The founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (or MSC as we are known), Fr. Jules Chevalier, had a particular way of looking at Jesus that he passed on to his followers and is shared by MSC today throughout the world. We call this our charism and this charism informs the way we live and act as missionaries. It underlines the Founder’s spirituality which was a spirituality of the heart.
God loves us unconditionally. We don’t need to do anything to earn this love, it’s a gift, freely given. Because God loves us this way we are called to share this same love by loving one another and respecting and caring compassionately for all God’s creation. Chevalier knew this. He felt it deeply and passionately. For him, God was and is all heart, all love, and nothing but love. This vision of God is not exclusive to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, all Christians are called to believe this. However, Chevalier put it at the centre of his spirituality, his way of life, and his way of engaging with the world. Today we call this spirituality he missioned us to proclaim, ‘heart spirituality’.
In Jesus, the fullness of God came to dwell in our world as one like us. This is what we call incarnation. Jesus revealed to us that God is a loving Parent. The God who created the galaxies, the mountains, and the oceans cares for all creation; each person and each creature intimately. Heart spirituality then as a spirituality of love is also an incarnational spirituality. We say that Jesus was and is all heart. Therefore, the Sacred Heart is not a part of Jesus. It is all of who Jesus is. This spirituality sees Jesus as above all a compassionate, caring, generous, and forgiving person. Who came into the world so that we could experience this loving face of God up close. He was then the face of God incarnate, and the heart of God in the flesh.
Though ‘heart spirituality’ emphasises Jesus’ humanity this in no way is a denial of his divinity. Instead, it reminds us that Jesus was also fully a human being. Sadly, the history of Christianity has often downplayed this aspect of Jesus in such a way as to injure our own humanity. As a human being just like anyone
of us he felt angry, hungry, lonely, misunderstood, and confused. There is nothing about being human that is alien to Jesus. So he knows us and understands us. His call to us is not to be less human, to strive for an unreal perfectionism. No! His call is to become even more human; to discover God in the fullness of our Humanity and in God’s creation.
For Jules Chevalier, it was important that Jesus loved with a human heart. Jesus’ heart went out to the poor, sick, and suffering. He healed people. He loved his mother, his family, and his friends. Jesus led with his heart. It was this love that ultimately brought him into conflict with the power systems of his day and leads to his death.
As Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, we try to live from this same heart space, this heart energy. We seek to root ourselves in God’s love for us and so be a loving presence in the world. This way of being in the world reveals itself in warm human relationships, both within our fraternal communities and in the way we interact with other people. We like others, get angry especially at social injustice and the destruction of the Earth but we try to as best we can to act out of love for those who suffer and for a wounded creation. Heart spirituality can be strong while at the same time being caring, empathic, gentle, and above all, loving. In the end, it’s what we as Missionaries of the Sacred Heart are all about.
A message from the Provincial on Chevalier Day 21st October 2020
The greatness of Fr. Chevalier is that despite experiencing so many setbacks and obstacles throughout his life, obstacles in the growth and development of our little Society, internal divisions and, many, many personal sufferings, he did not allow either his life or outlook to be dominated by negativity. It always amazes me, reading the writings of his later years: he clearly did not belong to that group of people who only blame the darkness; he always tried to light a candle and to make a difference in the world by being a missionary, by being a man of hope, a man of heart. His whole life is summed up in the title he chose for himself: Missionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Obstacles are Means
When God wants something done, obstacles for him are means.
He makes sport of human wisdom, upsets its expectations, calls to
life what in its view, should never see the light of day.
The foundation and growth of the little Society of the Missionaries
of the Sacred Heart is proof of this truth.
Jules Chevalier 1870