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Fr. Arnold´s Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Author: Teresa Sri Wahyuni, SSpS
Subject: St. Arnold’s spirituality
Language: English, Spanish
Publisher: VivatDeus.org
Year: 2023


Arnold Janssen inherited the spirituality of the Divine Word from his family through the daily reading of the Prologue of the Gospel of John. Besides the family, Father Arnold was influenced by the spiritual movement of his time. Among the spiritual movements that influenced the spiritual life of our founder and our co-foundresses were:

  1. a) Rhineland Mysticism. This was a strong mystical tradition in Germany, initiated by Master Eckhart, a German Dominican. The Rhineland Mysticism, which was a Trinitarian spiritual movement, influenced the Netherlands’ spiritual movement under John Ruysbroeck.
  2. b) Devotio Moderna – a spiritual renewal movement in the Netherlands represented Gerard Groote and Thomas a Kempis. The imitation of Christ leading to a contemplative union with God was the center of this movement.
  3. c) Modern Spirituality initiated in France by Cardinal Peter de Berulle. This movement was centered on Jesus the Incarnate Word – in adoration of the Father in the Holy Spirit and veneration of Mary as the Mother of the Incarnate Word.
  4. d) Other strong popular devotions, e.g., Eucharist, Holy Spirit, Pilgrimages to the Marian Shrine to our Lady of Mercy, Comforter of the Afflicted at Kaeveler near Goch.
  5. e) Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion was spread out and became popular especially after the visions of St. Margareth Alacoque in the 17th One of the visions of St Margareth Alacoque in June, 1675, on the feast of Corpus Christi, while praying before Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Monstrance was that our Lord revealed His Heart to her and said: “Here is the heart that has so loved men as to spare nothing for them, exhausting and consuming itself in order to prove its love for them; and in return receives from most of them, only ingratitude.” Jesus asked her to have a special feast established in honour of His Sacred Heart on Friday after the feast of Corpus Christi.

The devotions above coloured the spiritual life of our founder and our co-foundresses and since we are the members of St. Arnold’s family, we inherited those spiritual life and devotions.

  1. The Seed of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart

 The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Father Arnold started after his ordination, especially when the bishop sent him as a priest-teacher to the Junior High School in Bocholt. During his time at Bocholt, Father Arnold got to know the Apostleship of Prayer, a movement founded by a Jesuit, Fr Francis X. Gautrelet. It owed its popularity particularly to the writings of another Jesuit, Fr. H. Ramière. The Apostleship of Prayer is “a holy league of Christian Hearts united with the Heart of Jesus, to obtain the triumph of the Church and the salvation of souls.” Fr. Ramière described the founding of the Apostleship of Prayer in this way:

Established on the 3rd of December 1844, at the foot of the ancient sanctuary of Notre Dame du Puy, in a seminary which every year sends forth numberless apostles to all parts of the world, the Apostleship of Prayer had no other object in its origin than that of affording to the young religious [Jesuits] engaged in the hidden occupations  of a student’s life, a means of exercising their zeal, and of enabling them to unite themselves to the not less efficacious but also neglected Apostleship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who from the annihilation of His tabernacle works the salvation of the world. (H. Ramière, The Apostleship of Prayer, transl. by “a Father of the Society” [of Jesus], Richardson and Son, London 1866, p. 5).

The Apostleship of Prayer spread massively to other religious communities and all over Europe.

Father Arnold joined the Apostleship of Prayer in 1865. His membership in that movement inspired him to have a devotion to the Sacred Heart and which led him to dedicate his life to the mission. For Father Arnold, joining the Apostleship of Prayer was like a milestone on his spiritual growth, particularly from a priest of the diocese of Munster and a teacher of Junior High at Bocholt to a missionary and a founder of missionary religious congregations.

On 1 April 1866 Fr. Arnold was asked to be a promoter of the Apostleship of Prayer in the diocese of Munster. His certificate of membership states: “Arnold Janssen has been accepted as a promoter of the veneration of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Apostleship of Prayer” (Alt, p.31). On her part, Mother Maria Helena Stollenwerk joined the Apostleship of Prayer in October 1866, when she was 16.

  1. Father Arnold Devotion’s to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

 The title of the pamphlet of the Apostleship of Prayer was: “The Apostleship of Prayer or the Prayer of Intercession in union with the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Perhaps this title gave much impression to Father Arnold especially regarding the intercession. On one occasion Father Arnold expressed how he felt  about prayer of intercession:

“From my early years I was always fond of prayers of intercession. I realized how important it was to pray for other people, especially for the conversion of pagans, for heretics and unbelievers, as well as poor sinners. It pained me that not enough prayers were offered for their conversion and nearly all the prayers in the prayer books, stations of the cross and public devotions concentrated on one’s own poor self.”

From the description above one could see that the interest of our founder regarding the Apostleship of Prayer was the prayer intercession especially for other people, conversion of pagans, unbelievers, sinners, etc. In other words, our founder realized that through the Apostleship of Prayer he could involve many people all over the world to offer a prayer and through the prayer many people will be saved and will be united in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Reflecting on the interest of Father Arnold in the Apostleship of Prayer, we can say that the Apostleship of Prayer was leading the people to universal salvation.

In fact, the veneration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the veneration of the Divine Word was emphasized most since the founding of St Michael Mission House at Steyl until the first General Chapter of SVD. Through his membership in the Apostleship of Prayer the veneration of the Sacred Heart filled his life.  Furthermore, in the 1898 Rule stated:

“The Mind of our Lord Jesus Christ and His holy virtues, especially his adorable love for God and men has their symbol in His most loveable Heart. Therefore, we hold this Most Sacred Heart in the highest honour and love. And since our heart must be formed according to the exemplar of the first Shepherd of souls, then in a special but not exclusive way let us make devout prayers and efforts that our hearts be like the Heart of Jesus humble and meek, merciful, patient, wise and strong according to the admonition of the Apostle, ‘Have the same mind as Christ Jesus’ (Phil 2,5)” (McHugh, Spirituality of Our Society p. 80)

Father Arnold sees that the veneration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not an addition to the Trinitarian Spirituality, but rather it forms part of it. Father Arnold sees that God the Father is a loving Father to his creation. The Father wants all creation to experience salvation. Then, the corelation of the Divine Word with the Sacred Heart of Jesus was beautifully stated in the draft statutes of 1875: “Of the three divine persons we will particularly venerate the Divine Word. The Divine Word lives amongst us in the tabernacle of the sweetest heart of Jesus and it graciously wants to give itself also to us, “for the purpose of dwelling in our hearts and the happy delight of our souls.” This Word is the Light which enlightens everyone who comes into the world and the uncreated Wisdom.”

Finally, I would like to bring your attention to the relationship between the veneration of the Sacred Heart and the veneration of the Holy Spirit. Father Arnold sees that the veneration of the Holy Spirit was very much related to the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as he stated in the 1885 Rule: “Christ sent and still sends no other Spirit than the One He himself had and still has in his Heart. From the Heart of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to us.”


The devotion of Father Arnold, especially the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a source of an enormous transformation in his vocation, from the priest-teacher at Bocholt to the founder of a religious missionary congregation. The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus brought Father Arnold to experiencing a deeper love of the Holy Trinity. All this spiritual growth of Father Arnold had at its center the salvation of all people. May our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus bring salvation to every person in the world!


Teresa Sri Wahyuni, SSpS
Teresa Sri Wahyuni, SSpS

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