On June 19, Catholics will converge at the scene of a divine fire, where Christ’s physical heart represents his burning love for humanity during the popular Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Feast of the Sacred Heart falls 19 days after Pentecost and the Friday after the feast of Corpus Christi, which is also called the “Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.”

According to Catholic Encyclopedia, during the earliest days of the church, “Christ’s open side and the mystery of blood and water were meditated upon, and the church was beheld issuing from the side of Jesus, as Eve came forth from the side of Adam. It is in the 11th and 12th centuries that we find the first unmistakable indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Through the wound in the side, the wound in the heart was gradually reached, and the wound in the heart symbolized the wound of love.”

The general devotion arose in Benedictine monasteries but became popular when French Visitation Nun St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) was praying before the Blessed Sacrament and Jesus appeared to her. She wrote, “He disclosed to me the marvels of his love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart.” She said Christ emphasized to her his love – and his woundedness caused by man’s indifference to this love.

In the Sacred Heart image, Christ is portrayed with a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross and bleeding. Sometimes, the image is shown shining within the bosom of Christ with his wounded hands pointing at the heart.

Jesus made 12 promises to St. Margaret Mary for those who consecrate themselves and make reparations to his Sacred Heart:

• He will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.

• He will establish peace in their homes.

• He will comfort them in all their afflictions.

• He will be their secure refuge during life and, above all, in death.

• He will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.

• Sinners will find in his heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.

• Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.

• Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.

• He will bless every place in which an image of his heart is exposed and honored.

• He will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.

• Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in his heart.

• In the excessive mercy of his heart that his all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive holy Communion on the first Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in his disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. His divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

The devotion became popular after St. Margaret Mary’s death in 1690. However it was not established as an official feast for all of France until 1765.

On May 8, 1873, Pope Pius IX formally approved the devotion to the Sacred Heart. In 1899  Pope Leo XIII  recommended the feast be observed throughout the world.

In connecting Jesus with the Blessed Mother, the Saturday following the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The devotion refers to the interior life of Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfection and her virginal love for God the father, her maternal love for Jesus and all persons. There is a first Saturday devotion, also called the Act of Reparation, to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the 1956 encyclical “Haurietis aquas,” Pope Pius XII encouraged joint devotion to the two hearts. In the 1979 encyclical “Redemptor hominis” St. John Paul II wrote about the unity of Mary’s Immaculate Heart with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He later coined the term “The alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.”