St Gertrude Catholic Church
The narrative of the feast of the Sacred Heart is fascinating in that it includes not only our faith, but some political/social situations as well.
THE FEAST AS A DIVINE CORRECTIVE
Just as we might view the birth of Jesus as the arrival of God’s love and light into a world grown cold and dark through sin, so we might view the growth of the devotion to the Sacred Heart as a response to the world grown cold though the religious confusion and a popular heresy of the time.
The Reformation had split the Church in the 16th century, leaving many in confusion. Jansenism was growing rapidly, especially in France, during the 17th century. Jansenism, a theological approach based on the teachings of the Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen, emphasized the sinfulness of the human condition resulting in a serious sense of guilt which, in turn, led to a diminishment in the frequency of the reception of Holy Communion among Catholics.
Confused and demoralized, Europe needed a renewal of the message of Christmas; a reminder of God’s love and mercy and a positive view of the sacredness of the human person.
Devotion to the love of God had been a part of popular devotion since the early days of the Church, and, with a few exceptions, the symbol of that love was the blood and water flowing from the wounded side of Christ as he hung on the cross. It was not until the 17th century, and the rise of a more affectionate approach to the humanity of Jesus, that devotion specifically to the heart of Jesus gained popularity.
Due to the work of Saint John Eudes, a feast in honor of Jesus’ heart was first celebrated on August 31, 1670. The devotion gained rapidly in popularity due to the visions of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. In an apparition on June 16, 1675, Jesus specifically asked for a feast of the Sacred Heart on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi—the celebration of the Body and Blood of Jesus. This requested feast was to be in reparation for the lack of gratitude people showed for the loving sacrifice that Jesus had made for them; the sacrifice made present in the Sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus, the Eucharist.
For more on the Sacred Heart of Jesus https://blog.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit/sacred-heart-a-symbol-of-love-and-mercy