This year, the Feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated on Friday, June 28th (falling as usual either 19 days after Pentecost or on the first Friday after the Solemnity of Corpus Christi).
The month of June is one of joy across the global Catholic community as we celebrate the love that Jesus holds in his heart for each and every one of us. His love, in both its divine and human forms, is so powerful that it can never be fully comprehended, but we devote the month of June to contemplating the endless depth and strength of His love. Something that helps us to center our thoughts and hearts on His love is the emblem of the heart itself and, here in Mexico, that Holy emblem forms a focus point for June; the Month of the Sacred Heart.
While Catholics from the US, Canada, and other countries outside of Mexico will of course be familiar with the 12 devotions gifted by God to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque through the medium of dreams in the 1670s and granted papal approval shortly after, they may not be quite so familiar with the particular way we in Mexico observe these devotions. So, we invite you to read on and discover how we enjoy celebrating Jesus’ love for us during the month of the Sacred Heart in Mexico.
“[Jesus] has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, ‘is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that … love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings’ without exception” Pope Pius XII’s, 1956
While special masses are held throughout the month, and each family within each separate community across our beautiful diverse nation may have their own unique traditions such as a particular meal or a special family visit to church, the one thing that unites us in our celebrations are our Milagros (charms). The Sacred Heart Milagros are generally sold on street stalls and in stores by members of our various indigenous communities, but such is the popularity of these beautiful little pieces that they are also widely available in more mainstream stores, including even in some hotspots such as the Cancun malls!
Los Milagros del Sagrado Corazón son generalmente vendidos en puestos de la calle y en tiendas por los miembros de varias comunidades indígenas, pero es tal la popularidad de estas pequeñas piezas, que también están disponibles ampliamente en tiendas comunes, ¡incluso algunos lugares populares como los centros comerciales de Cancún!
Of all the world-famous Mexican iconographic trinkets and keepsakes, those of the Sacred Heart are some of the most well-known. Pilgrims may be familiar with the heart-shaped emblem, which, while it can be made from any material, is most often seen in shiny or patinaed silver and nickel (with gold a beautiful and rare treat).
The ornaments are painted red and gold but visitors will also find many Milagros unpainted, giving the pieces a charming and authentic feel. How the Sacred Heart is represented, like so much in our wonderfully diverse country, differs from community to community. In some regions, the heart is crowned, with the crown often painted in gold, while in others the heart is represented as having flames or a beautiful light around it, signifying the light of Jesus’ love. Other Milagros present the Sacred Heart as crowned pierced by a dagger, or with wounds, a crown of thorns, or drops of blood, referring to the manner of Jesus' death, while the fire represents the life-changing power of His love.
From earrings, brooches, and pendants to wall-mounted clips and jewelry boxes, the Sacred Heart emblem is emblazoned on dozens of different pieces and varies in size depending on its form, from a centimetre across (on earrings, for example) to several inches in diameter.
All hearts are represented with the same iconic shape across Catholic Mexico and the wider Catholic Church. The shape lends itself well to jewelry and small keepsakes, so visitors to our country will find plenty of beautiful ornaments to keep as mementos of their unforgettable pilgrim experience in Mexico.
At the very beginning of the Second World War, in 1939, Hitler’s armies took control of vast swathes of the northern French territories. When this happened, Maria Hendizabal, a young woman who lived in France, fled to Mexico and decided to make Mexico City her new home. Of course, she couldn’t bring many possessions with her, but one cherished item she made sure to keep safe along her journey was a large painting of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The painting was so important that, when she arrived in Mexico, she gave it to a local Catholic church to keep it safe. That church was the Iglesia de San Jose (The Church of Saint Joseph) and its Padre (Father), Padre Juan Gomez had the painting hung on the church’s vestibule wall.
That very night, a young boy saw the image of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and was immediately cured of his partial paralysis – he could even run home to tell his mother of the miracle. From then on, the news spread like wildlife, and the small church began to have an attendance the like of which it had never before seen. Padre Juan Gomez even decided to move the painting to outside the church so that the growing crowds could see it more easily. Many hundreds more miracles were reported at the site over the years.
The popularity of the church continued to grow, and pilgrims to the site began to leave silver Milagros to mark their journey to witness the miracles of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
Each June here in Mexico, we also celebrate Día de San Pedro y San Pablo (Saint Peter and Saint Paul's Day). It’s celebrated throughout the country, with particularly splendid festivities, including folk dancing, traditional mariachi bands, and, of course, parades, in San Pedro Tlaquepaque, as well as in other largely indigenous communities including the regions of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Michoacan.
Whit Sunday sometimes falls in May but most frequently in June; this year, the celebrations fell on Sunday June 9th. Father’s Day, as in other North American countries, fell on Sunday June 16th, and Corpus Christi was celebrated on Thursday June 20th.
Every June, visitors to our beautiful country can look forward to seeing Sacred Heart Milagros (charms) in a multitude of forms. With religious folk art such an important and characteristic part of Mexican Catholic celebrations, we at Tours Peregrinos Mexico always make sure to include plenty of opportunities for our clients to explore the craft stalls lining bustling streets and town plazas during their pilgrimage tours.