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Pride Month and the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Pride Month & the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Rising Tensions in the Summer
In the summer months, things get heated. Puns aside: summer is when crime rates consistently rise, violence peaks for the year, and arguments happen with greater frequency and higher intensity. One of the tensions already on the rise is the “fight” over the month of June.
For secular society, June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month. June is also traditionally the month devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion centered on the humility, love, and mercy of the God-man.
As Christians, how can we ensure, to the best of our ability, that the month of June honors the Sacred Heart of Jesus? How can we push back against the clearly manifest wrong that accompanies Pride events? And how can we do so without further alienating those celebrating Pride Month?
That’s what I want to briefly comment on today. There is more to say than this short article can cover, but I hope that my thoughts here inspire you, help you, or, at the very least, start a good conversation. Let us begin with looking at the History of Pride Month and the “Gay Civil Rights Movement.” Finally, we will look at a post on Instagram from a prominent Catholic media personality as a sort of case study and breakdown why certain approaches are poised to bear fruit while others will understandably go nowhere - and perhaps make matters worse.
LGBTQ Pride Month Begins
A gay club called the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City, was raided in the early hours of June 28, 1969. Raids by police on establishments known to be frequented by those with same-sex attraction were not uncommon. These raids were conducted on the basis that solicitation of same-sex relations was illegal in New York City. In this particular instance, the patrons of the bar and some local residents led a six day protest and riot with law enforcement. This was not the beginning of the “gay rights movement” but it was a turning point.
On June 28, 1969, 13 people were arrested after police, warrant in hand, entered the bar and were violent with patrons. The state had laws about gender-appropriate clothing, so female police officers took suspected cross-dressers to the bathrooms to check. Patrons and nearby citizens were fed up with the seemingly constant harassment from police. Instead of going home, they became agitated. When a woman was hit on the head and put in a police van, those around started picking up anything they could find to throw at the police.
The Stonewall uprising was a force to be reckoned with on the national activism front. The Gay Liberation Front, the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and the PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) were started in the wake of the riots. The official chant of the parade celebrating the one year anniversary of the riots in Manhattan was: “Say it loud, gay is proud (History.com).” Thus, Pride Month and Pride events were born.
The “Gay Civil Rights Movement”
It is worth pointing out that the movement was for “gay rights” which included lesbians. Generally, in the past, a man was referred to as “gay” if he was attracted sexually to other men. Likewise, a “lesbian” was a woman physically attracted to other women. If this seems overly binary, it is because, at the very least, it acknowledges the reality that there are two genders. The later addition of “bisexual,” “transgender,” and “queer” to the so-called alliance shows that “Pride” has come to incorporate seemingly anyone who is not cisgender (men who identify as men, women as women) and hetero-normative (being sexually attracted to the opposite gender).
Often times, I think that the LGTBQIA2S+... (I put ellipses because who knows what the heck will be added tomorrow) label is used to give the appearance of a shared experience or vision - a kind of hivemind. This is absurd to me. What it shows is that those pushing this narrative are unmoored from objective reality in favor of some twisted libertarianism. In speaking with friends who describe themselves as “gay” or “lesbian,” I have found relatively few commonalities that would necessitate a categorization, except for a similar experience of social discrimination.
Instead, the people who identify as LGBTQ(etc.) are as different as any other individuals! Race politics, gender politics, and this insane LGBT identification politics does not serve the good of the human person. Instead of uniting people for a common purpose, it divides people. Not to mention, it is based on disordered inclinations, desires, and wrongheaded notions of the body, the soul, and human sexuality. Even ten years ago, I would venture a guess that most gay and lesbian people would think that modern gender theory and transgenderism, in particular, is absurd. If you review material being put out today, the term “transgender” is used to describe cross-dressers from 60-70 years ago. There is a sizable distinction between wearing womens’ clothing and a man believing himself to actually be a woman. I find it interesting that a gay man who identifies as a man dressing in drag is not considered transgender expression, but it seems acceptable (to advance a narrative) to label those in the past as “transgender” without the slightest morsel of evidence.
Nonetheless, letters continue to be added to the acronym and what began as gay and lesbian “pride” is now gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual, two-spirit, and the other several dozen unnamed options.
I take serious issue with several of the key goals of the “gay rights movement.” The issue of most importance in the last decades is the question of marriage. Marriage is between one man and one woman, for life. Reality cannot be rewritten. At some point, the gay rights leaders intentionally chose to work towards same-sex so-called marriage, rather than civil unions or some other legal protections for long-term partners. This will likely need a much longer treatment in a separate article or episode, but there are a plethora of serious concerns with the transgender ideology being pushed more recently. My primary concern is the effect of this social contagion on children. So-called “gender affirming care” is an insidious pretense for irreparable hormone therapy and mutilation.
