June is the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This article written by Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in 1940 expresses the thoughts of the illustrious Catholic thinker. These insights remain astonishingly valid today. He stated:
“If an impenitent humanity can expect every catastrophe, a repentant humanity can expect every mercy.”
Since then, humanity has not shown “the least beginning of an efficacious, serious and profound repentance,” but instead has further aggravated its sinful state. Hence, it is no surprise that God is compelled to apply His Justice, making Our Lady’s role as Advocate of Sinners only more urgent.
If there was ever an epoch whose only hope for a remedy is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is our own. It would be useless to attenuate the enormity of the crimes committed by humanity everywhere. In one of his encyclicals, Pope Pius XI said that the moral degradation of the contemporary world is such as to place it in the imminence of being cast into spiritual conditions even more miserable than those in which the world found itself when our Saviour came.
In other words, the errors accumulated throughout the centuries that preceded us — the deliriums of the pseudo-Reformation, the diabolical audacities of the Illuminists, unbridled moral libertinism, the crimes of the French Revolution, the apostasy of German philosophers — created an ambience of universal corruption that culminated in the catastrophes, chaos and runaway vulgarity that humanity witnesses in the twentieth century. And in the abyss into which we have plunged, iniquity is so profound that Pius XI feared that for a large majority of men, the infinite benefits of Redemption, which Our Lord brought to the world, might be lost.
Naturally, the sight of so many crimes suggests the idea of divine chastisement. When we look at this sinful world, groaning amid the tortures of a thousand crises and a thousand anguishes and still remaining unrepentant; when we look at the horrifying advance of neo-paganism that is about to govern all mankind; finally, when we see cowardice, negligence and disunion among those who still have not joined the side of evil, our souls tremble at the thought of the catastrophes that the obstinate impiety of this generation calls upon itself.
It would be somewhat liberal to imagine that such crimes do not deserve chastisement and that such an apostasy of the masses has taken place merely owing to an intellectual error not entailing the commission of a grave sin by humanity. This is not reality. God does not abandon His creatures, and if the latter fall away from Him, they have only themselves to blame.
God Wishes to Save Mankind from Catastrophe
Is there no other alternative for humanity today other than to disappear in a deluge of mud and fire? Can we hope for no other future but an ignominious sunset in which final impenitence will be punished with the supreme scourges Scripture announces as the tell-tale signs of the world’s end?
This would be the case undoubtedly if God were to set only His Justice in motion, but since God is not only just but also merciful, the gate of salvation has still not been closed for us.
A humanity that perseveres in impiety can expect God’s rigorous punishments. But God, Who is infinitely merciful, does not want the death of sinful mankind but rather that it “may be converted and live.” Thus, His Grace seeks out insistently all men to have them give up their evil ways and return to the Good Shepherd’s fold.
If an impenitent humanity can expect every catastrophe, a repentant humanity can expect every mercy, and to obtain that, it is not necessary for repentance to have finished carrying out its work of restoration. It is enough for the sinner, though still in the bottom of the abyss, to turn to God with a simple but efficacious, serious and profound beginning of repentance, and he will immediately find God’s help, as God never forgets him.
The Holy Ghost says in Scripture: “Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the child of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isaiah 49:15). Even in extreme cases in which a paroxysm of evil would exhaust a mother’s forbearance, God does not tire. For God’s Mercy benefits the sinner even when divine Justice strikes him with a thousand scourges on his way of iniquity.
The Infinite Love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
These two essential images of divine justice and mercy should be raised constantly before contemporary man’s eyes.
That of justice, so he does not harshly presume he will be saved without merits; that of mercy, so he does not despair of salvation as long as he wishes to amend himself. And if the hecatombs of our days speak so clearly of God’s justice, what better image would there be to complete this picture than the Sun of Mercy, which is the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
God is Charity, and hence the mere enunciation of the Most Holy Name of Jesus recalls the idea of love: The unfathomable and infinite love that led the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity to become incarnate!
This love is expressed in the incomprehensible humiliation of a God Who manifests Himself to men as a poor boy born in a manger.
This love transpired throughout the thirty years of a recollected life in humble and strict poverty and in the incessant toils of three years of evangelisation during which the Son of Man sowed love and reaped ingratitude.
This love was demonstrated at the Last Supper, which was preceded by Our Lord’s generosity in washing His disciples’ feet, and crowned with the institution of the Eucharist.
This love appeared again in that last kiss given to Judas, the supreme gaze on Saint Peter, the affronts suffered in patience and meekness, the sufferings born until all His strength was spent; and it appeared on His pardon by which Dimas stole Heaven and in the extreme donation of His heavenly Mother to miserable humanity.
Each of those episodes has been studied meticulously by scholars, piously meditated by saints, marvellously depicted by artists, and above all, incomparably celebrated by the Church’s liturgy. There is only one way to speak about the Sacred Heart of Jesus: It is to recall every one of those instances appropriately and in detail.
The Holy Church, by venerating the Sacred Heart, wants nothing more than to render special praise to the infinite love that Our Lord Jesus Christ gave men. Since the heart symbolises love, by venerating His Heart, the Church celebrates Love.
Our Lady: God’s Most Beloved
Not one of the varied and beautiful invocations with which the Church refers to Our Lady fails to show a relationship between Her and God’s Love. These invocations either celebrate a gift of God to which Our Lady was perfectly faithful or a special power that She has upon Her Divine Son.
Now then, what do God’s gifts prove if not a special love of the Creator for His creatures, and what does Our Lady’s power with God prove, but that same love? God loved Our Lady so much that He concentrated in Her all the perfections that a mere creature can possess. Thus, while She could be appropriately called “Mirror of Justice,” She can also be called “Supplicating Omnipotence” (all-powerful in Her supplications to God) as no grace is obtained without Our Lady, and there is no grace that She could fail in obtaining for us.
Therefore, to invoke Our Lady under the title of the Sacred Heart is to make a most beautiful synthesis of all other invocations; it is to recall the most pure and beautiful reflection of Divine Motherhood; it is to resonate all the chords of love and enunciate the various invocations of the Hail Holy Queen.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart: Sinful Humanity’s Advocate
But there is an invocation that I would especially like to recall. It is Advocate of Sinners. Our Lord is Judge; and however great His Mercy may be, He cannot fail to exert the function of justice.
However, Our Lady is only an advocate, and everyone knows that the advocate’s function is to defend the accused.
So, to say that Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is our advocate is to recognise that we have in Heaven an intercessor whose hands hold the key to an infinite ocean of mercy.
What better solution for a humanity that, when ignoring justice, falls deeper into sin, but that, when faced with justice, despairs of salvation? Let us show justice, since to do so is a duty whose omission has produced most lamentable fruits.
But alongside Justice, which strikes the unrepentant, let us never forget Mercy, which helps seriously repentant sinners to abandon sin and be saved.
– By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
About the Author
Born in 1908, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira was the founder of the Brazilian Society for the Defence of Tradition, Family and Property and inspirer of twenty-five other sister organizations around the world.
A brilliant scholar, writer, university professor and lawyer, Professor de Oliveira was above all a great Catholic leader whose only ambition was to defend Christian civilization against its systematic destruction. Thus, he dedicated his life to the service of the Church in the temporal sphere, fighting particularly the errors of Communism, Socialism and the resulting Cultural Revolution.
He felt a special calling to work for the sanctification of families and temporal society, and had a special charisma to spot the subliminal evil influences of today’s culture. By the time of his death in 1995, he had produced a wealth of writings in the form of meditations, articles and books sharing with us his unique gift and insight.