How to Present the Devotion to the Sacred Heart Today, Pedro Arrupe (1975)

The following text emerged from a brief address Pedro Arrupe delivered to an audience of clergy, religious, and laity in 1975. The group had gathered to considered how best to encourage devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Arrupe was one of several people invited to speak, each limited to ten minutes. Arrupe mentions to the group that any presentation stressing the importance of devotion to the Sacred Heart must be effective. To reach that goal, he outlines prerequisites that promoters must have—such as being flexible, humble, and patient. He also offers three necessary steps in a “strategy or manner of proceeding” that will successfully present the devotion to “the present condition of the marketplace”: knowing what devotion to the Sacred Heart truly is; understanding the world’s present situation; and exploring available communication methods.

For more sources from Arrupe, please visit The Arrupe Collection.




This is a matter of such great importance that we ought to reflect in depth about the concrete procedure and the best means we can excogitate to achieve our goal: effective presentation of devotion to the Sacred Heart in the human climate of today. Otherwise, even with the best of intentions, we shall run the risk of falling into a subjective and one-sided view, an outlook characteristic of a thought-current which is too uniform and rigid. The result would be to turn our investigation and the means we use into a blind alley; or at least, we would reach a procedure far less productive, one which would lead to an end somewhat different from the one we truly seek.


In my opinion, our aim should be to explore deeply into the essence and value of devotion to our Savior’s Heart to think out how this cult can be spread as effectively and extensively as possible, and how the reign of Christ’s love, symbolized by his Heart, can be established and consolidated throughout the whole world.



I. Toward Clear Formulation of Our Aim

We have no thought of calling into doubt the foundations and values of this devotion, which are based on divine revelation and the faith.


Neither are we thinking that our own present manner of conceiving the devotion is the best, or that best adapted to today’s world.


We have no thought, either, of attempting to convince others by imposing our ideas on them, or of condemning those who think or express themselves differently from ourselves, insofar as they accept or reject some accidental features different from those to which we hold.


We ought to avoid locking ourselves into our own way of thinking, or judging the intentions of those who think or act in a manner different from our own.


Even less ought we to accept unconditionally, and without previous discernment, the present-day world’s manner of thinking or speaking about this topic.


In contrast to all the above, we ought to recognize that a real change has occurred in theological thought; that in many matters genuine progress has been made; and that this change is irreversible, insofar as we cannot go back to what was the case in former days.


We ought, rather, to aim at discerning the present gains and assimilating them; and this presupposes our recognition of the progress made and our openness to the men and women of today.


We ought, too, to foster an attitude of humility in ourselves, to question our own selves while admitting that we can be in error, and to discern and evaluate the positions we take.


We should deeply study the mentality, attitudes, and scale of values which modern men and women have, and especially those of the youths who are the basis and hope of the future, that we may learn how to adapt our own way of thinking and speaking, and how to act with greater efficacy in our apostolic work.


We should enter into a sincere dialogue with the modern world—its theologians, sociologists, pastoral ministers, youths, the Christian people in its totality.


We must be patient; for this fecund adaptation requires time, both for the studies in depth to be made and for the positive results to be achieved in the midst of a change so extensive in nature as this.


We must be objective in regard to accepting the results of such a study, even if those results turn out to be other than those we expected, or even perhaps contrary to our manner of thinking.


We ought to maintain the flexibility necessary to adapt our own mentality to the mentality o:r mentalities of today, in the midst of that orthodox and rich pluralism characteristic of modern society.


We should cultivate openness and scientific sincerity in seeking collaboration from persons who think in their own distinctive way or represent currents of theological thought different from our own.


We ought to engage in constructive labor and contact with the diverse forces operating in the Church; and likewise to avoid positions or expressions which are too rigid, and which can stir up an impression of intolerance and thereby provoke a rigid reaction; This could go so far as to cause those who think otherwise than we to withdraw into themselves and reject further dialogue as impossible. Through that we could lose the collaboration and other elements of great worth.



II. Toward Clear Formulation of Our Strategy or Manner of Proceeding

St. Ignatius states that to bring men to Christ, a wise procedure is “to enter with the interests of others in order to come out later on with our own.” In other words, it is wise to understand others’ viewpoints and interests, that thus we may lead them more efficaciously to what is good.


To cast our gaze into another area, a principle of “marketing” is that we should understand well the circumstances of the marketplace before we try to sell our merchandise in it. To investigate and know what the demand may be is altogether necessary for success in sales.