That all being said, there is much to celebrate. Working for the equitable treatment of all people is a good thing. Ensuring that the natural rights of human beings are honored and protected is a good thing. Being killed, tortured, or maimed for a sexual orientation or gender expression is evil. And there are many places where this is the practice, especially in predominantly Muslim countries. Freedom from harassment is something we should all desire and work towards. For example, ending unjust discrimination in housing and healthcare for those in same-sex partnerships is a good thing. It is important that those who have apprehensions with the agenda of the gay rights movement make it clear that there are good distinctions to be made about which parts are problematic and which parts are not.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Devotion
In 1675, our Lord Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a nun in France. During these apparitions, He expounded on a devotion He wished her to share with the world: the devotion to His Sacred Heart. The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a human heart with a cross on the top, surrounded by flames. The Heart also had a crown of thorns around it and was pierced in the bottom right section. The devotion itself was centered on frequent reception of Holy Communion and for acts of reparation to be offered to His Most Sacred Heart.
In the late 16th and early 17th Centuries, there was a pious practice to refrain from frequent reception of Holy Communion. By rule, for example, the Poor Clares “communicated six times a year; the Dominicanesses, fifteen times; the Third Order of St. Dominic, four times. Even saints received rarely: St. Louis six times a year, St. Elizabeth only three times (Catholic Encyclopedia).” There are patristics testaments to frequent reception of Holy Communion, but during the Middle Ages, reception was quite infrequent. At one point, so few people were receiving Holy Communion that the Fourth Lateran Council had to establish the precept of the Church of receiving Holy Communion at least once per year. The Council of Trent said “that at each Mass the faithful who are present, should communicate (Sess. XXII, chap. vi).” So, this was a big issue at the time of Sr. Margaret Mary.
Jansenism was a heresy, especially in France, that persisted from 1640 to at least 1800. The principal error of this heresy was that free will was not necessary to receive and use the grace of God. Much like Calvinism, there was an idea that grace was intended only for the predestined elect, in that God bestowed it on some and actively withheld it from others. This pessimistic view of human nature led to widespread despair or presumption, both sins against hope. Whether from despair or presumption, the rigidity of Jansenism led to the practice of infrequent reception of Holy Communion.
The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and the Council of Trent (1545-1563) made it clear that the Church was not telling people to refrain from Holy Communion. But the Roman Catechism (1566) made this even clearer:
"Let not the faithful deem it enough to receive the Body of the Lord once a year only; but let them judge that Communion ought to be more frequent; but whether it be more expedient that it should be monthly, weekly, or daily, can be decided by no fixed universal rule (pt. II, c. iv, n. 58).”
Antoine Arnauld, in his 1643 “Frequent Communion,” argued that frequent reception of Holy Communion cheapened the Sacrament. However, pre-Revolution 17th Century France also produced St. Vincent de Paul, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, St. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, and De Rance - the founder of the Trappists. This was a time of great rigidity on the one hand and concurrent spiritual flourishing on the other hand. Though Jansenism continued to grow, the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori and the spread of the devotion of the Sacred Heart led to frequent reception of Holy Communion becoming the rule. Daily Communion would later be encouraged by Pope Blessed Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII and explicitly approved by Pope St. Pius X in the early 20th Century.
The Historical Background of the Sacred Heart Devotion
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a human heart, the flesh born of Mary. The God-man became one of us and shared in our humanity. Then, He went to the Cross for love of us and in our place. It was our sins that put him on the Cross, and He without sin went to that horrific end anyway. The crown of thorns placed around the Sacred Heart in the image is placed there by the sins of men. And, yet, He died in our place and rose from the dead for our salvation.
The Heart of Jesus is a symbol of His love for us. From Christ’s open side, blood and water flowed, but the first millennium of the Church did not worship the wounded Heart of Christ. However, in the 11th and 12th Centuries, amongst the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries, devotion to the Sacred Heart began. St. Gertrude, for example, received a vision on the feast of St. John the Evangelist in which she was permitted to rest her head on the wounded side of Christ and heard His beating Divine Heart. She asked St. John if,
“on the night the Last Supper he too had felt these delightful pulsations, why he had never spoken of the fact. John replied that this revelation had been reserved for subsequent ages when the world, having grown cold, would have need of it to rekindle its love ("Legatus divinae pietatis", IV, 305; "Revelationes Gertrudianae", ed. Poitiers and Paris, 1877) (Catholic Encyclopedia).”
In the thirteenth to sixteenth Centuries, the devotion to the Five Wounds of Christ spread, which featured the Wound in the Heart prominently. In the 16th Century, meditation on the wounded Sacred Heart of Jesus became the object of mystical contemplation. The Franciscans had a prominent devotion to the Five Wounds. The Jesuits, likewise, placed the image of the Five Wounds on the title page of their books and in their churches.
St. John Eudes began the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary which pointed to a devotion to the Heart of Jesus. By honoring the symbol of Mary’s interior life and her inner beauty, body and soul, we are led to her Son. Little by little, this devotion became a separate devotion. The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was first celebrated on August 31, 1670 by Pope Pius VI. Then, in 1899, in his encyclical Annum sacrum, Pope Leo XIII moved the Feast of the Sacred Heart to June 11 and he consecrated every human being to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1969, with the new calendar, the feast of the Sacred Heart was designated as a Solemnity and moved to the third Friday after Pentecost.
Living the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Then, five years later, St. Margaret Mary becomes an apostle for the Sacred Heart devotion, just as St. Gertrude was centuries before. Practically, the devotion included frequent reception of Holy Communion, Communion at Mass on the First Friday of the month (this is where the First Friday devotion began), and making a Holy Hour of Reparation.
During the month of June, in particular, we can celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus particularly by making a good Confession, receiving Holy Communion worthily, devoutly, and frequently, by offering a Holy Hour of Reparation, and inviting a priest to your home to do an Enthronement of the Sacred Heart.
Holy Hour of Reparation
When Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary, He said: "Make reparation for the ingratitude of men. Spend an hour in prayer to appease Divine justice, to implore mercy for sinners, to honor Me, to console Me for My bitter suffering when abandoned by My Apostles, when they did not watch one hour with Me (Holy Hour of Reparation).” Some churches have perpetual adoration and some have it available throughout the day. But even if your Parish does not offer exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, we can still pray in adoration of Jesus, present in the Tabernacle.
This Holy Hour should be specifically offered in reparation for personal sins and the sins of the world. In our present time, this is certainly all the more necessary. For a beautiful prayer of reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus please click here.
Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Another good thing to do is get an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and find a prominent place in your home to enthrone it. This Enthronement can be performed by any priest. Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary: “I will reign through My Heart!” Sacred Heart Holy Hour explains the Enthronement and shows how it is a help to families in living out the call to be a domestic church!
“The Enthronement begins with a beautiful and impressive ceremony. In the home itself, in the presence of the priest, who presides at the ceremony (or the head of the family), the family publicly and solemnly acknowledges that Christ is the King and loving Master of its home. This is done by having the head of the family (school, convent, etc...) install a picture or statue of the Sacred Heart in the place of honour, in the principal room of the home, as on a throne hence the word Enthronement. After this solemn acknowledgment of the sovereign rights of Christ the King over the family, the members consecrate themselves to the Sacred Heart. Thereby they pledge themselves to live as though the Sacred Heart were actually dwelling in their midst as He did at Nazareth, treating Him as an intimate member of the family, as a Friend and Brother (Sacred Heart Holy Hour.com).”
The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart was recommended by Pope St. Pius X, Pope Benedict XV, Pope Pius XI, and Pope Pius XII. Please click here for a PDF of the Enthronement Preparation, the Act of Consecration, the words of the priest, and renewal prayers. In line with the concept of the Enthronement, Pope Pius XII said that the Sacred Heart of Jesus is “the foundation on which to build the kingdom of God in the hearts of individuals, families, and nations (Haureitis aquas, 123).” That prayer is included at the end of this article.
Two Celebrations in Seemingly Diametric Opposition
Now, let us place the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus next to Pride Month. Are these two celebrations in opposition? It seems evident, to me, that in 2023, they are diametrically opposed.
The Sacred Heart devotion is about making reparation for sin. It is about conforming ourselves to Jesus Christ and the Heart which burns for the love of mankind. In essence, it is about recognizing our sins, repenting, asking for forgiveness, receiving God’s amazing grace and mercy, and then making acts of penance and reparation on behalf of all men. This action is about an outward focus, in humility, towards the eternal beatitude of all and a burning love for Jesus Christ, so wounded by sin.
Pride Month celebrates non-conformance to traditional norms, in favor of pride of self. Rather than the humility of finding our identity in Jesus Christ, the leaders of the Pride movements seek to make identities out of attractions, inclinations, and misapprehensions. Perhaps this is the saddest part of the “gay rights movement.” What began with good intentions and a desire for dignity, peace, and acceptance as persons, has become something else.
