Sacred Fire: Practicing Devotion to the Heart of Jesus – A Book Review

sacredheart“Sacred Fire: Practicing Devotion to the Heart of Jesus” by Philip Michael Bulman is a book that encourages devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus while explaining the “what” and the “how” of this devotion in a very plain, practical, yet inspirational way. Bulman does an excellent job tying in the ancient devotion with the writings of the saints, including St. Gertrude, St. Margaret Mary, St. Therese of Lisieux, Teresa of the Andes, and St. Faustina. He also explains the different elements of devotion and various ways the devotion can be lived out in one’s daily life.

At the beginning of each saint chapter, there is a mini biography and an explanation of the time period in which the saint lived as it is relevant to how devotion to the Sacred Heart was practiced at that moment of history. For instance, in St. Therese of Liseiux’s time period of the late 1800s, France was still suffering from Jansenism, that is, a strict emphasis on humanity’s sinful nature and God’s justice, without regard for God’s mercy. Therese combats this heresy by her devotion to the Sacred Heart, which focuses on the merciful love of God for each and every human in this world. Not only does he express how the devotion to the Sacred Heart is central to these saints’ lives, but the book is replete with their quotes. Many passage from the diary of St. Faustina, especially, are noteworthy and express the passionate love Christ has for us.

sacredheart2The devotion to the Sacred Heart can be ignited in many ways: the ways outlined in the book include receiving the Eucharist, praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart, and making acts of reparation to the Sacred Heart. The author explains each of these in detail while giving concrete examples of ways to increase this devotion. He breaks the Litany down, line by line, and gives the Biblical citations for each piece of the Litany.

One aspect of the book that I found very useful was the section on Scriptural references to the Sacred Heart. A common objection to any sort of Catholic devotion that many Protestants have is that it is not rooted in the Bible; Bulman refutes this objection by pointing out many instances in the Old Testament where there are references to God’s Heart, as well as many lines in Psalms that prefigure the Crucifixion and Christ’s love for mankind. The New Testament, too, is filled with Scripture indicating the properness of a devotion to the Sacred Heart, especially John’s encounter with Jesus at the Last Supper. While this book is explicitly Catholic with the extensive discussion about saints and the Eucharist, it is a good tool to learn how to explain devotion to the Sacred Heart to a non-Catholic, on a Scriptural level.

This is not a book to devour all in one sitting; it is a book that should be read slowly, savored, meditated upon, one chapter at a time. It is an excellent choice for someone who wants to know and love Christ better but isn’t exactly sure where to start – begin by reading a chapter and simply reflecting on the the Scripture verses and the words of the saints. Even one who is well-acquainted with the devotion will have much to ponder upon and learn from this book as they desire to grow spiritually.

“…Jesus reveals his Heart as a lavish fountain of salvation for sinners and saints alike. His Heart pours forth a constant shower of graces, and each of us can drink freely of the life-giving waters that spring in torrents from this heavenly source. Indeed, Jesus longs to bless us so much that His charity moves Him to reward us for holy desires alone.” (p. 37)

{I received a copy of this book to review; all opinions expressed are my own.}

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