A Question of Consecration and Enthronisation

On the changing understanding of the substance and purpose of the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesu. By msgr. Lucjan Skolik

Brief historical outline

The cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Catholic Church is rather well known. Its beginnings date back to the liturgy of the Holy Wounds and the Passion of Christ.1 After the visions of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century, the cult has witnessed a systematic growth. Successive Popes supported the cult’s promotion, starting with Pope Innocent XI, who was the Saint’s contemporary and who played a very important role in its dynamic and harmonious development.

The Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus performed by Pope Leo XIII on June 11, 1899, was one form of this cult. Sometime earlier in his encyclical Annum sacrum of May 25 of the same year, the Pope justified the need to consecrate the human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus adding an endearing personal note of gratitude to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for his recovery from illness.

The consecration of the human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was a response to numerous demands that had been addressed to Pope Pius IX over 25 years. In light of the encyclical, the motive of consecration is the need for the faithful to reciprocate God’s love for His creation, especially for man. Another evidence of consecration is the heightened awareness among the believers that Jesus Christ, who as God’s Son necessarily has everything in common with the Father – the Lord and Ruler of all creation,2 and as our Redeemer for the price of His Blood “has gained” sovereign power over all things.3

Dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The idea of consecration, dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is a clear and unequivocal symbol of the entire love of God,4 and has therefore from the very beginning been closely connected with the recognition of God’s sovereign power over all things. This sovereign power is, however, exercised by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in a truly Divine manner, totally unlike that of man’s.5

In 1925, Pope Pius XI proclaimed in his encyclical Quas primas the need to renew each year this act of consecration of the human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, performed by Leo XIII, while in his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor of 1928, he drew the attention of the faithful to their obligation to make amends to the Sacred Heart for sins. In his encyclical Haurietis aquas of 1956 Pope Pius XII presented extensive theological grounds for the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, recalling the teachings of his predecessors on this subject.

During our times, on the centennial of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Pope John Paul II addressed a letter to the Chairman of the French Bishops’ Conference Cultivate the Cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 6 and a message to the entire Church God reveals His love in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.7

All these documents unequivocally confirm the important role played by the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in reviving the Church’s faith over the past centuries. Different forms of expression of this cult are founded on them and, in a way, invoke them.

Forms of piety relating to the rule of Jesus Christ, such as the practice of individual or communal consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary in families and parishes, which is an act of consecration by a person or a community to the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, should therefore be understood to represent signs of vivid reception of the teachings of Magisterium Ecclesiae, which through its pronouncements has recognized the authenticity of the message transpiring from private revelations of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and has developed it.8

Let us note this close relation between the personal revelations of St. Margaret M. Alacoque and their message, the pronouncements of the magisterium of the Church and the Church’s devotional praxis. We can say that in this case we are witnessing an interrelated influence of three elements: revelations, their understanding by the Magisterium and their practical application, and in reverse order: in light of praxis the understanding of teachings and private revelations becomes more profound. The phenomenon of interdependence of understanding of thoughts is called a hermeneutic circle. In theology, this rule helps to preserve the Church tradition and contributes to its genuine development.

Confronted by new phenomena

Although it appears that in the Universal Church the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is basically rather uniform, during the past decades Poland has seen its differentiation, as seen in callings for the enthronement of Christ the King.

Movements striving for the enthronement of Christ the King find their inspiration in the person of a nurse and mystic from Kraków, the Servant of God Rosalie Celakowna (1901-1944). Her beatification process was completed on the diocesan level in 2007. Celakowna propagated the idea of enthronement of Christ as the King of Poland inspired by her mystical experiences and visions. Enthronement of Christ as the King of Poland and the King of other states was supposed to assure protection of Poland and the world against the cataclysm of war. She was supported in her efforts to enthrone Christ as King of Poland by priests and Father Pius Przezdziecki, the general of the Pauline Order of the Shrine of Our Lady at Jasna Góra in Częstochowa. Another Pauline Father Kazimierz Dobrzycki painstakingly collected materials about her life.

Before World War II, the Catholic Church’s hierarchy treated Celakowna’s revelations with reserve. After the war in 1946, Cardinal Sapieha erected The Work of Personal Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1948, it obtained the approval of the Holy See. However, before that Polish bishops, encouraged by Popes, consecrated the Nation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus several times in 1920, 1921 and in 1951.

