Sacred Fire is the second book I’ve read on the Sacred Heart; the first one being a classic by Fr. John Croiset, the spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690). However, I wish I’d gotten my hands on Bulman’s book first because it’s much easier to read.
The first part of the book traces the evolution of this devotion beginning with St. Gertrude (1256-1302), who not only had visions of Jesus but also of St. John the Evangelist! On his feast day, she asked why he had not written more plainly about the Sacred Heart in his Gospel, given that he rested upon the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper. St. John said that such "revelations about the Sacred Heart had been reserved until later ages, that the world might be aroused from its torpor, and animated, when it had grown cold, by hearing of these things."
Wow! It makes me want to get her works. And this is the beauty of Bulman's book. With each saint who was given some revelation about the Sacred Heart, it makes me want to dig deeper, so that I too may have the pleasure of being enclosed within His Heart.
And this is the way Bulman traces the history of this devotion. The last two sentences of the chapter on St. Gertrude are: A French edition of Gertrude's Legatus was published in 1671. It is possible the book was read aloud in an obscure convent in Paray-le-Monial, where a young woman named Margaret Mary Alacoque had recently become a novice.
Bulman follows St. Margaret Mary, who popularized devotion to the Sacred Heart, then the various Carmelite nuns who picked it up. St. Therese's Story of a Soul fell into the hands of Teresa of the Andes, and ends with modern-day St. Faustina, whom St. John Paul II canonized, the first saint of the new millennium. It is this continuity that makes Sacred Fire such a joy to read.
The second half of the book deals with the actual devotion, its Scriptural roots, and the promises of the Sacred Heart. Fisheaters has an excellent summary. Briefly, one must receive Holy Eucharist frequently, keep a Holy Hour on Thursday night, attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on first Fridays of the months as a reparation not just for our own sins but the sins of the world, and celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart. This means, one must go for confession frequently as well :) Just sayin'
I remember our priest exhorting us to devote ourselves to the Sacred Heart because It is the fount of all graces. Catholics are often shown with the rosary, but as anybody who prays the rosary knows, Mary takes hold of us and brings us to Jesus. We'll be celebrating our second anniversary of consecration of our family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Nov. 9th. I am so very grateful for this book that has brought a greater love and understanding. Thank you, Mr. Bulman, for writing a very important book.
A happy Feast day to all.
Pray for us, Saint John Paul II.