At the outset I asked: “How can we push back against the clearly manifest wrong that accompanies Pride events? And how can we do so without further alienating those celebrating Pride Month?” So, I want to address those directly, to end:
How can we push back against the clearly manifest wrong that accompanies Pride events?
Devolving from the original purpose of protecting those in the LGBTQ community from violence, Pride Month has now become an opportunity to practice debauchery and explicit, public perversion in city streets, in local libraries, and elsewhere. There is no need to highlight examples, one need only glance at the news or walk around in town. Perhaps this movement began as a desire to be free from unjust discrimination and wanton violence, but it has become a celebration of manifest error. Every human person has disordered inclinations, desires and misapprehension; this is not something peculiar to those with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. However, when we fall to sin, the only legitimate and good response is contrition and reparation. To instead celebrate that sin with public nudity, sexual perversion, and foul language is unacceptable. Oftentimes, misguided parents bring their children to these public events, which makes the gravity even more pronounced.
We can push back against these things by making our voice heard and withholding funds, where possible (think here of the effective boycott against Bud Light and then recent backlash against Target). Last year, there were ridiculously inappropriate transgender books for kids in my local library, so I mentioned to the librarians that I thought it was problematic and then wrote a charitably worded letter to the County. I do not think it did much, but at least a few people heard explicitly that there are folks who are not okay with the gradual indoctrination, that seems to be especially and intentionally aimed at children.
How can we do so without further alienating those celebrating Pride Month?
For those who are not Christian or who have left the practice of the Faith, the Catholic viewpoint is seemingly pure bigotry. In today’s social context, homosexuality and its expressions are not only accepted but lauded. Gender dysphoria has gone from a diagnosable mental illness to these delusions actively being affirmed by healthcare professionals. In a world unmoored from Christianity, we are being overrun by relativism. So, the introduction of a sense of objectivity is seen as intolerance, bigotry, meanness, and worse. Even charitable speech about the truth regarding these matters is seen as a violence against the person.
Remember, the gay rights movement has done an effective job at convincing many people that one of the letters in the growing alphabet soup IS their entire identity! So, if we point out the error or sinfulness of various actions and take issue with certain public displays, it seems we are attacking the people themselves (this is not true, but, as far as perception goes, it is our current reality). This is not insurmountable, I think. This is where two things are vital: 1) form authentic relationships and 2) make good distinctions.
In the public square, we have an obligation to call out sinful behavior, words, and actions. If we see something wrong and we are in a position to speak to it charitably, we should. Now, if there is something that we have concern about but no actual influence, then we have no universal obligation. Authentic relationships, however, are a place of influence. When we love someone, we will the good for that person. If our friend is acting in a way which is harmful to him or her, then we are compelled to try to help him or her see reason and discontinue what he or she is doing. And we have a general sense of expecting the same treatment, in love, from our friends. In a real friendship, we are not trying to fix someone, use them, or treat them as a project; we love them. From this place of genuine friendship, we can speak the truth. For those who buy into the narratives associated with Pride month - gay, straight, trans, or otherwise - we will only be able to change hearts and minds from a place of true relationship. If the issue is that we are confusing actions with identity, then the person you are correcting needs to truly know that you see them as something beyond a particularly arbitrary “identity.” All of us are more than the sum total of our actions or desires, and thank goodness. They need to know that you see them as a person, for who they really are, and love them. Anything less than this authenticity will not be well received and may harden hearts even more.
Does this mean that we cannot speak to those we do not know or to those who are not our friends? No way! We can and should! But I maintain that we have to be even more tactful and charitable. This does NOT mean watering down our message or sacrificing truth. What it means is that we have to seek to make very good, explicit distinctions. The way that we approach our love of Jesus Christ and our love of the human beings who celebrate Pride month will determine our salvation and, potentially, theirs.
A Case Study in Having Tact
I do not want to be uncharitable, by any means, or devalue the good work of Matt Fradd and Pints with Aquinas. But I want to use a recent post of his to illustrate my point. Pints with Aquinas is selling t-Shirts with the Sacred Heart of Jesus on them that say “Reclaim the Month” - the Instagram post from May 17, 2023 had the following caption:
“June is approaching, and you know what that means …🌈 🌈 🌈 …that’s right! It’s the month Catholics dedicate to the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in gratitude for His redeeming love for mankind (mattfradd).”
It’s a clever t-shirt and a clever caption. I appreciate the idea and would like nothing more than Pride month to go away forever because I do believe it is contrary to the truth of the human person and diametrically opposed to the Gospels and our Lord Jesus Christ.
