THE DEVOTION WHICH THE SAINTS HAD TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
As the example of the Saints is at the same time a powerful motive to urge us to the practice of a devotion which they themselves have practiced, and a reliable guide to show us how to practice it, we think it advisable to give here the views of those who had the tenderest love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus and who were most penetrated with this devotion.
St. Clare, who was inflamed with the love of Jesus Christ and filled with eagerness to love Him in return, believed that she could find no practice more suitable to testify her gratitude than to salute and adore, several times each day, the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; and by means of this devotion, as is related in her Life, her soul was filled with the sweetest delights and the most signal favors.
The following prayer of St. Gertrude [1256-1302] to the Sacred Heart of Jesus shows the high esteem which this Saint had for this devotion:
The historian of her life, describing her precious death, said: “Her blessed soul took its flight towards Heaven and retired into the Sanctuary of the Divinity; I mean” he added, “into the adorable Heart of Jesus, which this Divine Spouse in an excess of love had opened to her.”
St. Mechtilde [1240-1298] was so penetrated with the devotion that all day long she could speak only of this adorable Heart of Jesus and of the singular favors which she received from this devotion. This amiable Savior gave her His Heart as a pledge of His love and to serve her as a place of refuge where she would unceasingly find sweet repose during life, and inexpressible peace and consolation at the hour of death.
St. Catherine of Siena loved this devotion to an extraordinary degree: she made an entire donation of her heart to her divine Spouse and she obtained the Heart of Jesus in exchange; from that time on, she endeavored to live and act only according to the movements and inclinations of the Heart of Jesus Christ.
St. Elzear writing to St. Delphine says: “You are troubled about my health; you wish to have news of me. Go often and pay court to our amiable Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, enter into His Sacred Heart and you will get news about me there, because you will find me always there, It is my usual dwelling place.”
The words of St. Bernard not only express his own beautiful sentiments about this adorable Heart, but show that the devotion to the Sacred Heart was known and practiced before the time of St. Margaret Mary. He writes in his book Vitis Mystica: “O sweetest Jesus, what riches Thou hast stored up in Thy Sacred Heart! Can it be that men are indifferent to the loss which they suffer by the neglect and indifference which they show to this amiable heart? As for me, I will spare no pains to gain It and possess It. Henceforth I will consecrate to It all my thoughts; Its sentiments and desires shall be my sentiments and desires. I will give everything to possess this precious treasure. But what need have I to buy It since It is truly mine? Yes, I say with assurance, the Heart of Jesus is mine, since It belongs to my Head, and does not what belongs to our Head belong also to all His members? Henceforth this Sacred Heart will be both the temple where I shall never cease to adore Him, and the Victim which I shall unceasingly offer to Him; and the altar on which I shall offer my sacrifices, on which the same flames of divine love with which It burns, will consume mine; in the Sacred Heart I shall find a model to regulate all the movements of mine, a source of wealth with which to pay all my debts to divine justice, and an assured place of refuge where I shall be protected from shipwreck and storms. I will say with David: ‘I have found my heart to pray to my God’
[2 Kgs. 7: 27]; Yes, I have found this Heart in the adorable Eucharist when I have found there the Heart of my Sovereign, of my Friend, of my Brother, that is to say, the Heart of my amiable Redeemer. And after that, who will prevent me from praying with a confidence and obtaining all that I ask? Come, my brethren, let us enter into this amiable Heart never again to go out from It. My God, if we feel such consolation at the bare remembrance of the Sacred Heart, what will it be when we love It with tenderness, what will it be if we enter into It and make our dwelling there always? Draw me completely into Thy Heart, O my amiable Jesus. Open to me this Heart which has so many attractions for me! What! does not this pierced Side leave an entrance open for me, and does not the open wound of this Sacred Heart invite me to enter there?” [Vitis Mystica, Cap. III].