To succeed in “selling our merchandise,” the devotion to the Heart of Christ, we must know what the present condition of the marketplace is—the world of men and women whom we are addressing—in such a way that we show them our merchandise “by entering through their interests.” For this, three steps will be necessary.


Step 1. We must know what the devotion to the Sacred Heart truly is, and all that it contains. This is the most important factor. It will require study truly profound which IS theological, biblical, sociological, and the like—a study which brings us to profit from modern investigations, and through this to penetrate and understand the significance of this devotion. Such a study cannot be achieved unless much time is dedicated to it, and unless the effort is scientifically beyond reproach, multidisciplinary, objective, and carried out without setting up offensive categories of theological thought-currents.


Step 2. We must understand the present situation of the world and of the men and women in it. We can succeed only through a profound study of our present culture, and of its diverse ideological and sociological movements insofar as they have any bearing on our topic.


Similarly indispensable is a profound analysis of the values and scale of values current among persons of today, along with the diverse aspects which these values have in various subcultures. It entails analysis of the use of modern symbols and of the graphic representation of ideas and realities.


Step 3. We must explore the methods by which we can communicate and express the content of this devotion in our present cultural climate


In view of the modern mentality and attitudes, and of the changes already known which have created our “image-culture” with all its consequences, we must reflect about the methods by which we can most effectively present and spread the spirit and total content of this devotion to precisely this concrete public. It is composed of persons very diverse who have, each one, his or her own personal history and psychology. Immediately we find ourselves in the problem of pastoral care, and that of evangelization which is both personal and collective.


We cannot prescind from any one of these three steps just listed. To achieve the third step efficaciously, the first two are necessary as means. Our end (primum in intentione) is precisely the communication of this devotion; but this presupposes our study of what this devotion truly is, and of the world to whom we desire to communicate it. Clearly, therefore, this effective communication will be our last step (ultimum in executione), something to be fully achieved only after enough time has elapsed for the first two (see Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, [135]).


However, this does not in any way mean that we can do nothing until the first two steps have been completely accomplished. Rather, what it does state is that to achieve the third step in a manner truly efficacious, we must be willing to wait in patience until the study required in steps 1 and 2 have advanced a goodly distance.


Hence arises the importance of starting to work soon, and in a way carefully planned, on the first two steps, which are so fundamental that without them the third cannot be accomplished. These first two steps are the most difficult, and they must be undertaken in a profound and systematic way so that they provide a firm basis for efficacious procedure.


For that, a good plan is necessary, and persons to carry it through. That is, it requires qualified personnel and sufficient economic means, two factors which are hard to find. Here, in my humble view, is the best and most difficult service which any group might furnish.


Yet only thus can we achieve full success in presenting the devotion to the Sacred Heart as a response to the human problems of today, as a firm foundation for the men or women of today who, whether believers or non-believers, are searching in anxiety for a solution to their personal and social problems.



Here I suggest some topics which can well be studied. This list ought to be completed logically and amplified.


1.     The great problem of men and women of today: the meaning of life.


2.     The person of Christ as the object of love both religious and human from the men and women of today.


3.     The person of Christ in the world of today: the acceptation (total or partial) which various groups manifest toward him.


4.     The Eucharist as the present manifestation of Christ’s love towards the people of today.


5.     The Eucharist as something truly present among us, and the modern attitudes toward it.


6.     Christ’s cross as a manifestation of his love, and its meaning for persons of our time.


7.     The religious spirit of our modern people.


8.     Atheism, its manifestations, and its causes with their relation to present-day Christology.


9.     Symbols in our culture of today: the reasons for their transformations, and the present situation in regard to the heart as a symbol.


10.     The diverse expressions of genuine human love in today’s world.


11.     The mutual relation between a symbol and the thing signified.


12.     The social dimension of Christ’s love.


13.     The relations between faith, charity, and justice: justice as an integrating part of the “service of faith” (diakonia fidei).


14.     Justice and devotion to the Sacred Heart.




Original Source (English translation):

Arrupe, Pedro. In Him Alone Is Our Hope: Texts on the Heart of Christ (1965–1983): Selected Letters and Addresses—IV, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1984, “What Can We Do to Present the Devotion of the Sacred Heart in the Climate of Today?,” pg. 133–139.

Scroll to Top