By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB and Vieve Cenit
Fr. Salvatore Putzu’s position paper on the “State of the Devotion to Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Philippines” immediately caught my attention. After all, I consider myself a devotee, along with many other Filipinos who fill churches, chapels or even office areas to celebrate First Friday Masses. But as I read on, I realized that there is so much more to the Sacred Heart devotion than I first thought.
For more than three centuries, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has deeply influenced popular religiosity in the Catholic Church, and has molded the spiritual life of millions of devotees throughout the world. Hundreds of institutions, such as religious congregations, parishes, schools and charitable works were named after the Sacred Heart.
However, since the conclusion of Vatican II, the devotion has gradually declined, especially in the Western world (Western and Central Europe and North America).
THE PRESENT SITUATION
A good number of Central and South American countries and especially the Philippines have been happy exceptions to this unfortunate trend.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is clearly manifested in the abundance of statues and paintings of the Sacred Heart; the number of schools and parishes and other organizations named after him; the substantial membership in the Apostleship of Prayer and Adoracion Nocturna, and the devotional practices such as the nine First Friday Masses, the Holy Hour and the praying of the Morning Offering by millions of Catholics in these countries.
However, if we focus on the Philippines, we discover several negative features, the main ones of which are the following:
- Among many Filipinos, the devotion to the Sacred Heart is mostly sentimental, often superficial and external (as it is limited mostly to the wearing of scapulars and medals and use of images and statues in their houses) but is not accompanied by an authentic and committed Christian life.
- The number of young people who show a special love for the Sacred Heart has decreased and appears to be declining fast. While other devotions are on the rise, the devotion to the Sacred Heart, especially among the young, appears to be headed in the opposite direction. Various attempts to revive interest in and give substance to the devotion and pass it on to the young generations have been largely unsuccessful.
This is a worrisome situation and trend.