OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART, Mexico City, Federal District
On September 19, 1985, a catastrophic earthquake struck Mexico City. It caused severe loss of life and injury and extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure. The historical centre of the city was hardest hit. At least 10,000 people died and 412 buildings collapsed; another 3,124 were seriously damaged.
One of these buildings was the Basilica of St. Jose and Nuestra Senora del Sagrado Corazon, one of the first parishes in New Spain. It was founded by the legendary and beloved Fray Pedro de Gante in the 16th century, immediately after the Conquest of Mexico by the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez in 1521. It was named in honour of St. Joseph. It has been claimed that the first Confirmations in the country were celebrated in this church.
The Basilica is home to the exquisite painting of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart which originated from Issoudun, France. Her title is Abogada de las Causas Dificiles y Desesperadas, Protector of Difficult and Desperate Cases. You might have heard that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is revered everywhere in Mexico. That is true! But the image of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart seems to be running a close second. You can find this painting in countless churches throughout the country. It actually is the third most revered devotion in Mexico, after Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The “sweet and miraculous” image of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was first placed in the church in 1854. Four years later an earthquake struck, in 1858, which did extensive damage to the church. Within three years, however, it was restored.
The image of Our Lady was placed in a discrete place in the church entrance. Soon, however, in a “surprising way” a great fervour awoke among the faithful toward the image. “It grew day by day.” This devotion increased in such a notable manner that, with the passing of time, it became the principal devotion of the parishioners, even eclipsing that of St. Joseph. Soon, this devotion extended to the whole country. Because of all the miracles attributed to her intercession she became known as “The Helper of the Most Desperate Cases.” Thousands of testimonials in the sanctuary attest to her powerful powers of protection.
The miraculous nature of the painting has been affirmed at the highest levels of the church: The painting was solemnly blessed by the Archbishop of Mexico, Ruiz de Flores in 1940. A few years later, in September 1948, the image received a most singular and rare distinction: it was crowned by Pope Pius XII in a “most emotional” and stirring ceremony in the Metropolitan Cathedral by the notable Archbishop of Mexico, Luis Martinez.
After the devastating earthquake of 1985, the church was left in such deplorable shape that all thought that the church would have to be closed. But, no! Thanks to the generosity of the parishioners—and their devotion to Our Lady of The Sacred Heart—the reconstruction was finished in record time. The work on the new, classically-styled church was concluded in May of 1992.
Months later, on Jan. 15, 1993, Pope St. John Paul II raised the parish of St. Joseph and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart to the status of a Minor Basilica. At this time he said these words about Our Lady of the Sacred Heart:
“In the city of Mexico, in the parish of St. Joseph and the Sacred Heart of Mary, is venerated piously, a gracious image of the Mother of God.” An image which now can be found in more than half of the churches in the country.