Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus existed long before St Margaret Mary. The special vocation of the holy Visitation sister was to popularise the devotion which was a vital counterpoint to the heresy of Jansenism.
In one of the “what ifs” of history, it might even have prevented the French Revolution if the King of France had listened to the teaching that was specifically offered to him.
Our Lord told Saint Margaret Mary that He would pour out His blessings abundantly on every place where the image of His Sacred Heart was exposed for love and adoration. While she was still facing considerable opposition from some members of her own community, St Margaret Mary managed to arrange the tentative beginnings of the production of images of the Sacred Heart on a huge scale.
Mgr Bougard, the late 19th-century biographer of Blessed Margaret Mary, was not the first to complain of the artistic quality of popular images of the Sacred Heart and certainly not the last. He was hoping for someone of the calibre of Jan Van Eyck to do the subject justice. Who knows what God in His providence might do for us?
Our Lord repeatedly expressed the desire that His heart should be honoured and loved: not because He had any need of our honour, but because He loves us, and knows that it is a great benefit to us if we learn to love Him. St Margaret Mary spent her life promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart because she knew from her own experience how powerfully it sets our own hearts on fire with love for our Lord.
Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man in the unity of one divine person. When we adore the Sacred Heart, we adore the Eternal Word, who shares the divine love of the Trinity from all eternity; we adore the humanity of Jesus Christ, united substantially to the Eternal Word and expressing love in His human will, senses and feelings. In modern language, we might say that He is someone we can relate to.
Saint Margaret Mary understood this well. She had unshakeable confidence that a picture focused on the Divine Heart of our Saviour would bring many souls back to Him when love had grown cold. She enthusiastically worked to have pictures made so that ordinary people could be given a simple and effective way to deepen their life of prayer.