The famous Lanspergius [+ 1538), well-known for his works which are full of unction and solid piety, writes in the chapter on “The Exercise of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus” of his Epistolae Paroeneticae, as follows:
“Take great care to excite yourself by frequent acts of constant devotion to honor the amiable Heart of Jesus, all full of love and mercy for us. It is through It that you must ask for all you wish to obtain; it is by It and in It that you must offer to the Eternal Father all that you do, because the Sacred Heart is the treasury of all supernatural gifts and of all graces. It is, so to speak, the way by which we unite ourselves more closely to God, and by which God Himself communicates Himself more liberally to us. That is why I advise you to put in the places where you pass most often, some pious image on which the Sacred Heart is represented, the sight of which will constantly remind you of your holy practices of devotion towards this adorable Heart, and will urge you always to love It more . . . When you feel yourself touched with a more tender devotion, you can kiss this image with the same sentiments with which you would truly kiss the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
“You should endeavor to unite yourself constantly to the Sacred Heart, wishing to have no other desires, no other sentiments than those of Jesus Christ, persuading yourself that His Spirit and His Sacred Heart will, so to speak, pass into yours and that of the two hearts there will be no longer two but one. Draw at will from this amiable Heart all imaginable blessings, you will never exhaust It. Besides, it is proper, it is even necessary to honor with a special devotion the Sacred Heart of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It should be for you a sanctuary in which you can take refuge in all your necessities, and from which you can draw the consolation and all the helps of which you have need. For even if all men should abandon you and forget you, Jesus will be always your faithful Friend; He will keep you always in His Heart, put your trust in Him, rely on Him; others may deceive you and indeed do deceive you; the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the only heart that loves you sincerely; It is the only Heart which will never deceive you.”
The author of the book entitled The Interior Christian writes: “The Sacred Heart of Jesus is our rallying center. When your heart is distracted and dissipated, you must bring it gently to the Heart of Jesus Christ and offer to the Eternal Father the holy dispositions of this adorable Heart, and unite the little which you do to the infinite amount which Jesus Christ accomplishes. Thus, while doing nothing yourself, you shall do much through Jesus Christ. The Divine Heart of Jesus will henceforth, devout soul, be for you an oratory. In It and by It you will offer all your prayers to God the Father, if you wish them to be pleasing to Him. It will be your school in which you will learn the sublime science of God, which is so contrary to the opinions and wretched maxims of the world. It will be your treasure where you will go to get all that is necessary to enrich you: purity, pure love, fidelity. But what is most precious and most abundant in this treasure are humiliations, sufferings and an ardent love of the greatest poverty. And learn that the esteem and love of all these things is a gift so precious that it is found only in the Heart of a God made man, as in its first Source; other hearts, however holy, however noble they may be, have this gift more or less in the measure that they go and draw out of this treasury, I mean, out of the Heart of Jesus Christ.”
Finally, we may remark that not only all the Saints of the Church who appear to have been filled with the greatest graces, have had for Jesus Christ a most ardent and tender love, but there is scarcely one of those who have had for Jesus Christ this extremely tender love but have had also a singular devotion to His Sacred Heart.
Those who have read the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the works of St. Thomas, the works of St. Teresa, the lives of St. Bonaventure, of St. Ignatius, of St. Francis Xavier, of St. Philip Neri, of St. Francis de Sales, of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, will be able to remark the tender devotion which these saints had for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Indeed we find examples of great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus [prior to the time of St. Margaret Mary] not only in the lives of the great saints but of many of God’s chosen servants living in the world. Armelle Nicholas, a humble peasant girl, who died  in the odor of sanctity is a case of this. In her life written under the title: The Triumph of Divine Love, we read the following:
“Whenever I met with any affliction from creatures, I always had recourse to my amiable Savior, who immediately filled me with sweet consolations. You would have thought that He feared that I should be in any way troubled, so careful was He to console me in all pains and afflictions. Very often He would show me His open Heart in order that I might hide myself in It, and at the same moment I would find myself enclosed in It with such great assurance of safety that all the efforts of Hell seemed to me to be but weakness. For a long space of time I could neither see nor hear except in the Sacred Heart, so that I used to say to my friends: ‘If you wish to find me, always seek me in the Heart of my Divine Love, for I do not stir from It either day or night; It is my sanctuary, my place of refuge against all my enemies.’ 
1. From “The school of the pure love of God open to the learned and unlearned by a poor uneducated girl, a peasant by birth and a servant by condition commonly called ‘The Good Armelle: who died in Brittany, 1671:” by a religious who knew her.
Fr. John Croiset, S. J., Originally published in1691; Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1959. TAN Books and Publishers