Saint Brother André and the Devotion to the Sacred Heart

The devotion to the Sacred Heart as we know it today particularly developed from the 17th century onwards, especially with the revelations to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque.

While the term “Sacred Heart” was quite recent at that time, we find a biblical foundation for this devotion, particularly in the description of the moments preceding Jesus’ death on the cross. John says, “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” And these words: “They will look on the one they have pierced…” When Jesus appears to the apostles and to Thomas, he shows them the wound left by the spear. These texts do not mention the heart of Jesus but rather the wound on the side of the Lord’s body.

While the Gospel texts speak of the side, later, the symbol of a broken and wounded heart emerged. This pierced heart of Jesus becomes a striking expression of Christ’s love that goes to the point of giving his life. The blood symbolizes his sacrifice, the gift of his life. The water, on the other hand, expresses this gift that gives life. Celebrating the Sacred Heart is to celebrate the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross, an inexhaustible source of life for those who believe in him.

The first missionaries who arrived in New France quickly established this devotion in this nascent Church. Many of our churches featured an altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Encouraged by the Jesuits, the League of the Sacred Heart spread the devotion, and this association grew significantly in the early 20th century in Quebec parishes.

It is therefore not surprising to discover in our Crypt Church a side altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Inaugurated in 1917, Saint Brother André certainly found time to pray before this statue.

Among all the words of Brother André that have been quoted, none explicitly mention the Sacred Heart. Yet, the devotion to the heart of Jesus is clearly present in his spiritual journey. We also find an explicit mention of the heart of Jesus when he says: “The gate of heaven is the heart of Jesus. The key to this gate is prayer and love.”

The image of the pierced heart from which blood and water flow recalls the link between the heart of Jesus and the sacrifice of the Cross. It is in this context that there is a close connection between Brother André’s spirituality and the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

We know that Brother André regularly did his Way of the Cross and invited his friends to join him for this time of prayer. The passion of Christ was of great importance to him. He saw in the passion and death of Jesus on the cross the most evident sign of his love for us. In his meditation on the passion of the Lord, he found a message that is very close to the devotion to the Sacred Heart: “Our Lord gave us proof of so much love through his sufferings and his passion.”

On this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are invited to meditate on this love of God manifested through the passion and death of Christ. And, just as Brother André knew so well how to do, let us entrust to him our world and its sufferings.

Let us open our hearts to others through prayer and love.