The Sacred Heart of Jesus found in a Chinese Cupboard

01 June 2015

To my dear people in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

For many centuries Catholic piety has assigned the month of June to devotion to the Sacred Heart.

I often think of the following true story when devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary is invoked.

The priest was late for an appointment. Before he left his parish he needed to lock the church. Upon entering his church he found a young Asian man kneeling near the sanctuary with both arms outstretched in deep prayer. The priest politely asked him to leave so he could lock the church. The man was most reluctant to do so. The priest insisted and invited him to return another day.

This young Asian man had a story to tell.

He came from China. His Chinese parents were Catholics but decided not to pass on the faith to him fearing religious persecution. Jesus was never mentioned at home. His grandparents also lived with them. During his younger life he entered their bedroom sometimes without knocking. He often found them kneeling in total silence with their arms outstretched. Their cupboard doors were open. On the inside of the doors were two posters. One was of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The other poster was of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There was a great sense of peace in the room. The young boy asked his grandparents what they were doing. They never really answered this question. He knew it had something to do with Christianity.

He concluded his basic studies. He was now a young man. The opportunity for him to study in an Australian university presented itself. He was so happy when he arrived in Australia. He knew Australia was a Christian country. He wanted to understand Christianity more within the religious freedom found in Australia.

In his spare time, he began visiting Christian churches. He had no real idea of the different Christian denominations. He did not really feel ‘at home’ in any of them. Until…

Late one afternoon he casually went into an open Catholic church near where he lived. As soon as he entered he saw sometime that startled him. There in the front of the church – on the left and on the right side of the sanctuary – were statues exactly like the images on his grandparents’ open cupboard doors. He felt immediately ‘at home’.

In front of the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he felt drawn to kneel down. He felt the same peace in his heart as he did in his grandparents’ room when they were at prayer. He did not know what to do next. He imitated his grandparents and stretched out his arms and remained still.
All of a sudden the priest came in and asked him to leave. It was the last thing the Chinese man wanted to do. The priest insisted and asked him to return another day.
I was that priest!

Thanks be to God, the young man did return! This time it was on a Sunday morning. I recognised him and engaged in conversation with him through other Chinese who could help me with translations. We all had morning tea together. I was mortified when I heard his story! I felt I had interrupted the action of the Holy Spirit! He was very forgiving when I asked forgiveness.

Anyway, he joined our RCIA group and, in time, I had the honour of baptising him into the Catholic Church.

See how eager the Holy Spirit is to bring us to encounter Jesus Christ! The Holy Spirit will even use posters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary placed on Chinese cupboard doors to bring people ‘home’ to the Catholic Church! This happens even when the local priest is a little too eager to lock his parish church!

“O Sacred Heart of Jesus, full of love and mercy, we place our Archdiocese into your loving care. Continue to bring us all home to the father’s house! Immaculate Heart of Mary, lead us to your son, Jesus, from whom all blessings flow.”

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn