The Sacred Heart of Jesus is today one of the most recognizable symbols of the Catholic faith. The image originated in France near the end of the seventeenth century when a nun named Marguerite Marie Alacoque (Often anglicized to Mary-Margaret) began to publicize her mystical visions of Jesus, who admonished her to devote herself and the country to the veneration of his heart, which she described the heart as the center of communication between humans and the Divine.
St. Mary-Margaret’s vision, of a heart entwined with thorns and flames, sprouting a cross from the top, was drawn from the visions of earlier mystics, and possibly from alchemical imagery common at the time.
A few decades after the Saint’s death, the the bishop of Marseilles, Monseigneur de Belsunce, consecrated his diocese to the Sacred Heart in an effort to spare the region from plague. The plague passed over Marseilles, and the symbol became very popular, associated with acts of charity and piety and used as a charm against disease. Today, to devote oneself to veneration of the Sacred Heart is to in effect make the heart of Christ one’s own- to create within oneself the love and compassion of Christ- in essence, to be Christ-like.
The Sacred Heart as originally envisioned by Sister Mary-Margaret