by Jewelle Mendoza-Reyes
A Servant's Sojourn
At the start of June, I browsed YouTube to look for a video on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was my personal way of preparing for this year’s celebration. As I searched the app, I chanced upon this video on a retreat guide on The Sacred Heart of Jesus. The priest started the retreat with a helpful refresher on what a devotion is in general. Rev. Fr. John Bartunek explains that as we go through our Christian journey, in the vast treasury of our faith, the Holy Spirit will draw us closer to God by capturing our attention to specific aspects or facets in accordance with our own personal needs, personalities and sensitivities. In a way, these aspects will speak to us about God and so we develop or experience a special resonance towards certain prayers, saints or liturgical feasts. As we dedicate ourselves more earnestly to God through those, God in turn uses them to foster our spiritual growth. This attraction and our dedication to that certain facet of our faith – those are what we mean by devotions.
The video moved me to look back on how my devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus began. It was something I’ve never done before so as an extension of my “personal retreat” I spent a good amount of time in my attempt to reminisce.
The seed of my devotion to the Sacred Heart was sown during a heartrending season in my life. In those times of brokenness, I found refuge in the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Makati. It was the only church I know of that opens its Adoration Chapel until 9:00 in the evening. I only get to leave the office at 7 o'clock. The shrine is on my way home from work anyway.
SACRED HEART | The National Shrine of the Sacred Heart is located near the Central Business District of Makati, a haven for busy-bodies and devotees of the city. Photos from Philippine Catholic Churches Blogspot.
If you have been to the shrine’s adoration chapel, you can’t help but notice a distinct exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. No monstrance as most adoration chapels do. Instead, the Holy Eucharist is placed at the very heart of a stained glass art of the Resurrected Christ. It is so inviting to gaze upon Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It felt like Jesus stands right in front of me, looks me straight in the eye, opens His heart and invites me to do the same to Him. So every single night I would come before the Blessed Sacrament, I would unburden myself before the Lord and beg for His help and healing.
My journey from brokenness to wholeness took some time. God bound up all my wounds and made me whole again. In all those months, I had a stronger and deeper sense of God’s love that no human love can offer. The love that does not abandon. The love that does not wither. The love that embraces flaws. The love that heals. The love that restores. The love that completes.
I found the shrine as my second home, next to my home parish. My seed has grown. It has developed roots, a connection to the Sacred Heart. This attachment got me “interested” in the masses celebrated in honor of Christ’s Sacred Heart. But I still didn’t have a grasp of the devotion then. Frankly, I went to mass on any Friday of the month, whenever it crosses my mind.
Career opportunities came. My job required me to work past office hours and be away on business at times. By then, I already had full consciousness of the First Friday devotion. However, given the circumstances, it kept me from fostering the devotion. Nonetheless, I still went to First Friday morning mass just before going to work but I hardly completed nine months. So I was always back to square one whenever I missed one.
Fast-forward to 2015, I woke up one day inspirited and more determined to keep a devotion. “This must be it,” I persuaded myself. An idea of getting an accountability partner came into mind. And so I offered:
I invited Mi Amor to join me. I remembered feeling on edge because he didn’t reply. I didn’t bring it up again in the hope he’ll give it some thought. Thankfully, first Friday came and he showed up at our meeting place. So month after month, we would get up early to attend the 6:45 novena mass in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It has become our monthly date with the Lord since. There were times we were challenged to go to mass together but we encourage one another not to miss a mass wherever we are.