The Sacred Heart of Jesus is one Catholic devotion I find both strange and inspiring. That combination is to be expected, I suppose, for one who is just embarking on the Catholic journey after half a century in evangelical Protestantism. But of course, the Christian journey itself is a mixture of things both strange and stunning—from the virgin birth to the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and all the crazy miracles between and after. So it doesn’t surprise me that I often find in Catholicism that discordant mixture.
For me, the strange part of the Sacred Heart is the art associated with it. I know that I’m on dangerous ground here because it is precisely the art that resonates so deeply with so many Catholics. Thankfully, the Lord uses all manner of art to bless all manner of people. But if I’m honest, I have to admit this style, a combination of the literal and romantic—a pierced heart glowing from Jesus’ breast, accompanied by a crown of thorns and fire—doesn’t work for me. But I’ve learned long ago not to judge a tradition by its cover.
Knowing that the Sacred Heart is, in fact, an extraordinarily powerful devotion among Catholics, I wanted to understand the attraction. What I found was something that, as a former evangelical, looked mighty familiar.