Saint Daniel Comboni
Today is the liturgical memorial of Saint Daniel Comboni, founder of two missionary institutes, tireless worker for the abolition of slavery, and zealous apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pope John Paul II canonized him on October 5, 2003.
Friendship in the Heart of Jesus
It often pleases Our Lord to bring chosen souls together in friendship and in mutual support. This was the experience of Saint Daniel Comboni (1831-1881) and Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny (1841-1884). Before founding the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny propagated the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart, a movement of reparation and of perpetual adoration of the Heart of Jesus present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.
Marie du Sacré-Coeur, a Visitandine of the monastery of Bourg-en-Bresse had launched the Guard of Honour on March 13, 1863. The following year the bishop of Belley recognized the movement as a confraternity, and in 1878 Pope Leo XIII elevated it to the rank of an archconfraternity in France and Belgium. In the beginning, the Guard of Honour obliged its members to spend an hour in adoration and reparation to the Heart of Jesus before the tabernacle. The hours of the day and night were so distributed among the members as to offer the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus an uninterrupted presence of reparation and adoring love. Later on, the manner of carrying out one’s assigned hour was modified: no longer was a physical presence before the tabernacle required. One could participate in the Guard of Honour without interrupting one’s daily activities, simply by offering an hour of one’s day in the spirit of adoration and reparation to the Sacred Heart.
Offering of the Hour of Presence
O Lord Jesus, present in the Tabernacle,
I offer Thee this Hour
to glorify Thy Heart with my love and reparation.
Accept to this end my thoughts, my words, my actions,
my joys and my sorrows.
Receive, above all, my heart.
I give it to Thee without reserve,
and beg Thee to consume it in the fire of Thy pure love.
Most Precious Offering of the Blood and of the Water
Eternal Father, receive as a sacrifice of propitiation
for the needs of the Church
and in reparation for the sins of the world,
the precious Blood and Water that flowed from the Heart of Jesus,
and have mercy upon us.
Saint Daniel Comboni and Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny met at the Visitation Monastery of Bourg-en-Bresse in June 1865. Inspired to make of covenant of mutual support, Father Comboni became the promoter of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart in Africa, and Mother Marie de Jésus became the hidden root of the immense Combonian apostolate. A remarkable correspondence ensued.
In 1865, Saint Daniel Comboni wrote to Mother Marie de Jésus:
Love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus
“I read your dear letter of 13th June during my journey from Bourg to Geneva. It expresses so vividly the tender love you have for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is only now that I can answer because as soon as I reached Verona I had to go to Vienna in Austria and then to Rome, which I reached on the eve of the feast of St Peter, and then on to Naples. In that period I had too many things to do, which prevented me from writing to you. In the first place I am extremely grateful for the kindness with which you sent me in several parcels one large and one small Cadron, the “Notizia”, some news sheets, holy pictures and a few medals of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and above all for having granted me the diploma of Special Director of the Association”.
The Centre of Communication Between Us: the Heart of Jesus
“I must tell you the joy it gave me to find in you a worthy Sister who bestowed upon me the high honour of promoting the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the countries of Central Africa, and also the joy I feel at corresponding by letter with you regarding the interests of the glory of the Sacred Heart which is the centre of communication between us, which must be burning for the salvation of these souls. Providence seems to have chosen me for the most difficult and dangerous apostolate to the Africans. I shall try to respond to this high mission with every possible effort. I am prepared to sacrifice my life for the salvation of Africa. But what good fortune you bring me, my dear Sister, with the help of the Society of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart! It is with ineffable joy that I admire the pious instigator of the beloved Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart whose glorious apostolate is the powerful strength which encourages me in the huge undertaking with which the great God of Israel has charged me, his unworthy servant”.
Africa Consecrated to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary
“The Work I am about to found, and that I hope to start already this year with the erection of two great Apostolic Vicariates in Central Africa, which the Holy See will open following my Plan for the Regeneration of Africa, and that I will consecrate to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, links up closely with the Society of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of which you are the fervent instigator. You see, dear Sister what an intimate union there must be between you and me. It is for this reason that I shall keep you informed of all the progress made by this great Work which must also be yours, as yours is mine. Recommend this Work to the members so as to propagate prayer for the conversion of Africa, as I shall promote the Society of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart, not only in Africa, but in the whole world. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be with us and may we be faithful and joyful in consecrating our lives for the sake of his Glory”.
“As soon as I have had my Plan for the Regeneration of Africa printed in French I shall send it to you: I want you to know it to multiply the prayer intentions. His Eminence Cardinal De Angelis, Archbishop of Fermo relegated to Turin, who at the 1846 Conclave received the most votes, after Pius IX, in the Papal election, told me: “If you have placed your Work under the protection of the Sacred Heart, fear not: you will succeed”. The ardent love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will burn up the paganism and the fetishism of the African race and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ will be built. However, hoping to introduce the Society of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart in the Slav countries, please send me in Rome a diploma of Special Director of the Society for the Very Reverend Fr Vicenzo Basile of the Society of Jesus, a famous missionary who has spent 25 years in the Slav countries, so that he may introduce the devotion and the Society in those vast lands”.
A Mission to Fulfill
On December 3, 1867 Mother Marie de Jésus wrote to a Visitandine of Bourg-en-Bresse:
When Don Comboni went to take leave of the Pope and asked of him a special blessing for the Zelatrice of the Sacred Heart, the Holy Father said, “Oh! Tell her that I bless her with all my heart!”
In the same letter, Mother Marie de Jésus writes:
“On Friday, November 29th Don Comboni came to say goodbye to me; he said to me these singular words: “Propagate the Guard of Honour. I tell you this because I sense something in my soul about this. You have a mission to fulfill; you must always consider yourself unworthy of it; but you have a mission and you have begun to fulfill it by propagating the Guard of Honour”.