“The Sacred Heart and Divine Mercy: a comparison and contrast between these two streams of spirituality in the life of the Church.”
This was the topic of today’s Dehon Lecture at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. The morning presenter was Dr. Robert Stackpole. A former Anglican priest, he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1994 and holds a Doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome (the “Angelicum”).
In 1997, Stackpole began work as the Research Director, and in 2000, Director, of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy based in Stockbridge MA. In that capacity he speaks on and writes about the Catholic faith, and in particular, the Divine Mercy message and devotion. He is a frequent contributor to the website www.TheDivineMercy.org.
Stackpole began with several quotes noting the significance of the Sacred Heart, beginning with one from Pope Pius XII in his encyclical, Haurietis Aquas: on Devotion to the Sacred Heart:
“It is altogether impossible to enumerate the heavenly gifts which devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has poured out on the souls of the faithful, purifying them, offering them heavenly strength, rousing them to the attainment of all virtues.”
“The Sacred Heart is vital,” emphasized Stackpole. “But the Church needs both Sacred Heart Devotion and the Divine Mercy tradition.”
What is Divine Mercy? “Divine Mercy is God’s love reaching down to meet the needs and overcome the miseries of His creatures,” said Stackpole.
Quoting a phrase he has often uses in his writing, Stackpole added that “The Sacred Heart that seeks reparation and consolation is the same Heart, The Merciful Heart… because Jesus has only one Heart!”
A devotion that calls for action
David Schimmel, familiar to many for his work as Director of Dehonian Associates for the US Province, was the afternoon respondent. A former SCJ, he served in formation, and in recent years, was involved in retreat work, spiritual direction and adult faith formation.
He began by sharing his personal journey with the Devotion to the Sacred Heart
“I found myself walking toward the Heart of Jesus in the company of Fr. Dehon, who taught me that devotion to the Heart of Jesus was a doorway to a relationship with the Divine,” said Schimmel.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is not a passive devotion. “The love that the Heart of Jesus has for me urges me to address the lasting effects of slavery, colonialism, racism, runaway capitalism, American exceptionalism, individualism, and clericalism,” said David. And if the call to action seems hard, “the Heart of Jesus tells me to find a way to do my part.”
The day ended with a Q&A session with the two speakers. Questions covered everything from nurturing devotions at the parish level, to more general questions about how the Church can offer hope during a period of time that seems so chaotic on many fronts. To this, David Schimmel reflected on the opening lines of Genesis. “God is always creating in the midst of chaos,” he said, later adding that we are called to do our best “in being a part of the creation that comes forth in that chaos.”
Stackpole reminded listeners of what “mercy” calls of us.
“It drives us to do what we can to alleviate another’s misery,” he said. Divine Mercy is the acknowledgement that God is always acting with mercy.
In Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart, there is always hope.