Guard of Honor History
SISTER MARIE OF THE SACRED HEART AND THE GUARD OF HONOR
I will concentrate on the life of one particular Visitandine, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart Bernaud ,a French mystic,(1825-1903) whose devotion to the Heart of Jesus enabled her to do a great work for the Lord…one that continues to flourish in our day..
Faith needs to be expressed and the expression given to the Salesian world is the Heart of Jesus.The Guard of Honor was an inspiration of Sr Marie of the Sacred Heart.
Recently in 2008, a new biography was published, in Spanish, about this Sister who is the Foundress of the Guard of Honor. I am hoping it will be translated into English. But the reviews of this book, written by Miguel Angel Velasco, point out the relevance of getting to know this Sister and her work for people today.
The name of the book is: God is Heart. Maria of the Sacred Heart Bernaud. The review states: A cloistered nun left in charge of her Sisters as a will, this prayer that reached the author of this book, Miguel Angel Velasco: “Why do you get confused and fret about problems of life? When you give up all to Me, everything will be resolved peacefully, according to my plans. Do not despair, do not pray in an agitated way, as if you required me to comply with your wishes. Close the eyes of your soul and tell me calmly : Jesus, I trust in You. Avoid the worries and anxieties, and thoughts about what might happen next. Do not spoil my plans wanting to impose your ideas. Let me be God and act freely “.Miguel Angel Velasco explains: . Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart Bernaud, founded, from the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary of Bourg-en Bresse (France), March 13, 1863, the Honor Guard Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She is one of those homespun saints , because they remind us that everyone, without exception, are called to holiness: “The saints of every Monday and every Tuesday” in the words of Chesterton, “The saints of the everyday, “as Paul VI said.
Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart was an instrument the Redeemer chose to expand throughout the world devotion to the Sacred Heart, from the monasteries of the Visitation. Fifty years after the encyclical Haurietis Aquas, and the still fresh Deus Caritas Est, Velasco writes that “a central message for our times, dramatic and beautiful at the same time, is the unavoidable necessity of Divine Mercy, as a beneficial force of God serving as a divine limit against the evil of the devil, the world and the flesh, which remain the enemies of the soul, as the Catechism teaches us. ” Devotion to the Sacred Heart is the answer, because it synthesizes the essence of our faith. There is urgency of a return to Christianity understood and lived primarily in the key of love that gives life. The theme of the founder of the Honor Guard for the Sacred Heart of Jesus is Glory! Love! Reparation: This is the proposal for the world today.”
Born Constance Bernaud in Besancon, France on October 28, 1825 and the eldest of 8 children, our sister first learned of the Sacred Heart through her Aunt Barbara at age 4. Although her inclination for religious life was first made known at age 5, the family arranged for her betrothal at age 16. Widowed at age 20 after a difficult and childless marriage, Constance’ strong faith was fruitful in bringing to birth the conversion of her husband prior to his death.
As the Feast of the Sacred Heart approached when Constance was 24, she confirmed her call to religious life during a retreat made at the Monastery of the Visitation at Bourg. On the First Friday of April, 1851, she professed her religious vows , receiving the name Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart, and embarked on her”vocation within a vocation” of offering her all for the love and glory of the Sacred Heart. That day she wrote: “Today I know that my Spouse wants me to become a victim of love and reparation to His Divine Heart. “
Sister served as mistress of the school at Bourg, fostering love of God and reverence for His Heart in her students, who nicknamed her the Sister of Pure Love. Her poor health required that she take on a less demanding role, however. This kind and simple soul poured forth her devotion to the Heart of Jesus into the Bourg community so much that on June 7, 1862, the monastery was solemnly dedicated to the Sacred Heart.
In December of the same year, the Monastery of Bourg received a letter from the Visitation Sisters in Annecy, the founding house, containing this sentence: “Our Lord complained to a favored soul to whom He had revealed His Heart that we (Visitandines) do not employ enough zeal in spreading Its devotion”. On hearing those words, the sisters looked towards Sr. Marie saying: “It is up to you to find a new way to glorify the Heart of Jesus” and within a few days, Sister composed this act of abandonment which each sister adopted and signed: Let us pray it together ACT OF ABANDONMENT
O my Jesus, I, NN, to glorify the most adorable Trinity, to console your Divine Heart and save sinners, surrender and give myself fully and without reservation to all the pure love You have for me in order to please your Divine Heart.
After this, Sr. Marie had a vision of The Sacred Heart surrounded by a dial with the words Glory! Love! Reparation! She felt compelled to reproduce this image and entitled it Guard of Honor of the Sacred Heart. Mother Marie-Julia, her Superior, on seeing the image, blessed and approved it allowing each sister to choose an hour of private prayer dedicated to the Heart of Jesus. Mother inscribed their names around the dial and on March 13, 1863, the fledgling Guard of Honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was founded.