Rosalie Celakowna and her message are inscribed in a double perspective: the history of the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the revelations of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, on the one hand and the teachings about the public rule of Christ found in the teachings of many Popes, on the other.9

Still to this day, the revelations of the Servant of God Celakowna mobilize large groups of faithful to enthrone Christ the King in families, parishes and dioceses. Hence, campaigns to consecrate oneself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to enthrone the Sacred Heart of Jesus are very much alive in Poland. Many parishes, even dioceses in Poland consecrated themselves to the rule of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This has been the response of many priests to the postulates voiced by many faithful who wish to offer to Jesus Christ something, which actually belongs to them. The Catholic radio station Radio Maryja supports enthronement initiatives and thus enhances them, especially in some communities in Poland and abroad. The special nature of Polish forms of devotion, also in relation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has a bearing also on the spiritual life of Churches in other countries, where 21 million Poles are estimated to live (hence 35% of the Poles live outside of Poland).

The risk of instrumentalization of the cult

Over more than a decade, the idea of enthronement at times has visibly gone beyond the religious dimension and in a more or less literal sense has tried to influence political life. Certain texts written by Celakowna have been interpreted in a way that enthronement is understood in a political sense, even theocratic. Such interpretations carry the risk that enthronement of Jesus the King will be understood as an aspect of a social campaign, the aim of which is to assume political power in the name of Jesus Christ.10 Distant repercussions of this way of thinking can be heard in different parts of the world where Polish Catholics live. Granting the appealing religious zeal seen in many such communities, it is hard not to notice that the Church doctrine on enthronement of or consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as expressed in Church teachings has sometimes been misunderstood. Believers are sometimes left without the necessary pastoral assistance in the sphere of public expression of their faith. Take, for example, the retreats organized in 2008 in one of the parish communities in the Oslo diocese, after which Jesus Christ was enthroned as the King of the Polish Diaspora in Norway.11

Monument to Christ the King

The idea very much alive several years ago to build a gigantic monument to Christ the King in Tarnów which is supposed to be 80m high, higher than the Statute of Liberty, is an example of such activities of these movements in Poland. The financial aspect alone of this project raises many concerns (so far a little over 2% of the needed money has been raised) and the persons who guarantee raising the whole amount are by some regarded as unreliable.12 However, the expectations as to the effect of campaign, namely the salvation of the Polish state are even more concerning. From this perspective, it appears that the Polish experience of the XVIII century has been forgotten. The proclamation of Virgin Mary the “Queen of the Crown of the Polish State” did not guarantee earthly prosperity to the Polish state. It would be well to remember that the Church in its teachings does not bind its own future to a structure like the state and it also does not directly protect the state against destruction. Also Rosalie Celakowna appealed clearly to the primacy of internal and spiritual enthronement over an external and political one: “in the first place, enthronement has to be carried out in every soul individually. Without this particular enthronement other enthronements are meaningless”.13

The strictly political activity of many people engaged in building the monument in Tarnów, also among the Polish diaspora, leads us to believe that the entire enthronement campaign which has taken on a political meaning would depart quite substantially from the original idea of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and its objective seems to be the wish of some people and organizations to make their name in politics and public affairs. These facts prompt us to ask a question about the relation between the enthronement movement understood in such way with the goals of organizations and associations involved in it. It appears that these goals are more economic, political and social than religious. In view of the growing number of questions about the motives of the enthronement campaigns, the Polish Bishops’ Conference set up a special study group,14 which analyzes the nature of movements advocating enthronement.

The need for profound clarification of the relation existing between consecration and enthronement

Enthronement understood in this particular way is often accompanied by strong criticism of all those who distance themselves from the idea of enthronement of Jesus the King. This criticism is also directed at priests and some bishops, who are regarded as yielding to the influence of Freemasonry. Please note that enthronement should be performed by the highest state authorities.

Politically slanted understanding of enthronement of Jesus Christ must raise doubts about its compliance with the spirit of the teachings of the Popes mentioned here and seems also not to benefit further progress of the beatification process of Rosalie Celakowna. Such campaign can also be questioned in relation to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council on “the right autonomy of earthly affairs”.15 More importantly, the promotion of such “political” enthronement would be hard to reconcile with the words of Jesus Christ, who says: my Kingdom is not of this world (cf. John 18:36) and the inscription on the Cross (John 19:20), proclaiming, confirming and commenting the manner of His rule, which is indeed from the Cross.

