Fr. Fred’s Weekly Letter, June 21, 2020

Dear Parishioners of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church,

Along with Fr. Fullum, Deacon Peter, the Sisters of our Convent, the Parish Pastoral Council and myself, I would like to wish you all a blessed and happy Feast Day of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!

I would also like to acknowledge this weekend the students of Sacred Heart Catholic Academy, their parents and families, Ms. Gangi our Principal, Faculty and Staff. Friday, June 19th was the last day of school and we wish you a happy and safe summer! I would also like to thank Deacon Peter in a special way. Throughout these three months’ lockdown, he faithfully offered on-line a prayer service and reflection on the Scriptures every Friday for the students.

One of the biographical facts known about St. Philip Neri, a priest who lived in Rome in the 16th century, is that he had an “enlarged heart.” It is recorded that while St. Philip was praying in the catacombs of Rome, he had a vision of a fiery globe that came toward him and entered his mouth and settled in his chest. His heart enlarged after this experience so greatly that there was a swelling in his chest. Two ribs broke forming an arch around it for protection and to accommodate the new size of his heart for the rest of his life. Along with this enlarged heart came an even greater zeal for charity and love for the people of Rome. His desire for holiness and service to all people increased and these became the foundations of his vocation.

My friend, Joseph Mario Reali, who died at the age of 25 in 2015, also had an “enlarged heart.” A true medical condition that was not known until his death. But, since childhood, he also desired holiness and loving service to all he knew and met. His Funeral and Mass, attended by almost 2,000 people, was a living legacy and a manifestation of how our Lord loved each of us through Joe, and who continue to experience the effects of Joe’s love for us because of the symbolic virtues of his “enlarged

St. Margaret Mary Alocoque, the seventeenth century visionary of the Sacred Heart, witnessed Jesus reveal His “enlarged heart,” exposed and on fire with love for all humanity. This realization of the intimate love our Lord offers to each of us transformed her life and through her revelations transformed the Church even to this day with the devotion to the Sacred Heart, as well as the awareness of the goodness of the human person.

On this Feast Day, my sisters and brothers, I wonder if another characteristic of what it means to be a Christian is not only one who loves and forgives, but one who has an “enlarged heart?” Usually the medical diagnosis of a swollen or enlarged heart is NOT a good one. Usually, it means there is sickness or disease in or surrounding the muscles of the heart. Usually, it is the cause for alarm and immediate treatment with medication, diet and exercise or even surgery. But maybe as Christians, having a spiritually or symbolically “enlarged heart” means something different…. Maybe it means allowing more people into our hearts to expand it even more? Maybe it means we strive to be united to Christ to love as He loves, unconditionally and wholeheartedly? Maybe it means we are seeking to bring peace and serenity in our own particular way into this turbulent and chaotic world and into our own personal situations? Maybe it means offering prayers with charity from our hearts for those in
need of that spiritual lift of mind and spirit that comes from praying for another person?

May we all desire and seek to develop a spiritually “enlarged heart” in order to encompass all our sisters and brothers as we look to the example and love of the Sacred Heart for each one of us. May we proclaim with Christ using His words to describe our own hearts, “Behold this heart which has loved humanity so much!”

With love and blessings and gratitude for all your continued support and generosity,

Fr. Fred+

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