An increase in the stream of grace flowing from the Heart of Jesus to that of Sr. Marie’s, was soon to expand her vision for the new association as the Scripture texts of Palm Sunday, 1863, were read: Ps 69 “Taunts have broken my heart; I have reached the end of my strength. I looked in vain for compassion, for consolers, not one could I find\”; and from the Gospel of Mark, \”My soul is sorrowful even to death…. Could you not watch one hour with me?” These words had a profound effect on Sr. Marie initiating a period of intense prayer during the Holy Week that followed. As Sister earnestly sought Jesus’ will, the mission of The Guard of Honor became clearer and its workings began slowly to unfold. Jesus had told St. Margaret Mary: “I want to encircle My Heart with a crown of twelve stars composed of my dearest and faithful servants”. Each star on the dial corresponds with an hour where Jesus is receiving the consolation of an adorer. Sister Marie chose 12 guardians – one for each hour: Our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, the Righteous of the Earth, and the Nine Choirs of Angels – as April was the month dedicated to the angels – to accompany the sister keeping her hour of watch in accord with her act of abandonment. Later, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 13, 1863 Our Lord showed Sr. Marie, in a vision, the piercing of His Heart on Calvary. Sunday June 14, 1863 in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament,she heard these words: “When the side was pierced,” these words were printed in her soul. The Honor Guard is the providential means of worship particular to the wound of the Heart of Jesus received by the soldier’s lance.
The deep and lasting impression made on the soul of our sister enabled her to understand the relationship between its mystery and the role of The Guard of Honor. Each member of the association, standing spiritually at the foot of the cross with Our Blessed Mother, St. John, and St. Mary Magdalene, \”must be present to receive the blood and water\” from the Pierced Heart of Christ. The blood and water, in an act of love and reparation, were then to be offered to the Father for the world. The members were to watch with these first three comforters of Jesus and continue to do so until the end of time – hour after hour, consoler after consoler – in a spirit of uninterrupted and perpetual adoration of Jesus on the Cross and Jesus in the Eucharist. Each consoler/adorer was not only to comfort the suffering Jesus in His Sacred Humanity through mindful attentiveness, but perform the apostolic work of obtaining grace and healing for His Mystical Body, the Church, by offering her thoughts, words, and deeds, united to the precious blood and water of Jesus\’ merits, to the Father.
Although Sister Marie anticipated that in time many souls would adopt an hour and pray the same formula of offering written for her sisters, the devotion remained within the cloister of Bourg until May of 1863 when the dials were shared with the communities of Annecy and Paray-la-Monial. Annecy\’s Mother Anne-Marie Babin responded that it took only a few minutes to collect the sisters\’ names and inscribe them on the dial that would honor the Sacred Heart in their monastery. Each sister offered prayer, duties of the day, and all that God permitted during her hour in reparation and love to console the Heart of Jesus. To Sister Marie, Mother wrote, O my dear Sister, I bless our Lord for having given you this pious idea.”
The community of Paray-la-Monial, meanwhile, to the sisters\’ surprise, reported that a similar dial had been created at their monastery with even the same guardians for the appointed hours. The only difference was the order that the guardians were assigned which the Paray Sisters readily adapted to conform exactly with the dial in Bourg. This occurrence was viewed as a sign of the delicacy of Jesus and a confirmation that The Guard of Honor was His work – truly the design of His Heart.
By the conclusion of that year, 112 Monasteries of the Visitation in Europe were enrolled in The Guard of Honor, and by 1864, membership among the laity prospered through the efforts of Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart and Marie Deluil-Martiny. In the tradition of St. Francis de Sales, prayer and holiness are the vocation of every person and The Guard of Honor quickly became a vehicle for all people to honor the Sacred Heart. Miss Deluil-Martiny became Sr. Marie’s “right arm” as a laywoman before founding The Daughters of the Heart of Jesus whose apostolate is that of promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart through The Guard of Honor.
The Guard of Honor evolved into a richly indulgenced pious association by1878 zealously promoted by the Bishops of Poland and Pope Pius IX. It was canonically erected in Rome on May 31st, 1872 This put an end to the long suffering of the Foundress, and her joy can be imagined when, three years later, His Holiness Pope Pius 9th declared to an audience of Associates: “My greatest title to glory is to be the first Guard of Honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
In 1882, an archconfraternity was established in Brooklyn, New York and in time, confraternities were established throughout the Americas.
Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart had long looked forward to the day when the Feast of the Sacred Heart should be raised up higher in more prominence. But the solemn consecration of the whole human race to the Sacred Heart at the beginning of the 20th century fulfilled all her expectations.
A last joy was reserved for the Foundress in being spared to see the 50th anniversary of her religious profession, on Apr 14 1901. Her community, the other monasteries and friends from all over the world showed their affectionate respect by the letters and presents for the altar and sanctuary which they sent. A telegram bringing the Holy Father’s blessing was the outstanding event of the day.
