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It’s taken a while, but slowly, surely, Roxane Salonen is finding the Sacred Heart of Jesus to be a place of refuge. 

At the beginning of this month, I posted a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on my Facebook timeline, and a friend commented: “I went to Catholic school through seventh grade. A guy in my class got a ruler across his knuckles for calling this the ‘Heartburn Jesus.’” 

That got a little chuckle from me. It was a different time in our Church. We’ve probably all heard stories about stern nuns, and I guess this recalled moment was demonstrative of that period, when religious sisters leading Catholic schools needed to keep order somehow.  

My reaction, however, was more about my being able to relate to his assessment of the visual. On the side of Our Lady of Lourdes where we customarily sat growing up, a large statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus loomed large and drew my curiosity. I had no knowledge of the history of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and her devotion and promotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, nor what it really meant. As a child, I just found it strange that I could see Jesus’ heart protruding from His garments. He didn’t look scary, but the exposed heart was. 

In more recent years, however, the Sacred Heart has been drawing me. While studying Flannery O’Connor and her life, I learned of her devotion to the Sacred Heart, and that the church in her hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia, which was largely funded by members of her family, was named after the Sacred Heart. When two traveling companions and I toured her home at Andalusia Farm, we were struck by a photo of the Sacred Heart in the hallway. Since she’d mentioned this devotion in her letters, collected in The Habit of Being, seeing this depiction of the Sacred Heart made us feel as if Flannery might be puttering around the house somewhere, still physically with us.   




But things got even more real a few years later, in 2019, when my husband, who’d been the picture of health until then, received some shocking news. After a routine visit to the doctor, a significant murmur had been detected, requiring open-heart surgery. For one who’d never spent a night in the hospital in his 49 years, the prospect of this being his first hospital sleepover was terrifying.  

Trying to process the news, that night he pointed to a picture of the Sacred Heart I’d taped to our bedroom mirror and said, “My heart’s broken like His.” At that moment, my own heart was struck, and I recalled a novena card a friend had given me not long before. I’d left it in my car after our visit, but it seemed a good time to retrieve it. I showed it to my husband, a convert who’d never before prayed a novena. The Surrender Novena card has Jesus’ heart on its cover.

“Would you want to pray this novena with me?” I asked, not expecting a “Yes.” But he surprised me, and that prayer became a valuable source of consolation throughout surgery and recovery. Later, when he had to go through a second open-heart surgery due to a glitch in the first, again, the Surrender Novena brought incredible solace. 

Around the time of his second surgery, a friend reached out, asking if I would be interested in two statues from Spain he was giving away. They were about a foot tall, and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. “Yes!” I said. These two statues now stand proudly on my husband’s dresser, just a few feet from our bed. Most mornings when I wake up, they are the first things I see. No matter how much I might dread getting out of bed, their faces and hearts rouse me to meet the moments God has in store.  


Click to tweet:
The Sacred Heart beckons us all. It is beckoning you this day. Will you open your heart to receive His? #CatholicMom


It's been many years now since I attended my hometown church in Poplar, Montana, and gazed upon the Sacred Heart statue there, but I can see it clearly in my mind. It’s taken me years to understand just how precious the Sacred Heart of Jesus is, and I’m so glad God has given me the chance to learn the truth of it. I have come to see this heart not as something scary but inviting. Every night when my husband and I pray for our children, we pray for them to come closer to Jesus’ Sacred Heart.  

His Sacred Heart is a safe refuge—the only real sanctuary in this world. There, we can trust that no matter what is going on around us, his love for us and the whole world will bring it all around rightly. There, we can seek the security and stability that only he can provide. There, we find unconditional, unfathomable love and mercy and eternal trustworthy companionship.  

The Sacred Heart beckons us all. It is beckoning you this day. Will you open your heart to receive His? 

Q4U: Have you ever found Jesus’ Sacred Heart foreboding? Are you willing to be open to the incredible love that awaits you now within it, and draw closer to it? 



Copyright 2023 Roxane Salonen
Images: (top, bottom) copyright 2023 Roxane Salonen, all rights reserved; (center) Canva