After Jesus died on the cross, the Roman centurian thrust a sword into Jesus' side and "at once blood and water came out" (Jn. 19:34). That image of the blood flowing from Jesus' pierced side has come to symbolize the greater love he has for us. That burning love is at the center of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. That devotion developed as the Church meditated on the love of Jesus and gradually came to understand it better. The saint most closely associated with devotion to the Sacred Heart is St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690). Through Margaret Mary, Jesus requested that we honor his Sacred Heart by fervently receiving Holy Communion, especially on the First Friday of the month, and offering reparation for sins. Jesus gave to Margaret Mary 12 promises for all those devoted to his Sacred Heart. The booklet includes morning and evening prayers, the Novena to the Sacred Heart, Prayer of Trust, Prayer for the Church, Act of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Prayer for Healing, Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and more. Also includes the Twelve Promises of Jesus to those who honor his most Sacred Heart and the Act of Consecration of the Family to the Sacred Heart.
The tradition of praying novenas has its roots in the earliest days of the Church. Christians have always prayed for various needs, trusting that God both hears and answers prayer. The word "novena" derives from the Latin term novem, meaning nine. In a novena we pray a prayer for nine days. "But," we might wonder, "doesn't God know our needs before we event ask? Isn't praying once for something enough?" Although we believe in Gods love for us, something we need to remind ourselves of this. Although we know we are held in God's hands and that God will not let go, sometimes we need reassurance. What may appear to be mere repetition in a novena is really a continual act of faith and hope in our loving God.
Just as we pray for each other while here on earth, those who have gone before us and are united with God in heaven can pray for us and intercede for us as well. We use the term "communion of saints" to refer to this exchange of spiritual help among the members of the Church on earth, those who have died and are being purified, and the saints in heaven. Devotion to the saints can help us witness to our faith and encourage us in our commitment to lead lives of holiness and service as they did.