From then on, few remarkable events occurred in her life. She continued to occupy herself with the Guard of Honor and letters to suffering souls. As her strength declined, her ardor increased.She was continually lost in God and when sometimes asked what she was thinking about, she would simply reply “Of my beloved. I live but for Him”
She had always felt that her sufferings achieved more for the Guard of Honor than her activity. Now indeed her greatest trials were over, but her poor body was nailed to the cross. She welcomed pain and weariness and rarely allowed them to interfere with her work,
Then the chimney near her cell caught fire and was brought under control with great difficulty. This occurrence affected her very much,. Still she struggled on until her condition was grave and in the presence of her community she received the last sacraments renewed her holy vows and being exhorted by the priest to make the sacrifice of her life, she replied with astonishing energy”Oh with all my heart”
From then on she spoke little.She was very weak. On Aug 3rd 1903 surrounded by the community she gently breathed her last. Her soul had taken flight to hide itself forever in the Wounded Heart of her Lord. But the Guard of Honor lives on to continue her work of Love and so enhance in heaven the glory of this Lover of the Sacred Heart.
After her death the association spread with extraordinary rapidity. Of Sister it was written….this predestined soul was assured of leaving behind passionate souls dedicated to the Sacred Heart…The little tree she planted with so much love in the mystical garden of the Visitation of Bourg has already extended its branches to all parts of the world… By their fruit we shall know them! Inspired by a Foundress who was a big prompter of lay sanctity and leaning on her own experience of married life she put the spirituality of the Sacred Heart before all.
March 13, 2013 is the 150th anniversary of the Founding of the Guard of Honor.
Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart was a gifted spiritual writer. In these next selections here are 3 of her short reflections on the Heart of Jesus, entitled, The Solitude of the Heart of Jesus, The Wounds of the Heart of Jesus and the Moans of the Heart of Jesus. Each selection concludes with a short prayer.
The Solitude of the Heart of Jesus
What a sea of wonders enclosed in this phrase: the solitude of the Heart of Jesus. Solitude is the homeland of the strong. In this country the Heart filled with love of our divine Savior,takes refuge, during the days of its mortal life.
By the perfection of his dual nature human and divine, the Word incarnate, was as an exile, solitary. Who then could resemble him in his incomparable dignity? What heart could beat in union with his noble Heart?
Solitude was for Him Heaven upon Earth.
PRAYER OF SOLITUDE
“O Solitude! martyrdom and happiness for the Heart of my Jesus, lovable portion of my divine Patrimony. I want to sing to you a song of love.I want to follow my Lover into solitude. As He, I want each day to separate myself for a while from earthly vanities, of the tumult of business, of thousands of things that attract my weak heart, in order to better encounter and adore my God. I am determined to be in contact with the Divine Solitary to learn of Him to ignore all that happens and to grasp only what is eternal.
Holy Father, I offer to you the martyrdom that He suffered in his exile as expiation for my light and distracting vanities. From the solitary interior of your Heart, give me your grace O my God! in order to live a prudent life under your Divine gaze. Amen.”
The Wounds of the Heart of Jesus
The Heart of Jesus, visibly wounded by the lance, on the tree of the cross, was also wounded invisibly by His love; three wounds are proposed of the cult of the guard of honor and these names correspond to his noble standard: glory, love reparation.
The Roman soldier near the cross cruelly introduced his lance in the side of the holy victim and entered also into the most adorable Heart. A last effusion of blood and water came out.
The Heart of Jesus has been wounded for love
He loved so much his human creatures that he died for love of them. This wound of love has made him beg for love “ My son, give me your heart” This wound has made him breathe ” My sister, my friend has wounded my Heart.” This wound has made him patient. “See that I am at the door and knock”
However death has not won. He has found the secret of being chainied of giving himself to his beloved creature.
He has been converted into the Host.
PRAYER THROUGH JESUS’ WOUNDS
Holy Father, from the wound of the Heart of your Son Jesus pour upon the church, our mother country, on poor sinners and the great family of the Guard of Honor the torrent of your blessings.
THE MOANS OF THE HEART OF JESUS
Who can listen to a big and painful moan without being moved?The moan is an exterior manifestation of an intimate pain, profound, at times without consolation.
The Heart of our good savior has moaned . The Holy Scriptures have manifested it in numerous passages. “My people, what Have I done yo ou? How have I offended you? Answer me!
Jerusalem Jerusalem you killed the prophets..
I have looked for someone to console me and I have found no one.
Finally, this sweet Heart, moaning sadly not only for the loss of souls, but also for those who say they are his friends, his faithful, his guards of honor and even despising the details of tenderness, they resist giving thanks and in this way they exhaust the source of blessings and benefits with which he would want to enrich us.
Pardon, beloved Lord! Pardon! I do not want to hear you moan more in this way. I do not want to be a rebellious child but a faithful consoler. Holy Father, I offer you the moans of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as currency of infinite preciousness. In virtue of the merits of this Heart that moans, give to me and all my brothers and sisters, above all to the Guards of Honor, a perfect correspondence to all your merciful designs for our souls. Amen.
May Jesus enlighten you to see if you too may be called to be a Guard of Honor. Amen. Sacred Heart of Jesus I place my trust in you