The Second Vatican Council asked religious institutes to help spread the love of and the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In response on behalf of their Jesuit brethren, the delegates of the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus affirmed the Sacred Heart as “the center of our own spiritual lives.” Yet, the delegates, in the following decree, also note many of their fellow Jesuits and of the faithful did not find such devotion appealing. They use the decree to ask “our theologians, men experienced in spirituality and pastoral theology, and promoters of the apostolate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” for “ways of presenting this devotion that are better suited to various regions and persons.” The delegates also ask the new superior general to “encourage these studies” and to lead the Society of Jesus in a “renewal of its religious and apostolic spirit.”
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1. The Second Vatican Council has shed a brilliant new light upon the mystery of the Church, but this mystery is perceptible only to eyes directed in faith to the eternal love of the Incarnate Word. For Christ, who “thought with a human mind, acted by human choice, and loved with a human heart,” sacrificed Himself in human love that He might win as His bride the Church which was born from His side as He slept on the cross.
2. The Church finds a splendid symbol for this love, at once human and divine, in the wounded heart of Christ, for the blood and water which flowed from it aptly represent the inauguration and growth of the Church and solicit our response of love. Devotion to the Sacred Heart, as proposed by the Church, pays tribute to “that love which God has shown us through Jesus, and is also the exercise of the love we have for God and for our fellow-men,” effecting that interpersonal exchange of love which is the essence of Christian and religious life. This is why devotion to the Sacred Heart is regarded as an excellent and tested form of that dedication “to Christ Jesus, king and center of all hearts, which our age urgently needs, as Vatican II has insisted.” This should be the concern of the Society above all, both among its own members and in its apostolic ministry, not only because of our long and venerable tradition but also because of the very recent recommendation of the Roman Pontiff.
3. For these reasons the General Congregation readily embraces the wishes of the Supreme Pontiff; it recalls the decrees of earlier congregations concerning devotion to the heart of Christ and urges all members of the Society to “spread ever more widely a love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to show all men by word and example that the renewal of minds and morals, as well as the increased vitality and effectiveness of all religious institutes in the Church, which are called for by the Second Vatican Council, ought to draw their chief inspiration and vigor from this source.” In this way we shall more effectively make the love of Christ, which finds its symbol in the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the center of our own spiritual lives, proclaim with greater effect before all men the unfathomable riches of Christ, and foster the primacy of love in the Christian life.
4. It is no secret, however, that devotion to the Sacred Heart, at least in some places, is today less appealing to Jesuits and to the faithful in general. The reason for this is perhaps to be found in outmoded devotional practices. Therefore our theologians, men experienced in spirituality and pastoral theology, and promoters of the apostolate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are urgently asked to search out ways of presenting this devotion that are better suited to various regions and persons. For, while preserving the essential nature of the devotion, it would seem imperative to set aside unnecessary accretions and adapt it to contemporary needs, making it more intelligible to the men of our time and more attuned to their sensibilities.
5. The General Congregation also recommends that Father General encourage these studies. He will then be in a position to assist the whole Society to a better renewal of its religious and apostolic spirit.
Original Source (English translation):
Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st–35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, General Congregation 31, Decree 15, “Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” pg. 106–107 [238–242].