Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Sacred Heart: "Mystical Symbol of Love"

Tomorrow being the Feast Day of Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque, I thought it would be appropriate to share some excerpts from Clarence Thomson’s recent review of David Richo’s book The Sacred Heart of the World: Restoring Mystical Devotion to Our Spiritual Life.

Thomson begins his review by noting historian Jay Dolan’s assertion that for a hundred year period, 1860 to 1960, Roman Catholics were culturally defined by their devotion, not their theology. Catholics, observes Thomson, “named their churches after their devotions: Holy Rosary, Sacred Heart, Precious Blood, and Christ the King,” to name just a few. Yet the Second Vatican Council was “hard on the devotional life of Catholics,” with attention being put on reforming the liturgy and restoring the Eucharist as the center of piety.

Yet, notes Thomsen, in the book The Sacred Heart of the World, theologian and practicing therapist Dr. David Richo “makes a valiant effort to restore one of the devotions that fell on lean years: the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

Following are excerpts from Thomson’s review of Richo’s book.


A Therapist’s View of the Sacred Heart
Excerpts from a review by Clarence Thomson of David Richo’s book,
The Sacred Heart of the World: Restoring Mystical Devotion
to Our Spiritual Life

National Catholic Reporter
October 12, 2007

Drawing on the sound psychological principles of asceticism, our rich mystical tradition, and the support of some Eastern mystics, [Dr. David Richo] carefully explains what the real devotion to the Sacred Heart entails.

He situates the revelations to Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque in their historical context and purges a few of her emotional excesses, especially pruning and reframing some of the understandings of reparation. But he preserves the essence of her understanding and the mystical tradition she represents along with the theology of Karl Rahner, Teilhard de Chardin, and John of the Cross.

Dr. Richo presents the Sacred Heart as an intuitive mystical symbol of love. Theology is about understanding, but piety incorporates emotion. The heat and light generated about whether or not to have Communion rails or altar girls betrays the emotional bedrock of our worship, public or private.

Because of this emotional charge, Dr. Richo’s work is important. He brings the sobriety of a trained psychologist and theologian to the exuberant emotional richness of the heart as a symbol of divine love. He embraces the devotion enthusiastically like a gardener lavishing affection on loveliness. In the process, he weeds out a few excesses and distortions that keep educated Catholics from approaching or appreciating how nurturing this piety can be. He is especially helpful in understanding the importance and precision of the popular image of the Sacred Heart.

Clarence Thomson
National Catholic Reporter
October 12, 2007

Image 1: Joseph Fanelli (1994)
Image 2: Michael Bayly

Recommended Off-site Links:
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Heart to Heart
St. Margaret Mary and The X-Files

1 comment:

crystal said...

Being a convert, I feel under-informed about a lot of Catholic stuff. I first learned about Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque on an episode of The X-Files! :-) I posted something about it last year - maybe I'll repost it. Thanks for the inspiration.