The above reflection can help priests make decisions about whether to get involved in campaigns whose goal is the enthronement of Christ the King, departing from the traditionally understood enthronement of the Sacred Hears of Jesus and Mary. The idea of enthronement has undergone far-reaching differentiation over the last decade and its substance and purpose to a large extent depend on the communities that propagate it. These Church communities are not uniform as they once used to be, when they were usually well theologically prepared, faithful to the traditional teachings of Magisterium Ecclesiae. The minister, who is the first guardian of faith, should not overlook this differentiation.


Cf. Pius XII, Encyclical Haurietis aquas, IV, a.
Leo XIII, Encyclical Annum sacrum. It reads: „For He who is the Only-begotten Son of God the Father, having the same substance with Him and being the brightness of His glory and the figure of His substance (Hebrews i., 3) necessarily has everything in common with the Father, and therefore sovereign power over all things. (no.2).
Ibid.” Christ reigns not only by natural right as the Son of God, but also by a right that He has acquired. For He it was who snatched us "from the power of darkness" (Colossians i., 13), and "gave Himself for the redemption of all" (I Timothy ii., 6). Therefore not only Catholics, and those who have duly received Christian baptism, but also all men, individually and collectively, have become to Him "a purchased people" (no.2).
Ibid, no.2. This idea was also taken up by John Paul II in his Letter to Archbishop Louis-Marie Billé, the Archbishop of Lyon, Chairman of the French Bishop’s Conference dated June 4, 1999, entitled Cultivate the Cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (no.3).
Cf. Leo XIII op. cit. ”This sovereign power of Christ over men is exercised by truth, justice, and above all, by charity. (no.2). C.f. also Pius XI, Quas primas:
John Paul II, Letter to Archbishop Louis-Marie Billé, op. cit. The letter was written on the occasion “when numerous pilgrims are preparing to celebrate in Paray-le-Monial the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the anniversary of consecration of the human race to Him…” (no.1), because “the Church unwaveringly contemplates God’s love” (no.3) and “as the Third Millennium approaches, … so that we could help others know and love the Redeemer…” (no.4). He also recalls that on May 13, 1982, he entrusted to St. Mary “peoples and nations” (no. 5).
Op. cit., God reveals His love in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Warsaw, June 11, 1999. In his message, the Pope recalls that “in response to sin, God does not belittle His love, but extends it a gesture of mercy, which manifests itself in the initiative of redemption” (no.2).
It should be noted that the idea of consecration to God has been followed by other religious events. The revelation of St. Catherine Labouré in a Paris chapel at Rue du Bac in the 19th cent., and the Fatima revelations in early 20th cent.
To illustrate this point, let us refer to two fragments of the Encyclical of Pius XI Quas primas: “ If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ” (…) “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony”. On the margins of this illustration, we note that the message reflecting in the encyclical the then state of awareness of the Church’s faith is an important stage of development of the doctrine, which has been the subject of systematic reflection in Catholic social teaching. In analyzing the documents of the magisterium of the Church, we should bear in mind that all of them always merit attention and respect, but not all of them carry the same doctrinal weight and binding force for the faithful, especially if a document does not directly invoke this force.
„Right after election victory in 2005 and regained sovereignty we will enthrone Christ as the King of our hearts and we will proceed to rebuild Poland. Our goal will be to build a state friendly to people, a state based on the rule of justice and social solidarity… “J. Rusin. Misja dziejowa Polski w świetle idei intronizacyjnej objawionej Służebnicy Bożej Rozalii Celakównie oraz objawień przekazanych charyzmatyczce Annie, (Poland’s historical mission in light of the idea of enthronement revealed to the Servant of God Rosalie Celakowna and the revelations entrusted to Anna, a charismatic. “Samorządna Polska’ (June) – bulletin, special edition, Kraków 2004, p. 32.
Kulas B., Pod panowaniem Chrystusa, (Under Jessus Christ’s Reign), „Aspekt Polski” 150 (April 2010) p. 9
There exists quite extensive literature dealing with the idea of building the monument. E.G. Śledzianowski J., Pomik marzeń w Kielcach (A monument of dreams), Kielce 2001.
This thought is in line with the teachings of Encyclical of Leo XIII Annum sacrum: He in no way objects to our giving and consecrating to Him what is already His, as if it were really our own; nay, far from refusing such an offering, He positively desires it and asks for it: "My son, give me thy heart.". (p.2).
Polish Bishops’ Conference. “Informator” 2010, p. 122.
Cf. PCC 36.Perhaps this is also the reason why many advocates of enthronement understood in this way sympathize with movements that question the resolutions of the last Vatican Council
av Webmaster publisert 18.08.2010, sist endret 18.08.2010 - 13:06