Fifteenth Conference on the Most Sacred Heart
Fr. Henry Brinkmeyer
We have seen that the devotion to the Sacred Heart is a devotion of love to love; hence, these conferences on the Sacred Heart would not be complete unless we dwelt for a brief space on the subject of reparation. For, our divine Lord, in revealing His Heart to Blessed Margaret Mary, spoke not only of His love, but of His outraged love, and desired in return not only love, but also reparation. He complained that He received from the greater part of men only ingratitude, coldness and neglect; that what pained Him most of all, was that some hearts consecrated to Him should treat Him thus: and, therefore, He bade her receive Holy Communion often in the spirit of atonement and manifested His desire that a special Feast of the Sacred Heart be instituted, in order that public acts of reparation might be offered to Him. Love is indeed the formal object of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, as already stated, but it is a love that impels to reparation.
Let us endeavor to arrive at a clear understanding of the nature of reparation; in other words, let us study what is meant precisely by reparation. The matter may be a little abstruse, yet, I think, we shall be rewarded for our effort when we discover that well defined truths are the foundations of this devotion.
We will begin by reflecting that reparation is not merely punishment; satisfaction is not satispassion. Sound philosophy tells us that punishment is medicinal, deterrent and retributive. It is medicinal when it is calculated to mend the ways of the culprit; it it deterrent when it is calculated to deter others from similar violations of law; it is retributive when it is intended simply to make the criminal suffer for what he has done.
When a wrong has been committed, it is proper that the offender suffer for it, not simply that he may be taught not to repeat the wrong - in this way we correct animals, - nor simply that others may be deterred from doing likewise - in this way we save the community, - but it is fitting that he suffer because he has disturbed the order of things, he has violated justice, he has unduly appropriated to himself pleasures not lawful for him, he has unjustly lifted himself above others. He must, then, be made to realize his usurpation, to keep his place, he must be deprived of what is not his, and, to a degree, of what is his, - the balance must be restored, the order of things must be maintained, - restitution, retribution must be made. This is done by retributive punishment.
Thus, instinctively we feel pained and indignant when an atrocious crime escapes punishment; we experience universally a sentiment of relief when a criminal has expiated his offense on the gallows. For, although there is not such a thing as vengeance for private wrong, since God has said, "Vengeance is Mine," yet the principle of retribution for wrong committed, as well as for good done, is right: upon it rests chiefly the justification of eternal punishment.
Now, observe, an offender may have suffered adequately for the injustice he has committed, and still there may not be in this suffering what is called reparation. In other words, there may be, as philosophers term it, satispassion, but there is not satisfaction. Satisfaction supposes something more. Satisfaction, or reparation, aims at undoing, destroying, repairing an offense; it desires reconciliation, it seeks to regain the good will and affection of the one who has been offended, it wishes to undo the evil committed, mainly as an act of justice, but also as an act of love. It is urged thereto by love. It knows that the one injured is rightfully displeased, that, in consequence, there is a separation, a chasm between them; love induces it to remove this obstacle, to close up this chasm, to atone for this offense by apology, by voluntary suffering, or by sacrifices which are the promptings of love. This is what is called reparation.
The first difference, therefore, between satisfaction and satispassion, or in other words, between reparation and punishment, is this: reparation is voluntary, punishment is not so. Retributive justice requires that the order disturbed be restored, and it does restore that order by the infliction of punishment. By means of punishment the offender is made to suffer because he allowed himself illegitimate pleasure; he is lowered because he unjustly elevated himself. That is satispassion. But if the offender willingly inflicts the same punishment upon himself, if he himself satisfies retributive justice, then we have reparation. In the first instance, it is the judge who decrees the amount of punishment and inflicts the same; in the second instance, it is the offender himself who satisfies justice.
The second difference between reparation and punishment is found in the end that both strive to attain. Punishment as such does not seek to remove the offense given, but rather the disorder, the unlawfulness, the self-inflation inherent in every offense. The judge inflicts punishment to restore the order violated, not precisely to restore honor, for honor cannot be recovered by simple punishment. But reparation aims at removing the offense itself, and returning every honor to the person offended. Reparation therefore accomplishes far more than punishment; reparation not only re-establishes order where there existed disorder, but moreover removes the offense itself, effects reconciliation, and restores peace and friendship between the offender and the person offended.
To impress this distinction more deeply and to show the importance of this distinction between satisfaction and satispassion, that is, between reparation and punishment, let us consider the nature of our Blessed Saviour's atonement for sin. Was that atonement a real satisfaction for sin, or was it only a satispassion for sin? According to Protestant teaching, the essence of our Lord's atonement consisted in this: that He took upon Himself all the punishment of our guilt. He satisfied for sin by suffering for sin. He made Himself the victim of the Divine wrath, He was a child pierced by the darts of His Father's vengeance. That is to say, His atonement was only a satispassion, for He did not seek to honor and glorify His Father; He did not aim to satisfy for the offense itself, by giving Him as much honor as sin had taken from Him, but He wished merely to satisfy His anger, His justice, by enduring the punishment that sin deserved. This is the Protestant theory.
But according to Catholic teaching, our Lord's atonement was a veritable satisfaction. "He was bruised for our iniquities, He was wounded for our sins," that we might be reconciled to His Father, not merely that we might not suffer. Of His own accord, He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He assumed all our debt through love of His Father and in obedience to the Divine Will, and by that love and obedience, even unto death, He glorified His Father as much as sin had dishonored Him, nay, the homage rendered was greater than the malice of sin, because it was the oblation of the Infinite to the Infinite. Saint Thomas lucidly explains this doctrine in these words:
He truly satisfies for an offense who offers to the offended person something which the latter esteems in an equal or higher degree than he hates the offense. But Christ suffering through love and obedience offered God something more than was demanded by the malice of the offense of the entire human race: first, because of the greatness of the love with which He suffered; secondly, because of the worth of His life, it being the life of God and man; thirdly, because of the universality of His suffering and the greatness of His pains. And therefore His Passion was not only a sufficient, but a superabundant satisfaction for the sins of the human race.
This passage from Saint Thomas casts light upon the distinction that I have endeavored to point out, viz.: that satisfaction is more than satispassion; that reparation is more than mere suffering or punishment; that punishment contents justice, while reparation contents justice and love; that punishment removes the disorders consequent upon, or inherent in every offense, while reparation removes both the disorders and the offense; that punishment springs from necessity, while reparation springs from a desire of regaining the esteem and love of the person offended.
May our good Master deign to penetrate us more and more with the spirit of reparation. Let us pray that He will imprint upon our hearts the holy maxims of penance and self-denial, that He may thus find in us devoted repairers of His injured love, generous spouses and faithful apostles of His Sacred Heart!