Here’s your Valentine’s card.

Have a heart…the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus is pretty hard for a convert to understand. The imagery is usually sentimental. Too much Catholic kitsch for the tasteful Anglicans and too much Catholic weirdness for the typical Baptist.

I once visited the Monastery at Conyers in Georgia, and a nice Catholic lady was showing me around. She told me a story about the time she was showing one of her Southern Baptist friends around the monastery and church. The Southern Baptist was very friendly and open minded. Then they got to the image of the Sacred Heart. “I’m sorry.” said the Baptist lady, “But what is that? Why does Jesus have his heart on the outside, and why is it on fire?”

In the best apologetic manner the Catholic lady said, “Well, you know how you Baptists accept Jesus into your heart? We Catholics ask Jesus to accept us into his heart.”

I first came into contact with devotion to the sacred heart when I was eighteen and visited Europe for the first time. We went to Paris, and one night we went wandering around the streets of Montmartre. I wandered into the great basilica of Sacre Coeur. All was darkness except for the pools of light where candles had been lit in the vast space. I didn’t know what was going on, but I now realize it was Eucharistic adoration. I knew I need to kneel, and as an eighteen year old Baptist boy, just out of high school and on my way to Bob Jones University, knelt there in the vast silence. Looking back, I can see that even then God was drawing me home.

Some years later I had the chance to visit Paray le Monial and learn about St Margaret Mary. Once I understood the where and why of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, it has found a place in my own prayers.

Here is a poem by Sir Philip Sidney. It’s not by a Catholic or about the Sacred Heart, but it works (and it echoes nicely the conversation between the Baptist and the Catholic ladies.)

My true love hath my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for another given;
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot mis,
There never was a better bargain driven.
My true love has my heart and I have his.

His heart in me keeps him and me in one,
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides
He loves my heart, for once it was his own,
I cherish his, because in me it bides.
My true love has my heart and I have his.