The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Celebrating Christ's Love for All Mankind

Sacred Heart of Jesus statue next to right side altar in St. Mary's Oratory, Rockford, Illinois.
Sacred Heart of Jesus statue next to right side altar in St. Mary's Oratory, Rockford, IL. Scott P. Richert

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes back at least to the 11th century, but through the 16th century, it remained a private devotion, often tied to devotion to the Five Wounds of Christ.

Quick Facts 

The Feast of the Sacred Heart is one of the most popular in the Catholic Church; it is celebrated in the spring on a different date each year.

  • Date: 19 days after Pentecost Sunday
  • Type of Feast: Solemnity
  • Readings: Hosea 11:1, 3-4, 8c-9; Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6; Ephesians 3:8-12; John 19:31-37 
  • Prayers: Act of Love to the Sacred Heart; Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart
  • Other Names for the Feast: The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

About the Feast of the Sacred Heart

According to the Gospel of John (19:33), when Jesus was dying on the cross "one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water."  The celebration of the Sacred Heart is associated with the physical wound (and the associated sacrifice), the "mystery" of both blood and water pouring from Christ's chest, and the devotion God asks from humankind.

Pope Pius XII wrote about the Sacred Heart  in his 1956 encyclical, Haurietis Aquas (On Devotion To The Sacred Heart):

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is devotion to Jesus Christ Himself, but in the particular ways of meditating on his interior life and on His threefold love: His divine love, His burning love that fed His human will, and His sensible love that affects His interior life

History of the Feast of the Sacred Heart

The first feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated on August 31, 1670, in Rennes, France, through the efforts of Fr. Jean Eudes (1602-1680). From Rennes, the devotion spread, but it took the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) for the devotion to become universal.

In all of these visions, in which Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus played a central role. The "great apparition," which took place on June 16, 1675, during the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi, is the source of the modern Feast of the Sacred Heart. In that vision, Christ asked St. Margaret Mary to request that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be celebrated on the Friday after the octave (or eighth day) of the Feast of Corpus Christi, in reparation for the ingratitude of men for the sacrifice that Christ had made for them. The Sacred Heart of Jesus represents not simply His physical heart but His love for all mankind.

The devotion became quite popular after St. Margaret Mary's death in 1690, but, because the Church initially had doubts about the validity of St. Margaret Mary's visions, it wasn't until 1765 that the feast was celebrated officially in France. Almost 100 years later, in 1856, Pope Pius IX, at the request of the French bishops, extended the feast to the universal Church. It is celebrated on the day requested by our Lord-the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, or 19 days after Pentecost Sunday.