulman
Laudate Press (June 23, 2014)