I do, however, think this campaign illustrates my point about tact. If I identified as gay, lesbian, or transgender, and the only real interaction with Catholicism I had was some guy on the internet putting “my identity” in opposition to Jesus, I have to imagine that this would push me further from the truth.
Here a few comments from that post, for consideration:
“You can celebrate this month without making a dig against people. I don’t appreciate this and this attitude does not feel Christ-like.”
I take issue with this comment because the “this doesn’t feel Christ-like” sentiment is often misused and problematically applied. However, the first sentence has merit.
Here’s another comment that I thought was problematic:
“so, do we or do we not want queer people to stay present in the church? because we cannot do things like this and then act surprised when queer people leave the Church and speak poorly of their time in it. this might be a good time to revisit the Catechism, which has about twice as much to say about welcoming queer folk with compassion and rejecting discrimination as it does about actual gay sex. I know many queer Catholics who are deeply orthodox and also celebrate pride month in gratitude for the goodness of their design in God’s image. We are not being asked to choose between the Sacred Heart and queer people; the Sacred Heart of Christ is FOR queer people”
The good distinction being drawn here is between gay sex acts and persons with same-sex attraction. Having an inclination or desire is not sinful, acting on it is. Advancing it as a good is certainly sinful and erroneous. However, we should not say “queer people.” That is not anyone’s true identity. The Sacred Heart is for all people, though! And Jesus did die for all people. So, I think this is problematic but still has merit.
Another charitable and excellent critique:
“Matt, Respectfully, I struggle to see how posts like these will actually draw souls to want to know Jesus and His Heart that is supposedly being represented here. Is the mockery, belittling, and upstaging of the LGBT+ community going to genuinely attract them to the Church and Her teachings on human sexuality? Where is the invitation? Why would anybody want to know a God whose followers aim to “dig” at them?
We must ask ourselves as followers of Jesus: are we going to put our efforts towards “making digs” at those who are lost and in need of the Good News? Or are we going to put our efforts towards reaching out to the lost and being willing to encounter them amidst their sin?
Which approach truly reflects the merciful, compassionate Sacred Heart of our Lord? His Heart which eagerly thirsts for sinners and longs to draw them back to Him (Mt. 11:29, Mt. 9:36).
I do not mean to encourage bashing against you or your public ministry. Rather, I merely desire to raise awareness to the responsibility we have as disciples of Christ who represent Him in all we say, do, endorse, and post for the public to see.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus absolutely needs to be defended. However, in doing so, the Sacred Heart also needs to be reflected and represented properly.
The world needs Jesus. How can we most authentically and efficiently draw them to Him? Pax!”
And one more:
“...why do we need to reclaim a month that already belongs to the Sacred Heart? June belongs to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. God is in charge. And I believe that He is asking the faithful to show charity, even in the midst of the confusion and darkness, because our hearts, our communities, our world needs it. We’re not being called to condone the act of perversity, we are being called to respond with love and to show warmth and light to those who are suffering.”
Gosh, I love this comment. Why do we need to reclaim a month that already belongs to the Sacred Heart? Excellent question! What could instead be very powerful is for Catholics to stop playing these culture wars and introduce actual culture into the world. Live the month of June for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Make it beautiful and based on authentic love for Jesus and for our fellow man. We do not need to reclaim the month any more than we need to reclaim the rainbow. These divisive comments do nothing to share the Gospel; they simply push people further away.
I will end with this: Tact is important. Without it, we are barbarians at the gate rather than apostles ready to serve. We must preach the Gospel, for as St. Paul says, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel (1 Cor. 9:16)!” But pride is often accompanied by anger, so we need to heed the words of Proverbs: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).” But we must not mistake soft for flimsy. We must pull up alongside the other, share his load, and be in relationship with him. Then, and only then, will we be emulating Christ: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29).”
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Appendix: Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart
Consecration performed by Pope Leo XIII on May 15, 1956
“Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Thy altar. We are Thine, and Thine we wish to be; but, to be more surely united with Thee, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Thy Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known Thee; many too, despising Thy precepts, have rejected Thee. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Thy Sacred Heart.
Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken Thee, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned Thee; grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.
Be Thou King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof; call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.
Be Thou King of all those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or of Islamism; refuse not to draw them all into the light and kingdom of God. Turn Thine eyes of mercy toward the children of that race, once Thy chosen people: of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may it now descend upon them a laver of redemption and of life.
Grant, O Lord, to Thy Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to It be glory and Honor forever. Amen.”