On the cornerstone of our seminary are inscribed the words: “Seminary Sacred to the Heart of Jesus, Gift of the Faithful of the Diocese of Detroit, Mindful of the Words of the Lord I will give you Shepherds After My Heart, in the Year of the Lord, 1923.” These words point us through history to the present awareness of God’s providence and our call to be shaped and formed by the strong, compassionate, and merciful heart of Jesus. Looking back, at a time of great difficulty and despair in the world and in the Church, Pope Pius XI drew our attention to the mystery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by his encyclical letter, Caritate Christi Compulsi. His words resonate significantly for us today, especially when he notes that “our unshaken hope in this complete victory of God and of the Church receives daily confirmation (such is the infinite mercy of God!) from the noble ardor of innumerable souls whom we see turning themselves to God, in every country and in all classes of society. For most certainly a very powerful afflatus of the Holy Spirit is rushing through all lands, and is moving the hearts, especially the young, to mount upwards to the highest summits of Christian law, and raising them above vain observance of men, makes them ready to undertake even the most arduous tasks.”
Pope Pius XI goes on in the encyclical to offer a reflection on the importance of a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart and also how prayer and penance form the foundation for the Chrisitan life. He notes sadly that “we deplore the fact that in our day the idea and the name of expiation and penance have with many lost in great part the power of rousing enthusiasm of heart and heroism of sacrifice.” Those words almost 90 years ago are even more relevant today. Yet we know that prayer and penance open an infinite number of doors of grace for us, and are “two potent inspirations sent to us at this time by God, that we may lead back to Him mankind that has gone astray and wanders without a guide.” Now, perhaps more than ever, our seminary community, devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will benefit from a renewed and sustained devotion to his Heart. Now, perhaps more than ever, our journey with the Lord marked by an unshakable hope, can be deepened by common prayer and penance, asking the Lord to purify us, to strengthen our bonds of charity, to lead us to deeper conversion and repentance, to bring an end to racism, and to open wide our hearts with greater hospitality and generosity.
In the midst of numerous challenges we are currently facing, today is a significant day for our seminary community. Even though we are not physically together, we give thanks to the Father for the gift of his Son, whose Sacred Heart we celebrate today. As a seminary community, we are uniquely bound to Jesus in his Sacred Heart. From his heart flows the blood of life, the blood of love. Not only do we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus today, we do so in the midst of our centennial year, a time to give thanks and praise to God for countless blessings.
One of the ways the seminary community has committed itself to the Heart of Jesus is through First Friday devotions, which we started last fall. On the first Friday of every month, we can all renew our desire for conversion and deep faith by pressing into the Heart of Jesus once again. To pause even for a short moment, to pray a decade of the rosary, to pray the Litany to the Sacred Heart, are simple ways we can be renewed in spirit and allow our own hearts to be transformed. And as we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus today, may our works, words, and prayers echo the wisdom of St. Bonaventure who said in the Office of Readings: “Run with eager desire to this source of life and light, all you who are vowed to God’s service.”