Anne Juliana Gonzaga became a Servant of Mary following the death of her husband, Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria in 1595, after receiving a vision of the Madonna, to whom her parents had prayed to cure her of a childhood illness? We must ask ourselves, “Am I living with Christ, through Christ, and in Christ?” Perhaps, the answer can be found in devotion to the Heart of Jesus?In an Advent homily during WW2 in 1942, Alfred Delp, SJ, addressed his parishioners by acknowledging their fears and worries.
In devotion to the Heart of Jesus, Delp preaches a God who shows us the goal of our existence:Cor Jesu stands before humankind with the wounds He bears in the center of His Heart. Even from the natural perspective, the idea of sacrifice belongs to the pattern of life, and it belongs even more to the pattern of the Christian [life]. A human being “does not come out beyond himself into such intimacy with God, letting the divine merciful reality flow in,” then he becomes “less than himself” (Delp, Advent of the Heart).
To be fully human entails giving oneself over to Christ, so that His Heart can make us free through the power of His love. The Heart of Jesus calls forth Delp and his parishioners to recognize who they truly are and are meant to be. The Heart of Jesus bestows upon us true freedom by opening up a stage upon which we can become “other Christs” in the world.Whoever is not capable of standing before one’s community, one’s brothers [and sisters], and somehow taking their deepest needs upon yourself—coming before the Lord God and taking on the guilt, taking on the punishment—without this capability, then one still lacks a great deal before one can call oneself a Christian.
This wounded Heart presents the drama of the Divine life to human existence for the sake of guiding humankind from within to God’s consecrated destiny.The surrender of self to Christ does not just heal our brokenness, but re-creates us out of that brokenness and raises up to a greater status in God.


He cannot calculate with zeroes” (Delp, Advent of the Heart)Yet where does Delp locate that fitting human person who permitted him or herself to be “christified” in the devotion to the Heart of Jesus? As a political prisoner, Delp wrote a series of prison meditations from mid-November 1944 to late January 1945 prior to his execution. Reflecting on Mary, Delp sees that our Christian discipleship entails “an openness beyond oneself even if it means deciding or adopting an attitude contrary to one’s own” (My translation from Gesammelte Schriften: Aus Dem Gefangnis)In the Blessed Mother, God lifts up a genuine human dialogue partner into His story of salvation. Delp reflects that Mary’s yes (or any human creature’s yes) to God is always in an unintended sense, and in an unheard of extent, a yes to herself:Wherever the Lord God touches a creature, He leads it to its perfection and fulfillment and, at the same time, beyond itself. He does not destroy the addressed “you” but, instead, makes it a more intense and complete “I” than it could ever be on her own. While the other person who intends to assert him or herself goes inward and shuts him or herself off and sits small, tight, and cramped within him or herself and has no idea of the vastness and wonders of God’s creation. And I [Delp] have been living from it utterly and completely from it utterly and completely over the last weeks.
Because of the similar stories he is sometimes called the Catholic Bonhoeffer.The importance of Mary in Delp’s devotion to Christ and in his understanding of his very own self-sacrifice cannot be underestimated.
In his Christmas Eve meditation written on December 25, 1944 from a cold and dank cell, Delp writes,Motherhood and the grace of compassion have become a law of our life, that the ice of man’s inner solitude can be broken and melted by healing warmth—all this became possible only because the maid Mary yielded of her own free choice to the inner prompting of God’s voice.


Her secret is self-surrender and willing acceptance, offering herself to the point of complete obliteration of her personal will.
The radicalness of Delp’s prison meditation tells us that the agency of the Christian, as represented by Mary, lies within God and His eternal dialogue of love.
From within us God bears our freedom.Mary places herself before Christ and before that world. I must arm myself against the pain and depression that sometimes almost defeat me… I ask my friends not to mourn, but to pray for me and help me as long as I have need of help. Giving oneself over to Christ demands a type of obedience that entails a suspension of one’s self-assertion and an entry into the expansiveness of God’s call of love that can pierce ears and hearts made deaf and cold by sin.Peter Nguyen, SJ is a Jesuit priest and an instructor of theology at Creighton University.




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